Stand-up Cree comedian Don Burnstick, who has toured the country for decades, is heading to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, for a show, and two local comedians — and big fans — are set to open for him.
For two people who grew up listening to Burnstick, sharing a stage with him will be a dream come true.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Don for as long as I can remember,” said David Ohokannoak.
“Just speaking of it now I have butterflies in my stomach because I had been wanting to meet and perform with Don for a very long time. And now that it’s finally happening… It’s a lot to take in.”
But going up on stage is not always easy, says comedian Eric Kitigon, who will also open for Burnstick.
“It is a lot of stress, like to rev yourself up and to go up on stage and speak in front of a crowd that is more than 20 people,” Kitigon said.
“But it is fun to get up there with friends who also want to put themselves out there and show what they have to speak on.”
Writing and memorizing
Kitigon said writing and following through is one of the toughest aspects of being a comic.
“A lot of the time that I write stuff down, it’ll come back to me as like, you know, this thing that sounds funny. But the more that I say it out loud, the more that I think about it, it starts to lose its funniness,” Kitigon said.
For Ohokannoak, he said it’s all about writing the material, molding it to work and then memorizing it.
“If I think of a joke at any time, during the day, I’ll just write a tiny little footnote about it in my phone. And then once I get home, I take that footnote and I kind of expand on it,” Ohokannoak said.
“A lot of the times I’ll actually just make myself laugh, which sounds kind of silly, but once I make myself laugh, in my mind, I’m like, Well, that’s pretty good, you know.”
Ohokannoak added that it’s also about delivery and timing.
“By the time I’m done writing I’ve rewritten the same joke probably three or four times before I find that it’s actually presentable,” Ohokannoak said.
“After that, it’s just all about the memorization.”
Kitigon said he looks up to Ohokannoak, who has been a comedian longer than he, and he said he prefers to perform first so that he doesn’t have to follow up Ohokannoak’s performance.
“I feel like that would be a tough act to follow,” he said.
“It’s such a great feeling listening to your friend explain his ideas in such a way that you had no idea it would come out like that.”
The praise goes both ways.
“Watching him go up before me,” said Ohokannoak, “and sort of buttering everybody up, getting people laughing, it does put a little bit of pressure on me because, like, I do have to follow this guy?”
At the same time, Ohokannoak said it’s fun to hear Kitigon’s “knee-slapping” jokes.
Kitigon said the prospect of performing on the same stage as Burnstick is like “an out of body experience.”
“I’ve seen this guy many times,” he said. “It’s such a great feeling of being there to enjoy this guy who’s shown us part of the way of how we can do it.”
As for Ohokannoak, he said he aims to entertain Burnstick.
“I really hope he laughs at what I have to say,” he said, adding he might ask him for feedback on his own act. “It’s an understatement to say how big of a fan I am of his.”
The show is set to be hosted by the Kitikmeot Friendship Society on Aug. 27.