Ali Siddiq on ‘Domino Effect,’ Prison, and Stand-up Comedy

“I’m a fucking happy person about achieving what I said that I was going to achieve. I could die and be like, ‘Yo, man, I fucking did it, bro.’”
Photo: Allie Leepson + Jesse McClary

To start every stand-up set, comedian Ali Siddiq sits and waits for the audience to calm down. He’s got a lot to tell them, and he’s not in a rush. For nearly two decades, the Houston native’s material focused on observations on a fairly standard set of topics: growing up, parenting, dating, dealing with white people. That changed in January 2015, when Siddiq appeared on Comedy Central’s web series This Is Not Happening and talked about his prison experience for the first time. In the set, he walks the audience through the day he was present for a prison riot without added punch lines. The success of the episode, which currently has almost 15 million views, led to a 2018 Comedy Central special, It’s Bigger Than These Bars, which he shot in a Texas jail while interacting with prisoners and sharing more stories of his time of incarceration. But that special only seemed to raise more questions about his time behind bars, so he decided to go back to the beginning.

The Domino Effect is a tetralogy of stand-up specials about Siddiq’s life from the age of 10 to 25. The first Domino Effect covers ages 10 to 15, opening on his decision to move in with his unreliable father who would hand him a gun and leave him home alone for days. This leads to Siddiq selling crack in hopes of making enough money to buy a fresh tracksuit. The nearly hour-and-a-half set builds to Siddiq’s multiple failed attempts to kill a neighborhood tough guy named Quincy. The special debuted on YouTube in 2022 and now has almost 13 million views.

2023’s The Domino Effect Part 2: Loss covers Siddiq from ages 15 to 19, at the peak of his drug-dealing days. He tells a story about showing up to a football game at his high school in a fur coat and another about being locked into the trunk of his car. In one particularly devastating moment, Siddiq breaks down crying while talking about his younger sister, whose death at age 8 led Siddiq to transform: “I’m so dead inside. I’m a fucking monster in the streets.” The special ends with his arrest.

The Domino Effect Part 3: First Day of School and The Domino Effect Part 4: Pins and Needles were shot together in the summer of 2023. First Day of School, which debuted in May 2024, covers Siddiq’s ultimately futile attempts to fight his charges. Pins and Needles, which premieres on YouTube on June 16, depicts both the joy and brutality of the comedian’s six years in prison. At the start of Part 4, he’s 19 and still very much a kid, picking fights as a way of getting out of the “soft tank.” By the end, he’s 25, an elder on the inside.

Siddiq explains how he became a comedian in the fourth and final special. “I didn’t start telling jokes to protect myself,” he says. Instead, he entertained inmates in closed custody, who are only allowed outside their cell for one hour a day. They don’t have access to a television, so Siddiq recapped episodes of Martin for them by playing all the characters. When the show went off the air, Siddiq pivoted by telling stories about what was happening in other parts of the prison. This remains his style to this day: long stories told without embellishment, filled with fully embodied characters.

The Domino Effect series is an achievement without precedent in the history of stand-up. It combines the greatness of Siddiq’s story and the greatness of his storytelling, and it’s a master work in its ability to capture how trauma gets passed to future generations throughout communities, how violence becomes normalized, and how the American criminal-justice system preys upon the economically disenfranchised. Three years, and six hours of stand-up, over 18 million views on YouTube, and one book later, Siddiq is done with the series. He has two other stand-alone specials he’s been touring about his present-day life as a middle-aged parent. After releasing those, he has plans to embark on a new series about trying to pursue a career in stand-up while on parole. The goal through his work, Siddiq says, is to be so synonymous with this form of serialized specials that his fellow comedians name it after him. “Now I know there are going to be a bunch of other people trying it,” says Siddiq. “They should call it ‘the Ali.’”

