“Native Humor, to me,” says Native American Comedian Marc Yaffee, “is the ability of Indian people to tease each other and laugh at themselves without getting butt hurt.” The star of the new TV Series, “Almost American” continues, “It's lot of situational stuff where other groups might not make a joke at the circumstance at hand.” Yaffee shares his special blend of “funny, not filthy” comedy with us here at Powwows.com!
Interview by Dawn Karima, Native American Culture Editor
DK: You've made us laugh a lot on PBS, “Comics Unleashed”, “The Latino Laugh Festival”, on the Showtime special, “Goin’ Native: The American Indian Comedy Slam” and on the “Powwow Comedy Jam!” What are you smiling about these days?
MY: Oh man, all sorts of fun stuff. I'm moving down to L.A., I'm working on the some really fun script projects and I finally bought some new socks.
DK: Livin' the dream! On the real, though, congratulations on your new tv project!Ready to give us a reveal?
MY: Yes, “Almost American”. It's a comedy about a Native comedian teaching a citizenship class to new immigrants from all over the world. It's similar to the “Welcome Back, Kotter' show from back in the 1970s, except more jokes and more people with accents.
DK: Sounds like a good story there!
MY: The original writer and now producer, Kenneth Knoll Segura went to a swearing in ceremony for a new citizen and heard they had to pass a citizenship test. So I guess that got the wheels spinning. Then, he liked my comedy when he saw me at Isleta Casino and talked me in to coming on board.
DK: Ooh, I want a part in that!!! So exciting!So, how's it going?
MY:The pilot gets shot at the end of March and beginning of April. Then, once it's edited, we shop it to the networks. A&E and Netflix have already expressed in interest, so we will have to wait and see where it ends up.
DK: Congratulations! Well, let's hear it??? Why should we watch? What makes your show unique?
MY: I don't know what you usually watch, Dawn. But I'm guessing it's probably PBS and smart stuff like that, so you probably should stick with that, haha. This is comedy so it isn't going to grow any new brain cells.
DK: HAHAHAHAHA!Sounds like a lot of fun? Do you feel a hit coming on?
MY: I think what will make the show a hit is it's the ultimate fish out of water story. People from all cultures and outlooks trying to assimilate and keep their culture at the same time. And of course it will be unique as it has a Native teacher/comedian as the lead character. We don't see that too often on TV haha. Hopefully, we open some new doors for Indians in Television.
DK: Like me! I'm serious, I want in! It's awesome to have a show with so much diversity! Yet, even though your show is multicultural, what do you think are the universal themes that will appeal to a wide audience?
MY: Universal themes. Hmmm. Well there's miscommunication, awkward situations and the desire to have a better life. All while joking with each other.
DK: Comedy is such a powerful way to bring people together! How did you start making people laugh?
MY: My first comedy skit was in Fourth grade. I had paper mache puppets of Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Archie Bunker. I think it was rated maybe 1.5 out of 5 juice boxes. I always made my friends laugh but I wasn't really a big ham. I think it was more I hung out with some very funny friends and we made each other laugh.
DK: Native humor is the best! Why do you think Humor is such a big factor in Native America?
MY: Well, first of all humor is free. So, if you're cheap and or broke, you can still laugh. You don't need a Cobell check or a ticket to a comedy club to laugh with your friends, so it's NDN friendly. Second of all, humor helps people get through pain and uncomfortable situations. And we all know Indians have been through a lot of that the last few hundred years. Humor to Indians means that not matter how rough your life or situation is, you can always ease pain through laughter.
DK: As you make others giggle, who tickles YOU?
MY: George Lopez makes me laugh. There are a ton of funny Indian comedians out there I love to hear too. Of course, my bros, Howie Miller and Vaughn Eaglebear from Pow Wow Comedy Jam; James Junes, Ernie Tsosie and all the 49 Laughs crew; and of course the 1491s. I can totally picture those guys getting their own Comedy Central sketch show one of these days.
DK: Thanks for all the smiles! And thanks for your good words today! Got jokes before we go?
MY: Family friendly jokes? Hmm. What do you call an NDN who loves french fries? Potato skin. I promise I will get a better joke for the next interview.
More laughs with Marc at http://www.laughwithmarc.com/
All photos courtesy of Marc Yaffe!
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