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The Pow Wow Comedy Jam, and How It Got That Way

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The three-man Pow Wow Comedy Jam won the award for best comedy performance at the recent North American Indigenous Image Awards ceremony held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But just who are these comedy-jamming Pow Wowwers? We asked Marc Yaffee for their life story:

Hello Indian country! I’m one of the creators of Pow Wow Comedy Jam along with Vaughn Eaglebear. I was born Anthony Michael Dauber. You might have heard of my parents, Red and Bingo.

I was adopted out at birth and found out at age 25 that I am Aztec and Navajo, or as some people call me an “AzHo.” I was Indian but didn't even know I was Indian. All those childhood years growing up playing cowboys and Indians, I was suiting up for the wrong team. But life was good growing up with my adopted parents, a Mexican Mother and a Jewish father. They raised me as a bargain hunter gatherer.

I’ve met a lot of Indians with the similar experience of being adopted out. It's a good thing for the younger generation, they’re now protected by the Indian Child Welfare Act. So, there’s a lot less chance they will end up being adopted by Angelina Jolie.

I’ve been doing comedy since 1998 and I met Vaughn in 2004 at the Brickwall Comedy Club in Spokane, WA. The place was condemned right after that. I hope that didn’t have anything to do with our comedy. We preferred to take it as a sign to pursue bigger and better things.

We had a vision to launch a Native comedy tour that would someday become as famous as Kings of Comedy or Blue Collar Comedy. Seven years later we’re still pursuing the dream. It has taken us to a lot of Rez gyms and Tribal Centers that I’m pretty sure the Blue Collar Comedy tour and Kings of Comedy never played. I get to work with two great friends and comedians, Vaughn Eaglebear and Howie Miller. Vaughn is Rosebud Sioux on his dad’s side and Colville on his mom’s side, but he comes to us from the far side.

Howie comes from Canada and is the father of four sons. That means not only does he have some of the funniest material in comedy but also some of the best fart and poop jokes in comedy. Howie likes to laugh and eat—he's closed down more buffets than an e coli outbreak. Oh yeah and his son, Tyson Houseman, is an actor in the Twilight movies. Tyler is part of the Wolfpack—like father like son, sort of. We've seen Howie wolf down many a six pack.

Even though we have been on Showtime, performed in Las Vegas and played major casinos and comedy clubs across the country, we still have to hustle for gigs like most other comedians. It can be a very frustrating experience. For instance, we were trying to book our Native Comedy All Stars show with James Junes, Ernie Tsosie and the 49 Laughs crew, at a casino near Albuquerque during Gathering of Nations. The casino decided that instead of a Native Comedy All Stars show, they were going to book a band from the 80s who are all in their 70s with hairdos from the 60s. Instead of Native comedy during the biggest weekend in Indian Country? Evidently their booker has no idea who James and Ernie are. Those guys are more popular in the Southwest than air conditioning in August.

To us, that's one of the best parts of comedy, working with other native comedy acts like James and Ernie, Larry Omaha, Charlie Hill and Williams and Ree. Outstanding comedians and outstanding men who represent their people well. Vaughn and I have worked with several different lineups over the years with some unexpected results. Early on, we had one member who actually did Charlie Hill’s material onstage. He’s now out of comedy and delivering pizzas somewhere in Mississippi under an assumed name.

Wherever we go, we meet a lot of different people from a lot of different tribes and backgrounds. With all the diversity among Native people, one common bond endures; Indians love to laugh. Indians have a great sense of humor because humor and comedy are said to come from shared pain. We'd like to replace that bad pain with a good kind of pain—come see us perform and you might just laugh until it hurts.