Each of the specials is well over an hour, made up of multiple stories clocking in at over 20 or 30 minutes. I can name very few comedians who can tell stories as long as you. How did you write the material for the specials?
I know the stories; I don’t have to write them. The way that I tell the story is based upon how my family has always told stories. They pull you in with some off-the-wall topic, then they go from there and you’re like, “What happened?”

Like, if I’m telling the story about this interview, I’m not going to leave out that there’s another glass of water over there, and I’m going to make people interested in that fact. Like, “So I’m in this room, and the guy who’s interviewing me has a glass of water. I have a bottle of water, but there’s another glass of water in there. So then the whole time we talking, I just keep wondering, Whose glass is that? It’s a full glass of water. The person who left that glass of water, they probably thirsty somewhere, and they probably looking for it.” And now I’ve said that, I move to, “It’s nothing worse than putting your drink down somewhere. How much stuff can happen when you put your drink down?” It spins off into all this other stuff: “When I left, I said to myself, ‘If that interviewer drink that water out of that glass, he nasty.’” Then I would say, “You know something? I’m wrong. Now, if he drank out that glass of water, he’s perfectly by his rights, because I damn sure ate a Ricola off the table that could have been in somebody’s back pocket for two weeks.” I’m going to say all of these things.

You obviously have plenty of stories. How do you determine what goes in a special?
Specials cannot be current. Specials have to have perspectives. If I did a special on current events and took a position on Puffy, then a month later the video of him kicking Cassie is out now, my goddamn special makes no sense no more. People think they can just film their club show and call it a special. I did that with Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, and I called it an hour. It’s an hour of good stand-up with me being free in a club, doing my thing, and allowing people to laugh uncontrollably. But I didn’t give you anything to learn from, so that doesn’t make it special.

In the first Domino Effect, you start by pinpointing the exact moment where everything started going wrong in your life: when you were 10 and decided to move in with your father. When and how did you pinpoint that was the pivotal mistake in your trajectory?
I was in prison, and I had time to think, When did I change?

When I moved in with my pops, it was a different lifestyle. He was still living basically like a bachelor, very fast-paced. This man would leave me at home by myself. He’d be like, “Hey, man, don’t die while you out doing whatever you’re trying to figure out.” When I was 10, his thing was like, “Grow up.” Living with him, I grew out of the 10-year-old phase.

When my son was 10, he was really 10. Nobody had put cocaine on his teeth, and there wasn’t nobody around him selling any type of drugs or leaving him at home by himself.

In the Domino Effect book, you write about how, before you moved in with your father, your mother had a live-in boyfriend who abused you. You say the “trauma and anger” he triggered in you has gotten you into fights and even in jail. Why didn’t you include that story in the specials?
It’s not covered because it’s not settled. I don’t think people understand me. I’m not the type of person that’ll allow you to do something to me and get away with it. It’s like the story with Mitchell, the C.O. I tried to kill in prison, or Quincy, who cracked me in my eye when I was 15 so that I still see double in that eye. It is somebody that I still got a problem with.

To this day, I don’t like men touching me. Every week, I’m almost going to get arrested at the TSA. As soon as they say “We got to search you” … I don’t really want your hands on me. It came from three instances. This guy tried to molest me when I was 6. A guy tried to molest me when I was 9. My mom told me, “Hey, if somebody tries to touch you or somebody does something to you, come tell me.” Unfortunately, the person when I was 6 was a family member.

Then I was being abused from 7 to 9. It’s unfortunate, but I blame my father a lot of the time for me being abused by that man. You didn’t make your presence felt enough, bro. I blamed my dad then started to shift the blame to my mom, who was not around for any of these events. But how can she be? She’s at work. She’s trying to make sure that we can eat. The man is not just abusing me; he’s abusing my mom. Why was she with him? Because now she’s in a position of need, and my dad was just living his life, and I was in the middle with no actual answers.

