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In Jest

The Rez Jesters showcase aboriginal comedy in B.C. tour
The Rez Jesters Brian Majore (left) and Cliff Paul

School is often the place people turn to when looking for a new career, but there are times when said career isn’t necessarily the one you were studying for. Take Brian Majore (above left), for example; while studying at the University of Northern B.C. in Prince George, he happened to take a course on Indigenous Humour. Instead of having a final exam, the students were tasked with creating some kind of performance.

“I went up there and basically told two stories,” Majore, a Haida-Cree, says. “One was about the time I had a little bit of hassle trying to cash a cheque that was fairly large, and another was about how I wanted to play the actor that played the suspect in a Crimestoppers commercial because I always fit the description. Those two just became stories and I found that I got a lot of feedback. I didn’t consider it stand-up comedy at the time; I was just telling some stories.”

That was seven years ago; now, Majore makes his living as a stand-up comedian and is one of a growing number of Canadian first-nations people taking to the stage to crack jokes. Majore points to folks like Don Burnstick, Don Kelly, Charlie Hill and Dawn Dumont as other examples of native comedians, and credits a CBC special highlighting the 2005 Winnipeg Comedy Festival’s all-native showcase, titled Welcome to Turtle Island, as being a big inspiration for him and others to start taking stand-up seriously.

Majore, who is based in Vancouver, is also organizing an all-aboriginal comedy tour, slated to hit the Island this month. It will feature Majore (who performs under the Bloody Savage moniker) and Cliff Paul (Clifford the Big Rez Dog, above right), collectively known as the Rez Jesters, plus Donovan Patrick Mahoney and Chris Gaskin. For Majore, doing a tour like this for native and non-native audiences alike is a way to give insight into what it’s like being an indigenous person in Canada.

“There are differences, but we’re not that different,” he says. “In the end, we’re still human and we all have a sense of humour, it’s just that you’ve got to come around to it. I’ve learned a lot about African American people just from watching African American comics, what it’s like for them, or any other ethnic community or ethnic group, through their comedians.”

While Majore says his comedy isn’t overtly political in nature — he says most of his jokes are just telling his story — he does consider doing stand-up to be his political act.

“I’m up there, as a native person living in Canada, speaking my mind, which maybe 30 or 40 years ago that would have been a real act of defiance,” he says. “Even today, there’s still some things that we have to overcome.”

Not that he wants it to always be that way. “I’d like to one day have the tag removed of Brian Majore, native comedian. I’d like it to say Brian Majore, comedian,” he says. “Even though today, that’s my bread and butter. I market myself that way, but eventually one day I would like to not be known as that.”

Catch the Res Jesters 8 p.m. Saturday, March 12 at the Ambrosia Event Centre,638 Fisgard. Tickets are $20 at the Eagle Feather Gallery. Call 250-388-4330 for info.