Boucar Diouf spent his childhood in Senegal, where he toiled in the peanut fields owned by his father and helped out with the family’s cattle herd, all while putting in a full day of school. He worked hard, but no matter how many hours he spent in the sweltering heat or buried in his books, he always found time to make his siblings crack up. “I had this intense desire to tell stories and make people laugh, even as a child,” he says. Today, Diouf’s a popular Quebec comic and TV host, but the stage and screen weren’t his first calling.
“I said to myself, ‘My life is perfect now. Why should I gamble with it for an uncertain future?'”
Diouf has always had an interest in science and education. His father emphasized school above all else – his dad also wasn’t keen on his comedic tendencies – so, he says, “I dedicated myself to my studies and made my family proud.” In 1991 he moved to Quebec to get his Ph.D in Oceanography at the Université du Québec à Rimouski. As studious as he was, when he started teaching biology, he couldn’t help but pepper his lectures with stories and humour.
In 2003, as a gag, his students signed him up to audition for a part on Just for Laughs. Much to his surprise, he got it and, for the next four years, led a double life: university professor by day, professional jokester by night.
Eventually, he had to make a choice, give up the microscope or the microphone? He chose the former. Despite doing well as a comic, it wasn’t an easy decision. “I said to myself, ‘My life is perfect now. Why should I gamble with it for an uncertain future?’”
It’s hard to pass up the chance to make people laugh for a living, though, and looking back, leaving academia was a wise decision. Two of his plays, D’hiver Cités and L’Africassé-e, were nominated for Gala Les Olivier awards – considered the Oscars of Quebec comedy – he hosted a popular TV show that won him fans across the province and he’s received accolades for his community and cultural work.
While he has no regrets, there is one thing he misses about his old life. “Being on stage can be quite solitary,” he says. “The one thing I miss is the real and longstanding relationships you build with students.”