In the first two specials, you get into the ups and downs of your drug dealing. How much were you making, and what was your relationship to the money?
At 14 to 15, I’m making anywhere from $300 to $600 a day. I felt like I was really getting in at that time, but, as I look back, that’s actually low. And I’m stacking this money, because I really don’t have nowhere to spend it. I can’t really buy a bunch of stuff, so when I really flexed was at school. I’d go to the lunch room and be like, “Yo, man, I need a shrimp basket and a chicken basket.” I was flossing.

Fifteen to 16, I got bread and worked jobs to try to hide where I was really making money. I worked at Kroger — or we called it “K. Rogers” — merging that money with the money I was making on the streets. When I lost that job, I’m out in the streets pretending like I had a job. Then, at 17, I get the McDonald’s gig, and I am moving crack out of the window of McDonald’s. They order something, and I just put it in a bag out the window of the drive-through. You know how McDonald’s got that thing up there that says “Billions Served”? Hey, man, at least 60 to 70 of those servings are mine.

I’ve always been a saver. If I made $600, I’d spend $30; $400, I’d spend $20; $300, I’d spend about $15. Why am I like this? When I’m 14, I have my first half-ounce, but it was given on consignment, so I owe the guy above me his money back. Even as a stand-up; I did a show last week, and after the show, I got paid much less than I thought I was going to be paid. I thought the promoter was going to send the rest on Monday, so I paid everybody on my payroll — road manager, feature, assistant, my manager — based on what I thought I would make eventually. But Monday I just got paid to cover travel, like $500. I’m too honorable to call everybody and say, “Hey, I’ve overpaid everyone. I need some of that money back.” So I did a theater show but ended up making as much as if I did a guest spot at a club.

I did a photo shoot with you guys. I spent $3,000 on my outfit thinking that show would end up paying for it. I was like, Oh well, Ali, you’ve made $12. [Laughs.] Aye, it’s the cost of business.

In Domino Effect 2, you tell the story about how, when you’re 18, you change after your younger sister Ashley gets sick and dies at the age of 8. What was so meaningful about that relationship?
The reason why I love her so much is she was the kid that I actually wanted to be in my family. By the time my mom had her, she was solidified. My stepdad, Ron, which is Ashley’s father, was in the house and a good guy. It would be easy for me and my older sister to be jealous of this situation, but it was so good to see my mom being a mother — to be able to relax and go to work and come home and be with her baby. She got a chance to be a mom, and I loved being a big brother. At 3 p.m., my whole entire drug-dealing life shut down, because at 3:15 I had to pick my little sister up. I wouldn’t care what I was doing. Then I’d pick back up at 5 or 6 at night, after she was straight. I would’ve never put her in harm’s way. My little sister Ashley was my peace.

With her passing, it’s still these moments of significance with her that let me know that she was probably stronger than me. I hate going back to that moment of the last time she touched me. My mom told me to watch her, and I was trying to feed her some oatmeal and … [starts choking up] She just wasn’t looking right. I’m trying to talk to her like, “Hey, shorty, listen, man, be strong. You gotta eat this oatmeal so you can get better …” [Siddiq gets tearful.] I called my mom: “Hey, you got to come. She don’t look right.” I say to her, “Yo, shorty, you can beat this … [voice breaking] whatever this … whatever this is.” I’m sitting on the couch, and she reaches her arm and put it over my head and looked at me. I looked at her and she said, “I’m gonna be all right.” And I knew she would go.

How did losing her change you? How would your life have been different if you hadn’t?
I’m already in the streets by that point, but I’m not tough like that. I ain’t lost nobody. And, man … I was not prepared. Everybody’s hearing about my sister’s passing. I’m in the street, so I can’t show no weakness. This was going to be the person to save me from being whatever kind of monster I was going to become in these streets. I would have been a different person if she wouldn’t have passed. I probably would have got out of drug sales very fast. I wouldn’t have went till I got busted. I probably would’ve just got a car, then went to either culinary school or went to go be a Navy SEAL.

