Ryan McMahon says storytelling creates doorways, and through his act he’s hoping to usher people across the threshold of understanding.
“Indigenous storytelling is an offer for Canadians and for the rest of the world to walk through these doorways and discover who we are and perhaps find some education or reeducation, some entertainment and enlightenment through the stories that we’re sharing today,” the Winnipeg-based Anishinaabe comedian said.
McMahon is coming to Nanaimo for the first time on March 27 for a performance at Vancouver Island University’s Malaspina Theatre. The event, Two Moccassins, Two Worlds, is sponsored by VIU’s Office of Aboriginal Education and Engagement and the ‘Su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins – Aboriginal Mentorship Program.
McMahon described his presentation as a hybrid stand-up act and lecture focussed on his personal story as an ascending Indigenous comedian in Canada, what he’s done with storytelling and what he says storytelling can do for Canada.
“For the last 150 years we certainly heard enough about this country from one side of the country’s history, but in my estimation, it’s time that we hear that same history from the other side,” he said.
“So looking at the Indigenous experience, looking at how that intersects with the politics both of the day but also of today and trying to identify what may be possible should we be able to right the relationships here in Canada.”
McMahon said his comedy shows and the work he does invites togetherness, which he said is necessary to repair longtime divisions among Canadians and build a more equitable country.
“[for] people attending an Indigenous comedy show or concert or lecture, it’s an invitation for Canadians to enter into an Indigenous space on Indigenous terms and I invite everyone to come out and have some fun and join in the discussion afterwards,” he said.
Humour has always been a teaching tool for Indigenous communities, and comedy is sometimes viewed as a balm for hard times, according to McMahon, but he said he uses humour “more as a tool to ground our experience in Indigenous laws and protocols.”
“Rather than just leave it at ‘We told each other knock-knock jokes because times were tough and the politics were bad,’ I like to link it directly back to our own laws of governing and our own systems of governance.” he said.
“And there’s always a trickster character or trickster figure in those histories and so contemporary comedy, stand up comedy – the comedy that I do – is directly in line with who we’ve always been as Indigenous peoples and it’s just an extension and a continuation of that.”
WHAT’S ON … Ryan McMahon performs at VIU’s Malaspina Theatre on Tuesday, March 27 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $21, available here.