Cree comedian Don Burnstick, who’s been traveling 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 Don fan for as long as I can remember,” David Ohokannoak said.
“Just talking about this now has butterflies in my stomach because I’ve wanted to meet and play with Don for a very long time. And now that it’s finally happening…it’s a lot to take in.”
But getting on stage isn’t always easy, says comedian Eric Kitigon, who will also open for Burnstick.
“It’s a lot of stress, like waking up and going on stage and speaking in front of a crowd of 20+ people,” Kitigon said.
“But it’s fun to get up there with friends who also want to show up and show what they have to talk about.”
Write and memorize
Kitigon said writing and following is one of the hardest parts of being a comedian.
“Most of the time when I’m writing stuff, it comes back to me like, you know, this thing that sounds funny. But the more I say it out loud, the more I think about it, it starts to lose some his drollery,” Kitigon said.
For Ohokannoak, he said it was about writing down the material, molding it to work, and then memorizing it.
“If I think of a joke at any time of the day, I’ll just write a tiny little footnote about it in my phone. And then when I get home, I take that footnote page and I kind of expand it.” Ohokannoak said.
“Most of the time I just make myself laugh, which seems kind of silly, but once I make myself laugh, in my head, I’m like, well, that’s pretty good, you know.”
Ohokannoak added that it was also about delivery and timing.
“By the time I’ve finished writing, I’ve probably rewritten the same joke three or four times before I found it actually presentable,” Ohokannoak said.
“After that, it’s just a matter of memorization.”
Kitigon said he admired Ohokannoak, who had been a comedian longer than him, and he said he preferred to perform first so he wouldn’t have to follow Ohokannoak’s performance.
“I feel like it would be a tough act to follow,” he said.
“It’s such a feeling to hear your friend explain his ideas in such a way that you had no idea it would turn out like this.”
Praise goes both ways.
“Watching him come up in front of me,” Ohokannoak said, “and kind of buttering everyone up, making people laugh, it puts a bit of pressure on me because, like, do I have to follow this guy?”
Meanwhile, Ohokannoak said it was fun to hear Kitigon’s “knee slap” 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 feeling to be there to take advantage of this guy who showed us some of the way we can do it.”
As for Ohokannoak, he said he was aiming to entertain Burnstick.
“I really hope he laughs at what I have to say,” he said, adding that he might ask him for comment on his own act. “To say how much of a fan I am of him is an understatement.”
The show is scheduled to be presented by the Kitikmeot Friendship Society on August 27.