Looking back, what did you learn from this experience?
Ashley’s passing gave me the most clarity in life about death. I don’t have time to hold grudges. Even the man who abused us, I probably wouldn’t hurt him. I would just let him know how I felt about that time, even though I have a scar on the side of my hip from when he hit me with a belt buckle. Quincy is different, because people look at my face and see the scar. One eye is higher than the other one because the eyeball was turned over. I’ve done some things to Quincy, but is it significant enough? [Laughs.] I got a pretty good life.

What was it like to perform this night after night?
I made the decision not to tour Part 2. We shot it that Saturday, and that was it. I needed my older sister to be there to be a crutch, so to speak, just in case I couldn’t get through it. I didn’t know what that moment was going to be, but I knew it was going to be hard. It is just a real terrible moment that hopefully people are able to learn from.

In Domino Effect Part 3, you go through the intake for prison. You describe being naked, having the officer stick his fingers in your mouth, being asked to turn around and spread your cheeks, and eventually being chained to another prisoner and put on a bus. What did you want to convey to people who have never experienced this? 
This system has a lot of parallels to the industrial complex of slavery. It’s free labor, and they’re not trying to rehabilitate people. They’re trying to make it hard and brutal. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be, but they’re trying to make money as well, then sending people back out with no skills and their bodies broken. I’m not on a ship, but I’m chained to somebody on a bus. They fed us this stuff called VitaPro. It was the worst thing, and it was coming out of people’s bodies in boils. It would be like the size of this water bottle, but once you add water, it can blow up to as big as this table, to feed more inmates this stuff. It was crazy.

Domino Effect Part 4 has a few stories in which you and your fellow inmates are having fun. There’s a body-builder-esque pose-off, and there’s a story where you dunk on someone in a basketball game. You clearly don’t want prison to seem cool, but you also want to show these people as humans who have the capacity of having joy. How do you balance that?
That was the hardest thing. It’s almost like the coaches that used to work inside the prisons. They want to keep you active, but they don’t want you to have fun to a point where you feel like, Oh, this is a cool place to be. I pick and choose the things that deter you from wanting to come, then not give it the stereotypical aspect.

It’s also a place where politics happen — where if you make this mistake, you can learn, but you’re going to learn in the most dangerous environment, because everybody here is a threat. It’s not a cakewalk, but this is a place where you are going to have to learn to communicate. You’re going to have to learn to be a man. You’re going to have to stand on what you say. This is a place of a lot of heavy consequences for mistakes.

Can you think of an example?
In prison, man, you really just didn’t disrespect people. I’m not even disrespecting the little nerdy, glasses-on white guy doing a puzzle. I never saw nobody disrespect Mouse, and Old School told me, “Hey, bro, about eight months ago, that motherfucker boiled up some type of concoction and threw it on that boy over there with one eye. Shit, burnt his whole shit.” “Was he racist?” “Oh, no. It’s just if you decide that you’re going to bother him, you’re going to get some hot shit thrown on you.” I’m talking about boiling water, putting bleaching powder and some Jolly Ranchers and a Snickers in there, so when he dash your ass with it, you’re trying to get the candy off, but the chemical is peeling your fucking skin, and he’s razoring your ass while you’re trying to wipe it off. So, I knew if you slap that little white boy, guarantee you going to need cosmetic surgery.

The first domino in Domino Effect Part 4 comes when, at the detention center, you make your “first mistake” when the warden asks you if you can handle yourself in prison, and you say with a shrug, “We’ll see.” This results in them putting you in the “soft tank,” where you imply almost everyone is gay.
But everybody’s not. Some are Cadillacing.

Yes, but your preference is the alternative: a cell block filled with other young people who are fighting all the time. And you’re told the only way you are going to get moved is if you get into a fight. Then you hear someone getting a blowjob at night, and you decide to start hitting people. The first time I watched this part, I did feel like it could be hard for some people, who are just watching you beat up people because they are gay. What were you hoping to convey?
There’s no knock on the people there, but y’all not telling me something when you’re putting me in that cellblock. I’m asking nicely to move, telling the warden, “Hey, man, I think y’all categorize me wrong.” And the C.O. told me, “Hey, man, there’s only one way out. It’s either this or you cause trouble. You clearly don’t belong over here, but they not letting you go, so deal with it.” But I don’t want to deal with it; I want to get out of here: No knock on y’all, but I’m out. And I tell it honestly.

