For Rob Fairbanks, a sense of humor is not just a nice thing to have - it’s a tool for survival.
“I've always been a firm believer that humor is the Creator's gift,” said Fairbanks. “Not just to Native people, but to everybody. I truly believe when they say laughter is the best medicine or is good medicine - I think there's a lot of truth to that. Anytime I can make somebody else smile, it makes me feel better. So I feel like laughter is healing.”
Fairbanks - also known as “The Rez Reporter” - hails from Leech Lake, and posts regular humorous “weather reports” from the reservation. He has more than eleven thousand followers on YouTube, and another seven thousand on Instagram.
“If you're on the reservation, there is no comedy club,” he said. “You're not like, in the big cities where there's, you know, clubs or open mics or something. You might be lucky to find an open mic nowadays, but in some areas, if you're secluded you don't have that chance.”
Fairbanks joined up with Ojibwe comedians Jonny Roberts and Trish Cook to create NDN Way Comedy, named after Roberts’ podcast. NDN Way Comedy recently performed shows at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis and at the House of Comedy at the Mall of America.
“I think what we're doing as a group is we're opening up doors,” said Fairbanks. “I feel like every door we go through leaves a door open for somebody else to potentially come through.”
Fairbanks says he hopes that by opening doors, NDN Way Comedy will inspire young natives to follow their dreams and give them more reasons to laugh.