First Nation comedian believes in healing through humor

By Bryan Eneas
August 2, 2016 - 12:00pm

First Nations communities across Canada are often plagued by issues from their pasts. For one First Nation celebrity, comic and motivational speaker, laughter is the highway to healing.

Don Burnstick appeared recently at the Woodland Cree Gathering, Thursday, July 28.

“It’s really important; that’s why I don’t do my shows in bars and you’ll never hear me swear on stage. I treat my humor with respect and some reverence because I was told to go out and help the people. Get the people to come together and they’ll laugh,” Burnstick said.

Burnstick said for him, praying, sharing, crying and laughing are therapeutic. He credits his clean and sober lifestyle to his comedic longevity.

“Some (First Nations comedians) are really good, but it’s about what they do after the show. They try to snag, they stick around to party and drink. They’re not going to remember what you did on stage,” Burnstick said, “For the Native comedy aspect, when you go into a community you want to go in clean. You want to go in in a good way, and then you want to leave in a good way,” he said.

Social media has changed the way Burnstick interacts with his fans. He said he doesn’t only post jokes, but he also talks about his sobriety and spirituality adding he’s amassed 70,000 followers world-wide.

Burnstick said he’s only ever used social media to actively campaign against one individual – Stephen Harper. During the 2015 federal election, he actively encouraged his First Nations followers to vote for anyone other than the incumbent.

Burnstick is celebrating 20 years of stand-up comedy this year. Originally, from Alexander First Nation near Edmonton, he has been preforming across Canada and the United States in First Nation and non-First Nation communities alike. He said he’s got no plans to change what he’s currently doing.

“I’ve turned down agents, I’ve turned down big tours… because that’s not where I want to be. I’m really fine being with our people, I’m fine being loved by our people,” Burnstick said.

Burnstick said Saskatchewan played a big role in his development as a comedian. Many smaller communities gave him an opportunity to perform when bigger cities wouldn’t have considered it.

“I love Saskatchewan, I can’t stay it enough. When I first started, when nobody knew who I was, the ones that gave me my break were Saskatchewan people… They were always bringing me back, and this is where I really kinda took off. I basically owe my career to Saskatchewan.” 

 

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