Why were you not comfortable staying in the “soft tank”?
I wasn’t assaulting people for the sake of assaulting. This is a self-preservation thing. It’s not a hate thing. I don’t have any animosity against anybody. If they would have put me in a tank of murderers, I would fight to get out. I needed to get out for my own fucking safety. I am a five-foot-seven, 120-pound man. If they put me in a child-abuser tank, I would’ve done what it took to get out, because I know the significance of being in here with the wrong label. And I’m not comparing an alternative lifestyle to being a rapist or anything; I’m comparing the labels that people put on people in this particular environment of incarceration. You don’t want a label.

I’m here because I didn’t have a tag that put me in jeopardy. And I don’t think people understand that jeopardy is not just one-on-one. You want me to get fucking gang raped in goddamn prison by Hispanics? By the whites? By the Blacks? What do you want me, as a child, to do? I’ve already said I made some mistakes in the lead-up to it, because I didn’t speak up like I was supposed to. I’m fucking 50 years old. This is when I was 19. Do you think that I go around fucking stabbing people now? My street mentality is not my home mentality. What makes sense in prison does not make sense on the street.

I’ll give you an example. If somebody was to call you a “bitch” in free society, what’s your response?

I’d say “fuck you” or whatever.
“Fuck you!” If somebody calls you a “bitch” in prison and 1,500 inmates heard him call you that, I’d tell you, “Aye, man, you got to respond to that.” [Does an impression of the interviewer.] “Respond to it, why? It’s just a word.” No, no, you’re going to have to do more than that, because it’s not a normal environment. In our current environment, if somebody steals from you, you go make a police report. If somebody steals from you in prison, you don’t go tell the C.O.’s. You go get your shit back by any means necessary.

You don’t make any “prison rape” jokes in the special.
It is hack. It’s ridiculous to focus on such isolated situations. More people write books in prison and go to college than get raped. I think that people still see prison as the ’40s.

How would you describe the morality or the sense of justice you had in prison?
In prison, we deemed rapists and molesters incurable. Society gives them a thousand chances. In prison, you get one shot at it, then if we get you — if we catch you — you’re going to pay for that. You killed 16 women? I’m itching for your ass to be in my cell. I’m sitting on my bunk, scarier than a motherfucker. You see what happened to Whitey Bulger or Jeffrey Dahmer. Whoever you think that you are once you come to prison, this shit is even, baby.

Domino Effect Part 4 ends with you being released after six years. What did you want to capture about getting out and coming home from prison?
The criminal-justice system is flawed. If you’re going to be really rehabilitated, you have to do that yourself. You don’t prepare for your life on the outside once you get out; you have to start on the inside. That’s why when Big Hand Rick asks what I’m going to do when I get out and I say I’m going to be a comedian, the audience understands that I’m thinking about the outside already. I’m so excited about coming home but so scared at the same time. This is all nervous energy. That’s why 4 is called Pins and Needles.

Then there was the thing about me not telling people that I was getting out and me not knowing what to tell people on the free side about what I was going to do. So I’m just in this balance of like, Man, I’m petrified to get out, because this has become normal to me. I’m very normal and respected here. I want to go home, but it’s very scary.

“Years ago, people would ask, ‘Man, why haven’t you gotten bigger in comedy?’ And I was like, ‘Because I hadn’t paid the universe back the things for what I did.’”
Photo: Allie Leepson + Jesse McClary

In the years after you left prison, would you run into people from your past when trying to make it as a comedian, whether people you sold drugs with or dealt to?
For my core group, there’s an overall pride in us making it out and everybody doing well in another field, but otherwise I don’t relish in it. Most of the time I don’t run into people from my past, because I’m so sad about my behavior at that time. Being a former street-pharmaceutical rep is not a badge of honor to me.

