By Heath McCoy
That was the feedback native Canadian comedian Ryan McMahon says he received from the folks at Just for Laughs in 2008 when he did a showcase for the comedy festival organization, which was passing through Winnipeg on a search for new talent.
“It’s a little too Chris Rock, and we don’t know if people are ready to hear from the native Chris Rock,” they explained.
They wouldn’t be the only ones taken aback by the Ojibwa/Metis comedian. “I’m an intense dude. Too intense for most people,” admits McMahon, 35, who will be performing at Willow Park Wines and Spirits Saturday night, shooting Unreserved, a comedy special to air this summer on CBC-TV.
A good deal of McMahon’s show finds him riffing on the contentious history of natives, politics and race relations, and while that has been winning the comedian a significant fan base, it’s also proven to be unsettling for many.
This was compounded at the Just for Laughs showcase, McMahon says, when he was mistaken for Caucasian, as his father is half white. McMahon made a joke about his fair skin in his set: “I don’t look like the native guy they cast in the CrimeStoppers ads,” he cracked. “I look more like the white cop that beats him at the end of the commercial.”
Below: "Native Canadian comedian Ryan McMahon in the guise of alter ego, Clarence Two Toes."