Indigenous comedians breaking into the mainstream


Introducing Ryan and Gord

You might remember Ryan McMahon from his YouTube channel @ClarenceTwoToes during the early 2010’s when he published the humorous series “Ryan VS Clarence – A Webseries”, “The NDN TOP 10’s, and “Mile In My Moccasins(a must-watch monologue). Ryan is now CEO of Makoons Media, a company dedicated to broadcasting Indigenous voices. Makoons Media is host of the world’s first all-Indigenous podcast media network. The comedian-turned-businessman continues to perform stand-up with his latest performance at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Québec this October 20, 2017. Ryan’s new stand-up show, “Wreck-On Silly Nation”, tackles massive themes like reconciliation, Canada's 150th birthday party & the intricacies of moose meat pie.

Ryan is an Anishinaabe comedian based out of Treaty #1 territory in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Ryan has a degree in Theatre from the University of Minnesota. After obtaining his education, he relocated in Toronto, Ontario where he graduated from the renowned Second City Conservatory.  This institution develops improvisation skills by focusing on scenic and character skills, exploring forms and styles of improv, and teaching how to use improv to create material for a satiric comedy revue. In an interview with Sean Carleton published in Canadian Dimension, McMahon talks about his beginning as an “improv and sketch comedian” in Toronto. Ryan’s comedic storytelling style is fast paced, loose & irreverent as he explores the good, the bad & the ugly between Indian Country & the mainstream.

In 2012, McMahon became the 1st Native comedian to record a full mainstream comedy special with CBC TV (“UnReserved”). Ryan’s stand-up career exploded that year as he also made his debut at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, Québec. In total, Ryan has published three National comedy specials (“Welcome To Turtle Island Too”, “UnReserved”, and “Red Man Laughing”). Find a snippet of his stand-up by YouTubing his name and the title of his special “Welcome To Turtle Island Too”. CAUTION: View at your own risk. Side effects of video may include severe stomach cramps, difficulty breathing, and/or crying from outbursts of laughter.

On the Comedy of Gordon Grisenthwaite

The characters written by Gordon Grisenthwaite are unforgettable. Gord is Nlakap’amux and member of the Lytton First Nation, the writer currently studies English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor. Gord was recently praised for his essay “Humour and Coping in Native Writing” and performance of “T.H.E King” at this year’s U Will Discover conference. Gord took home first place after a comical impersonation of his characters. Here’s an excerpt of dialogue between T.H.E. King and Skinny:

"Well, you boys are indigenes, aren't you?" he said looking from me to Skinny to JimJim and then back to me again.

"You mean Indians?" Skinny said. "We're Indians. I mean me and JimJim are. 'Squito there's a 'breed." He smiled a huge poop-eating grin. "But he's one a the good ones."

“T.H.E. King” was presented as a companion piece to Gord’s essay. “T.H.E. King” initially received attention from the literary community when it ranked second place in the 13th Okanagan Short Story Contest.

With the exception of a magazine publication in 1989, Gord’s short stories are published post-2000. The piece to catapult his career as a writer was “Under Alien Sun”. Gord wrote the powerful story of one evacuee’s recent Okanagan fire experience in Touch the Flame: Stories from the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire by Northstone Publishing. Since then, Gord published “In My Mind the Sea”, “How Mosquito Got His Name”, “Mavis Brown”, and “The Fine Art of Frying Eggs” (a must-read short story).

Gord is a former graphic designer at Frantic Toad Productions and former graphic design instructor at Vancouver Career College. In 2012, Gord decided to become a fine art landscape photographer and he’s still figuring out what that means. A photograph from his Urban/Street collection titled “Digital Orca by Douglas Coupland” caught my attention. At first, I thought the humans rolling what looks like Kin-Balls between building and statue were part of the statue. After further investigation, they are real humans there by coincidence. The photo is taken at sunrise, near Canada place, Vancouver, B.C.