If I ran into someone I dealt to, I’d be elated that they’re still alive. I was in ’Frisco for the Comedy Central festival. Walking to the venue was hard for me. I went ten different ways, because I didn’t want to keep walking past homeless people and people that’s on drugs because I was in a very, very dark place. I was literally blaming myself. I’m like, Yo, man, what did I do to contribute to this? This didn’t start last week. This is the people who I sold dope to who had children. This is the offspring of the chemically dependent. I’m still so affected by my particular crime. It saddens me that I was a part of that destruction. Years ago, people would ask, “Man, why haven’t you gotten bigger in comedy?” And I was like, “Because I hadn’t paid the universe back the things for what I did.”

The year you got out of prison was the year Oz premiered on HBO. Did you watch?
I watched every episode.

What did you think?
That’s why I didn’t watch Orange Is the New Black. I would watch Oz and be like, What!? A gun? He’s just going to grow his nails into some claws, and no officer’s going to say nothing? What is all this free walking around? It was just so many things.

Are there any shows or movies you’ve seen that you felt got it right?
Life with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, because it portrays the details like it actually goes. There’s an actual order. One of the No. 1 details that I knew whoever made it took his time and had a consultant with them was a scene where Eddie Murphy is getting beat up by the big dude. Now that happens, right? Most people would think the most dangerous person in that prison was that big dude, but when he was beating Eddie Murphy up, somebody said, “That’s enough. He’s had enough. Pick him up.” The person who said that is the most dangerous person in the prison. It’s so subtle, but that’s the truth.

What would you tell Hollywood if all of Hollywood was listening before they were to make another project about prison?
I wouldn’t give Hollywood a tip on doing anything.

Got it.
I’m like, “No. Y’all keep making the fictitious stuff that you make. I’m going to keep making my independent things that I’m making.” They don’t listen anyway.

I imagine over the years of this project, you’ve gotten some interest in adapting this into a movie. What have those conversations been like?
It’s been very fun having the conversations and people putting together sizzle reels and saying, “This is what I think it could look like.” Then we get down to the “Who’s going to own it?” part, and this is when the conversation gets different. Now they like, “Oh, he’s a very shrewd businessman.” I’m not just an artist. People are coming to me wanting to do things with something that I’ve already financed and made. They got to understand how focused my mind is on being a truly independent owner. Now, I know it’s going to take a while for me to win Emmys, because that’s a different type of machine, and I understand how it would disrupt that machine if an independent won an Emmy. If you can win Emmys as an independent, now there’s no need for the network.

We’re talking right after Netflix’s big comedy festival happened, and there was this comedian brunch. I don’t know if you saw a photo of it on Instagram. Do you see that, and does any part of you want to be a part of that?
I would be lying if I said no. I’m not really a part of Black Hollywood or the Black comedy circles, because I was on Comedy Central. They forget I was on Comic View and Def Jam and Bounce TV. But sometimes I’ve not been around, and there’s been years where I’ve been very unapproachable.

I’m getting ready to start another series called In the Shadows. It is an account of how I got into stand-up. Now I’m out of prison and I’m trying to be in a public business, but I’m trying to be a person that doesn’t want to be seen because I’m on parole. When you’re on parole, you are at the mercy of society. I’m really not up there being true to myself, because I don’t want nobody to know nothing about me. I don’t want people to be able to tie me to anything. So I don’t want to be around. No pictures. I’m really standoffish.

And I’m not the person who shucks and jives. That’s the other part that keeps me away. I don’t want to go somewhere and be fake. I’m too happy of a person to be in a space where people decide — the key word is “decide” — to be unhappy or cause friction or bring something into the craft that’s not there.

