Byline: Morgan Taylor/Multimedia Producer
TALEHQUAH, Oklahoma – Locals kicked off their Cherokee Holiday with Muscogee citizen Jordan Jayi as she produced first her all native stand-up comedy show at Dewain’s Place located in the Cherokee Nation capital. Not only did she host and produce the show but also led the performances of the night which followed with Zebidiah Nofire (Cherokee), Brent Deo (Muscogee), and headlining with Krazy Kasey also known as Rezzalicious, Kasey Nicholson (Aaniih/Blackfeet).
The Native comedians bring a variety of personalities to the table. Jayi, being the only female in the line-up, with her gung-ho personality lets you know you’re in for a good time. Nofire has enough personality for the crew and might just say something that is unexpected in every response; then there is his polar opposite Deo, who has a quiet laid-back presence with his backwards hat, basic tee and jeans. He does not seem like a comedian first-hand but is known to have the element of surprise on stage. Nicolson, who is the veteran of the crew, has been in the entertainment business for some time now. A natural entertainer with the right words at the right time that goes along with his comical demeanor as the nights main show.
Storytelling is second nature to Native Americans but what comes first is hilarity that they share when its time to tell a story. Jokes from growing up on a reservation with little access to town, technology or even indoors, seems to be a common story that natives share along with generational trauma that has allowed them to find laughter despite the past.
The crowd was full of laughs as Jayi started her set, which included jokes about her time as a child hanging with cousins, dads, uncles, and other family. She claims her hilarity comes from her dad but when the whole family gathers, she said its nothing but giving each other a hard time for laughs.
Jayi grew up in the southern region of the Muscogee Reservation in the small community of Cromwell. It was the norm for native kids, especially those around her age who grew up before the age of technology. “Rocks and sticks were our phones and tablets,” she said. Regardless of the poverty stricken area she grew up in, Jayi claimed to have a happy family. “Even though we were poor we didn’t know it because as a family, we were still happy.”
Attending Eufaula Dormitory then Sequoyah, Jayi had friends from the Talehquah Area. It was druing her high school years when peers and even teachers noticed her humor. Now she lives in Tulsa where most of her performances take place.
Jayi started her comedy career during the pandemic hosting Zoom “mic-nights” where she gained a following from across the country. It was one of her friends whose husband has some ownership of Dewain’s Place, that told Jayi that they had to get her on stage at the Bar because there was no stand up comedy shows going on the area. She then started doing shows at the small bar for fun and decided she would produce her first show to go along with the native holiday.
Nofire from Talehquah, and Deo from Sapulpa, have similar childhood experiences as Jayi. Even Nicholson being from Montana, can resonate to the very relatable topic of trauma as a child that is shared and used behind the jokes of each comedian. “Its all relatable,” Jayi said. “That’s why it just makes it so funny whether you’re southern native or northern native, like Kasey.”
Nofire and Deo have also recently their careers in stand-up within the last two years while maintaining other ways to make a living.
Comedy is one way Nofire tells his story using his jokes to go “right in the face of stereotypes” that are typically thrown around about natives. He speaks about his experiences in different life aspects including dating, religion, and so on.
He talks about alcoholism, “I grew up around a lot of alcoholism and battled it myself,” Nofire said. “ Just being able to joke about it, saying ‘it is a real thing but its not who we are’.”
Not only is it relatable for those who did see or experience this growing up, but also Nofire said it could be eye opening for others. Even he mentions that growing up rough is what made him funny. “I didn’t know it was rough until years later,” he said. “It was rough but a good life.”
Laughing is one coping mechanism that Native Americans have been able to share throughout time. “I think that a lot of people who aren’t native American or didn’t grow up around native Americans might have an idea of what were like so I just try to paint a more realistic idea of what life is really like,” Nofire said.
Deo also uses his own personal experiences and ways of thinking as his Muscogee and Yucchi heritage set him apart from most. When it comes to his performances, you never know what can happen. “It can be quiet, and it can be loud.”
“Every comedian has their essence and their own way of doing things,” Deo said.
As an emerging adult, Deo tells the youth to do what they like and follow it through.
“Don’t let anybody steer you away from it,” he said. “Follow your heart. I know I am not always the number one role model, but I feel good when I can be that.”
Getting on stage hasn’t always been easy for the young performers. According to Deo, it’s not the getting stage but the “staying on stage.” Nofire laughs and says it’s never comfortable especially the first time. After a few shows and a few “bombs”, the performers figure out how to keep the show on the roll.
“Your going to have that,” Nicholson said but claims that what shapes performers.
Nicholson takes on somewhat of mentor role of the evening as someone who has performed with big names like Tatanka Means, who performed at Este Cate Night during Mvskoke Fest. His stage name (Rezzalicious) comes from a time when he was on live radio and then Krazy Kasey was given to him because of his ability to talk about the “krazy” stuff.
He too uses his experiences to create content and keep people laughing. He talks about his current relationship, traveling here and there, and the many shows and people he has worked with.
Until recently, the stand-up comedy industry had very little native representation. History in the matter can recall Charlie Hill (Oneida) as the first known Native American comedian to hit the Hollywood scene where he debuted on the Richard Pryor Show in 1977. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=545t5SvcyDo&t=13s). Hill’s comedic strategy is replicated in all native comedians today.
Deo claims that Native American presence in the industry is very thin. “We are trying to bring it there,” he said. “People like Kasey, Tonia Jo Hall, they are the type of people breaking down barriers.”
The next event you may be able to find the comedians at will be the Native American Comedy Jam at the Vanguard in Tulsa on October 20.
Each of the comedians be found own their own personal Facebook pages.