The people travelled from as far as Kemptville and Orléans. Beaded, quilled and seal-skinned earrings bejeweled the cozy audience who filled the bottom of the Algonquin Commons Theatre Thursday for the Got Land? Comedy show.
Indigenous content creators were at every turn, on stage and in the audience, dazzling in florals and wearable art. It was the first of three nights with the Crack Up Comedy Festival at the ACT.
Don Kelly warmed up the audience. “Boozhoo nindinawemaaganidok,” said Kelly, which means “Hello my relatives.”
Then he said his grandfather’s name in Ojibwe, followed by “niindizhinikaaz,” which means “is my name,” said Kelly.
“The government guy said, ‘Okay, Mr.—Kelly’.”
Laughter erupted from the crowd, breaking the ice with the punchline.
Kelly is a Gemini-nominated comedian, host, writer and broadcaster. He has toured Canada with appearances at Just for Laughs Toronto, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and Moncton’s Hubcap Comedy Festival.
Got Land? is a standup variety show during which First Nation, Inuk and Métis entertainers tell jokes and share life experiences.
Premiering in Ottawa in 2019, Got Land? hopes to perform all over Turtle Island, a.k.a. North America, for Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.
Comedian, producer and creator of the show Janelle Niles took the stage next. The laughs didn’t stop.
“If you don’t like my jokes, you can go smudge yourself,” said Niles.
Niles is a Black-Mi’kmaq woman from Sipekne’katik, N.S.. Her comedy career started in Ottawa in 2019, after several years as a security guard. She is now a full-time standup comic, creator and producer of Got Land?
Andrews Berglund heard about the show through his wife and social media. “Niles, the lady from Nova Scotia, was hilarious. I wish her set was longer,” said Berglund.
Niles loves the interaction she gets from the audience.
“You can practice a joke five, 10, 20 times before you get on stage, but being on stage is a different monster,” she said. “The audience will also help you write those jokes. They’ll tell you where the laugh should be.”
Lena Recollet was up next. Her worldview comes directly from growing up on a reservation while being Urban Indigenous in Toronto for half of her life.
Recollet is a comedian, poet and educator whose smile could warm the coldest audience. Fortunately, she didn’t have that to worry about with her hilarious set highlighting some funny cultural differences, including animals and pets, social media, family and friends.
David Ohokannoak confused the audience for the first few moments with his quiet sense of humour. His face articulates his story of hunting with friends, making him subtly comical.
Nicole Etitiq laughed about how her whole set is about her dates. “My dad is in the audience tonight. Yeah. Love the support but, awkward,” she joked.
First Nation, Inuk, Metis and Canadians of all backgrounds can find something funny about this show.
Sean Morriseau talked about the slang “deadly.”
“Back when my uncle was young it meant he did something dangerous, it was deadly,” he explained.
Morriseau continued, “If you’re so deadly, how come Auntie kicked you out? If you’re so deadly, why are you a berry picker?”
“We just use it for everything. Looking good? Deadly. Nice new shoes? Deadly. What’s the opposite? Man, you’re lively,” he chuckled as the crowd erupted in laughter.
“I didn’t look or seem nervous, but my heart was pounding through my chest,” Morriseau said after an energetic set. “Palms sweaty. Mom’s spaghetti, I feel like the nerves keep me in check almost. It happens every time,” he said. “It keeps me in the moment.”
Adrienne Aliyak, a former Algonquin College student, said, “I had a wonderful time at the Got Land? show. I laughed like an Auntie,” right before shuffling off to record a reel with Morriseau.
Patrick Cheechoo closed the show with the funniest prop comedy show.
The most accurate duck and moose calls started his set. Through his vivid use of sound effects, props and storytelling the audience got a glimpse into Cheechoo’s life and relationship, as the audience cracked up and his wife laughed in support.
“I really liked Patrick Cheechoo’s act. I love prop comedy,” said Summer Wabasse, events and communication officer at the Mamidosewin Centre.
When asked about reconciliation through comedy, Niles said, “If I don’t leave them (the audience) laughing, I leave them with a conversation. When we hold a magnifying glass to the trials and tribulations our people faced and are facing, telling a joke can ease the burden.”
Niles continued, “These are tough topics and with Got Land? we can call attention while breaking the tension.”
Got Land? Comedy show will be in Ottawa again on June 8 at the National Arts Centre.