I am a 100 percent complete street person, if somebody would give me a label. You can talk about whatever, but I’m not going to be in a beef with you, because if you’re beefing with me and you’re not a street person, I’m not differentiating between the two. You can’t say nothing about me and then say, “I was just playing.” No, I don’t play, though. But I love Sinbad.

Did you watch Katt Williams’s special?
Oh my God, y’all. I have this ability to watch your trailer and see everything I need to see. When you have an opportunity to actually be great — when you have all eyes on you — and you take that opportunity to shoot down everybody around you? The energy that you put into saying untruths, misrepresenting things … If you would have put an ounce of that energy into your special, into your craft, it would had been worthy of being talked about. All I can say is consumers like what they like, people make the money how they make it, and Netflix buys and chooses what they choose.

You described doing Beyond These Bars as repaying a debt to society, which is an interesting way of putting it, because that’s hypothetically what going to prison is supposed to be for. How much do you still feel like there is a debt?
I don’t feel it. I think I’ve paid it back. People don’t … Man, you should’ve asked that question before you asked the last one, because I’m still stuck on it.

Do you have more you want to say?
No. I’m not going to waste my time talking about somebody else. I don’t Club Shay Shay it up. I just talk about what I need to talk about.

I don’t think I owe anymore. I paid back the debt from my youth. That’s why I’ve reached a certain level of success, to me. I wanted to be a comic. I wanted to be able to sustain myself and feed my family. I wanted to be a pillar in the community. I wanted to be this natural human being and be able to grow food. I have achieved that, so to me, I’m successful. It’s just about being more responsible now: apologizing when you get the chance and actually being a more understanding human. So I think the universe is now giving me a little more back than me having to give it.

“I’m elated, man, by this type of freedom. I can go get whatever I want to go get. I can do whatever I want to go do. I’m in this world with no restrictions. If I wanted to go buy a Bentley on a Tuesday, I’mma go do it. Who would have thought this shit?”
Photo: Allie Leepson + Jesse McClary

You didn’t talk about dealing drugs or prison for nearly two decades as a stand-up because you were concerned about being seen as a one-trick pony. At the same time, I imagine that must’ve been a mental burden for you. Now that you have released these specials, do you feel free of that time?
I’m gonna be 51 in October. Growing up and listening to these people say, “I worked at a job for 30 years,” “I worked at a job for 40 years,” “I just retired from a job after 50 years” I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I never thought I would say that. It is remarkable.

I’m a fucking happy person about achieving what I said that I was going to achieve. I could die and be like, “Yo, man, I fucking did it, bro.” I checked all the boxes. I didn’t want to move out of Houston. I wanted to do great specials. I didn’t want to be judged as being a great stand-up on a movie or a sitcom or a video or a song or any of that. I wanted to be judged on stand-up. My mama proud, my family proud, my kids proud, and I fucking did it by myself. I’m elated, man, by this type of freedom. I can go get whatever I want to go get. I can do whatever I want to go do. I’m in this world with no restrictions. If I wanted to go buy a Bentley on a Tuesday, I’mma go do it. Who would have thought this shit? The other day, I saw how well Domino Effect 3 was doing, and I fucking jumped in the air for fucking joy. Like I was a child.

Old School and Mouse were fellow inmates. Siddiq says Old School was “probably only about five years older than I was at the time. In prison, you don’t know everybody; you just called them by what other people called them.” Siddiq says he rarely interacted with Mouse; he just knew that “he would throw something hot on you if you tried to do something to him that he didn’t want to be done.”

When he is first put in the “soft tank,” Siddiq asks an older prisoner about it, and he says, “It’s not soft, it’s Cadillac” — a cellblock where an inmate can be “laid back” and have an easier experience serving their time.

Big Hand Rick was a fellow inmate from Dallas who is mentioned in Domino Effect Part 4. When Siddiq tells him he’s going to be a comedian, Big Hand Rick tells him, “I’ve been here a long time, man. I’ve heard a lot of people say a lot of things. This is the only time I really believe somebody.”

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