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Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today

This is not Cowlitz comedian Joey Clift’s first time at the animated short video rodeo. But it is the first time this Comedy Central video that is about an actual Native mascot change, and for that, he is grateful.

Earlier in October, when the then Cleveland Indians played their last game with that name, (they have changed their name now to the Cleveland Guardians) Clift, in the first time ever collaboration with Comedy Central, released his latest video that he wrote, directed and starred in.

“I released a new animated short with Comedy Central!” Clift told Indian Country Today. “It's called ‘How to Cope with Your Team Changing Its Native American Mascot’ and it's a comedy PSA about sports fans whose teams just changed their weird Native mascots, like the Washington DC NFL team, Cleveland Indians and like, a million other teams because there are a lot.” Clift referenced his previous animated video with Comedy Central which compared being a bear with being a Native person.

“It's sort of a spiritual sequel to my ‘Telling People You’re Native American When You’re Not Native Is A Lot Like Telling A Bear You’re A Bear When You’re Not A Bear’ short.”

(Related: Native comedian Joey Clift: ‘People want to hear our jokes’)

The latest video was all Clift’s idea, which includes some impressive Native star power. “I wrote, directed and star in it and I'm so proud of this thing. It also features the super funny Jana Schmieding and Tai Leclaire from ‘Rutherford Falls’ on Peacock and John Timothy from ‘Spirit Rangers’ on Netflix, so it's got an all Native American voice cast (which I think is a first for Comedy Central), and we had the badass Indigenous cartoonist Marie Bower design all of the weird Native mascots faces.”

Clift added: “This is just a silly three-minute comedy short, but with ‘Rutherford Falls’ and ‘Reservation Dogs’ coming out this year, I think it's so cool that Native comedians are finally getting opportunities in the media, and, due to the efforts of a lot of activists fighting for a long time, I'm so grateful that I got to make this video about Native mascots changing, and not as something we're begging people to acknowledge. Comedy Central could not have been better partners in giving me a platform and helping me make the thing I wanted to make.”

In less than two weeks, the video has garnered well over 600,000 views.

Video: How to Cope with Your Team Changing Its Native American Mascot

As expected, some of the comments have been complimentary, others not so much, Clift says he takes it in stride and all in good fun. “I’ve got to say, I love how vocal comments are whenever you post any Native comedy thing on the internet. Native Twitter will love it and Sports Twitter will be opinionated about it. But that's just how it goes when you post stuff on the internet, but any feedback is good feedback.”

Clift says a funny aspect is the tips for sports fans like waving as opposed to performing the tomahawk chop and more.

The creation of the video was a timely journey of about a year, he said, but he was extremely appreciative regarding the receptivity of Comedy Central.

“The short came from a long journey. I went to a lab fellowship called the Yes and Laughter Lab that Comedy Central and a few other organizations put on a few years ago that introduced me to a bunch of really great executives at Comedy Central — who I reached out to last year to do a takeover of their Instagram stories for Indigenous People's Day to promote a list of 25 Native American comedians, just to follow I put together with IllumiNative,” said Clift.

“We really just hit it off and they asked me if I had any ideas for digital shorts or anything. I pitched Comedy Central this idea, and they loved it. We've been working on it for probably about a year because animation takes a while.”

A shout out and what’s coming for Clift

“Something that I really appreciate about this short is that it's a comedy short about Native sports mascots changing and not us begging people to acknowledge that they're messed up,” Clift said.

“I can't give enough props to all the Native activists who have been fighting for decades so that I can make this silly, weird little short dunking on Native sports mascots.”

Clift said that as a Native comedian and writer, there’s a lot more to come.

“As for what's next for me, I'm still writing on ‘Spirit Rangers’ on Netflix, which is coming out sometime in 2022.”

(Related: Here come the Spirit Rangers!)

Netflix announces an all-Native fantasy-adventure series "Spirit Rangers" acted by Native actors with an all-Native writer’s room and created by Chumash tribal citizen Karissa Valencia

“I have a bunch of other projects in the works. I have a new short film, it's a live action short that's kind of going through festivals right now called ‘My first Native American boyfriend,” that's about weird experiences I've had dating as a Native person in 2021.”

“I’m just going to keep on doing the thing and keep on making things. I'm always a big fan of just keeping busy and making stuff.”

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