Ryan McMahon is the first-ever Native comedian to have his own one-hour stand-up comedy special on CBC TV. Ryan McMahon-UnReserved was taped in June 2012 and in July he made his debut at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal.
The McMahon-UnReserved tour was born. Originally supposed to be an eight-stop tour, it has become a 30-gig tour in 26 locations over six weeks. The expanded tour was in response to feedback from fans.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done — the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” McMahon said.
“I just hope people see it.”
So far two out of the three shows he’s done on the tour have sold out; Victoria and Vancouver, and Vernon was nearly full as well.
Audiences are a mixed bag—racially that is—with both Natives and non-Natives,
McMahon said it is about a 70/30 split.
“It’s my job to be funny, it’s my job to be funny to everybody. And so if I’m talking about something that is Native-centric, it’s still my job to let people in on it. So that is the writing process.”
“I think that is why CBC liked my stuff, was that people (Native and non-Native) could hear it and sort of understand it,” He said.
“Inside jokes are the death of comedy, nobody likes inside jokes. Even if you’re on the inside, you’re going ‘ahh, that was cheap’,” McMahon said.
Born to an Ojibway mother and Metis father, McMahon hails from Fort Frances, Ontario, and Couchiching Reserve on the Canada, U.S. border.
As well as bordering two countries, McMahon describes his comedy as boundary pushing, as a sort of Indian Vaudeville.
“The Vaudeville idea is that you go from town to town, or city to city or community to community to share what you do. And there was no real fame or anything,” McMahon said. “It was the most honest, pure, performance that there was, because for better or for worse, that was what you did. And that is my philosophy, because I’m not trying to be popular and I’m not trying to gain fans with what I say.”
“I just try to look at the intersection between Indian Country and the mainstream for better or for worse.”
“Inside jokes are the death of comedy, nobody likes inside jokes. Even if you’re on the inside, you’re going ‘ahh, that was cheap’.” - Ryan McMahon
He has an hour’s worth of new material along with some of his tried and tested jokes.
“The new hour is some of the stuff that I’m most proud of because it’s most honest and real stuff that I’ve ever written.”
He says he is really looking forward to performing in Prince Albert, as he has never been here before.
The last time he was near Prince Albert he sold out a show in Saskatoon.
Fans informed him that he should come to Prince Albert, because “Saskatoon already gets everything.”
“So,” McMahon said, “when I booked the (UnReserved) tour, I said well I’ll specifically come (to Prince Albert) for that reason.”
Now that he is going to be performing at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre, with its 606 seats, he said he’s feeling a little nervous.
McMahon takes risks with his jokes. “You call it what it is and you don’t worry about being P.C. you don’t worry about who’s feelings are gonna be hurt,” McMahon said.
“I feel a great responsibility to not exploit the problems or the challenges we face, but to shine a light on them, so that we can see ourselves in the problem, but also as part of the solution.”
“If people get a sense that I’m making fun of us (Natives) it’s generally to make a point and it’s for us, it’s not for anyone else.”
“Listen, comedy doesn’t always align with your politics or your religion, or your gender, or whatever it is. But hopefully if the comedian knows what he or she is doing … then there is context to everything they’re saying,” McMahon said.
“Our politicians can’t be honest, our teachers can’t be honest, you know, there’s no honesty, the media’s not honest. You don’t know where to turn for an honest opinion. It’s really hard.”
“The beauty of standup comedy is that maybe it’s the last bastion of that true sort-of freedom.”