49 Laughs Comedy Troupe offers Diné showcase of jokes
By Isaiah Montoya
Ernie Tsosie and James Junes started the comedy troupe in 2001 after they both replied to an advertisement in the Navajo Times for a comedy competition.
"I came in second place," said Tsosie.
"I came in first," boasted Junes.
The Navajo funny men decided to form a two-man comedy team after doing an impromptu session together.
Now, with two more Native comics in tow--Tatanka Means and Pax Harvey Jr.--the comedy troupe is on tour.
The 49 Laughs team is an all-sober crew who do not cuss on stage.
"I am constantly seeing the humor in my culture and I want to present it to the public in a clean way," Tsosie said. "We each have humility and respect for the other performers and we uphold each other through hard times."
"I really don't want to be in Arizona right now because of the immigration laws," he said. "I'm a Navajo and we sweat a lot and they do not like anyone who has a wet back.
"Navajos are like the Starbucks of the Indian world," he said. "There's one on every corner!
"I went to a Sioux village and I felt like a white tourist. I was, like, 'Look there's a Sioux, take a picture!
"I asked a Sioux guy if they still used the teepee, and he said, 'Yes I do use toilet paper.'
"Then I asked him if they still eat the buffalo, and he said, 'Yes, but just the wings, with a little ranch dressing.'
Below: "Left to right, James Junes, Ernie Tsosie, Tatanka Means and Pax Harvey Jr., members of the 49 Laughs Comedy Troupe, perform June 4 at the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo, N.M." (Special to the Times--Isaiah Montoya)