Read About Don



By Leslie Knibbs. December 12, 2018 Edition of The Standard.

On Thursday, Nov. 29.18, the Community Wellness Department in Sagamok Anishnawabek First Nation presented a family comedy night at the Multi Education Centre featuring veteran comic Don Burnstick. Burnstick has been doing stand-up comedy for more that two decades with performances and workshops across North America.

Burnstick’s appearance coincided with a ‘Role Model Recognition’ evening introducing role models living in Sagamok recognized for their community involvement and contributions. Burnstick, a Cree from the Alexander First Nation just outside Edmonton, Alberta was the keynote speaker at this event, which preceded his performance of ‘Laughter is Good Medicine’.

Prior to doing comedy, Burnstick worked as a wellness worker with youth. It was at a wellness conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan he discovered his comedic talents. According to the comic, the comedian hired to perform at the conference was ‘bombing out,’ other attendees at the conference knew Burnstick for his natural talent in comedy.
With encouragement from others, he took to the stage and performed an impromptu routine all on the fly. The resulting standing ovation he received in Saskatoon for that performance was all the encouragement he needed to pursue a career in comedy. Since then he has appeared as the headliner at several venues across Canada and the U.S.A. including Native run casinos featuring internationally known personalities.

Like other stand-up comedians, Burnstick’s beginning was not easy. At his first professional gig in The Pas, Manitoba there were 100 chairs set up, but only four people showed up, he performed anyway.

Burnstick related to the Sagamok audience how the elders first told him to avoid two things when performing: “never swear on stage and stay out of bars.”  At first, he could not understand this advice to stay out of bars when at the time he was starting out, comedy clubs such as Yuk Yuks and the Comedy Store were venues a new comic could get a start and become noticed. When he asked the elders where he should perform, they told him, “go to your people,” and that is what Burnstick has been doing for more than 23 years, visiting First Nations across North America with his strong message of “healing through humor.”

With more than two decades of performing and being part of the wellness movement on many First Nations, Burnstick’s comedy has provided a universally honest slant to using humor to heal others.

In Sagamok, he brought a real time laugh-out-loud combination of hysterics with his wisdom and optimism mingled with a large portion of flat out honesty to an audience hungry for laughter. True to following what his elders had told him to do at the beginning of his career, “to make them cry (with laughter),” Burnstick had the scores of people attending his Sagamok performance wiping tears from their faces.  “When they laugh so hard and begin to cry, it turns into a spiritual laugh, it means someone you’ve lost has come down from heaven and is laughing with you,” he said.  Burnstick told community members, “We’re funny people, you know.” He related how when he was growing up as a youth, he used humor as a survival tool. He attended a high-school of about 1,000 students with only 12 being Native.
“We were like raisins in rice pudding,” he told the audience.

Following his performance in Sagamok Burnstick will headed to Fort McMurray.

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"I haven't laughed this hard in years!"