Joey Clift: Being the funniest Native in the writers' room

Indian Country Today

Comedian Joey Clift talks humor and his new Netflix animated series. Journalist Eddie Chuculate shares the political races he's covering for Indian Country Today and editor Mark Trahant speaks with Montana State Rep. Shane Morigeau.

Humor is something that has sustained Native people for centuries. So today, as we find our way through this pandemic, humor is once again sustaining us. Cowlitz citizen and award-winning comedian Joey Clift joins the show to talk all things funny and maybe even drop a hint about a character in his new Netflix series "Spirit Rangers."

Plus freelance journalist Eddie Chuculate has been covering some political races for Indian Country Today. Today he's on the show and ready to go over a few key races to watch. 

Indian Country Today Editor Mark Trahant sits down with Montana State Representative Shane Morigeau, a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, who was first elected to the Montana legislature in 2017.

Some quotes from today's show.

Joey Clift:

"The pandemic has definitely had a big effect on a lot of things in the world and probably the smallest on the list is my writing process. The way that it's changed is prior to this, when I would be working on a show, I would go into a writer's room, sit in an office, usually eat a lot of free snacks from the office kitchen while cracking jokes in a room full of people. And now instead of doing that, I do most of my writing at my apartment. Most of my meetings are on zoom or on some video chat. I would say that the way that my writing process has changed for meetings is now I am hyper aware of how messy my room is at any given time. So I'm just like, Oh, that closet door is open. Oh, nobody should see that. Oh, my bed's messy. So I would say that a big part of my writing process is making sure I don't look like a slob."

"So many of us came up through live comedy spaces where we would do shows together and we would riff on stage and make an audience crack up. It's still there over zoom a little bit but like sometimes we'll kind of step on each other's jokes just cause there's like a latency and a lag. And a lot of standup shows and comedy shows are over video chat now. So it's kind of the same deal. Instead of driving to a comedy theater at midnight on a Tuesday to do a show. I'm just sitting in my dark room and just being like, I really want to go to bed right now, but I have to do this show."

"So the way that this production is different from other Netflix series is that for the first time ever in the history of animated TV in the United States, it's an all Native writers room. And it's just a very very Native forward show in kind of like how I look at all aspects of storytelling for the show. I would say that it's different from a lot of other writing jobs that I've had. Usually when I'm working in rooms in writers rooms, I'm the only Native on staff. So because of that, and because as we know, it's like your average person probably doesn't know as much about Natives as they maybe probably should. Whenever I would pitch Native jokes, storylines, or anything like that, to like a non-Native writer's room I would usually have to start every pitch by establishing first things first. I was born in a hospital, not a cave. My mom is not an eagle. Because it's an all Native writers room, we can just kind of jump into it. Everybody knows what smudging is. Everybody knows what fry bread is. You know, we're all aware of a lot of Native lore and stuff like that. So we can just get to like the heart of the stories and the meat of what makes these stories great. I think that that's something that I really appreciate and cherish about this experience. I've got to shoutout the creator/show runner of Spirit Rangers Karissa Valencia. She's a genius Chumash animation/writer. She's doing great stuff. She put this team together and she's really created a great space for us to make some cool stuff."

Additional resources for this interview:
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 by Joey Clift
 Joey Clift Highlights 25 Native American Comedians for Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Find Joey online @joeytainment

Eddie Chuculate:

"Remi Bald Eagle is running for public utilities commission in South Dakota as a Democrat. It’s a statewide office not a tribal deal. He faces a guy who's been in there for quite a while like 15 to 20 years, a Republican. Remi is hoping that disenfranchised republican voters or independents will help him swing that vote towards his side. I don't know of any other Native that's held that position as far as a statewide office, like I said it's non-tribal."

"In Oklahoma, I'm doing a feature for Indian Country Today on district two. Which is currently held by a Cherokee citizen, republican Markwayne Mullin. He's going for his fifth straight term, they are two year terms. I don't know why they make him run every two years, but that seems like an exhaustive process. Every time you turn around, you're going to be running again, He's being opposed by another Cherokee citizen, Danyell Lanier, a Democrat and another libertarian candidate. So two Cherokee citizens in this race."

"I think we're going to be guaranteed four Native Americans in Congress right now. And I think that with either Lanier or Mullin winning, there's gonna hopefully be at least four going into 2021. I think it all started two years ago when Sharice Davids pulled this big surprise upset in Kansas and opened a lot of eyes to where Natives can see that instead of just depending on non-Natives to represent them and DC that they can get out there and run themselves. This has come a long way from being not even being able to vote legally. So hopefully that continues."

WATCH ELECTION NIGHT WITH INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY.

Live news broadcast starting at 8 p.m. Mountain Standard at IndianCountryToday.com. 

(We will post a list of stations airing the program next week.)

Shane Morigeau:

"I've been doing this for a while now. I always had this perspective in my mind, you know, growing up in rural Montana where politicians show up, they ask you for something, call you and ask you for a donation or money or your support. And and then they disappear on you and you don't see them again. And that experience was just like, wow, open my eyes. Like there are people who care about me and my community and the, the folks that always didn't waiver and not support when he came to protecting people in my community with preexisting conditions and stepping up to find, find a way to make sure people have access to healthcare  

"I was serving in my second term in leadership. I had the experience of even going another level of having experience with companies and insurance companies that were the sole opposition to legislation I was carrying to extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims. And so when I was looking at what I wanted to do after the legislature, I was a little bit discouraged by that. Then talking with my wife about how I can help people in Montana, my record of getting nine bills passed in Montana. Being able to work and put it put aside partisanship. Being an independent voice and finding common ground and common sense issues. And to really find niches of people where I earned their trust and we can work together. We've got a lot of good stuff done. "

"The fact that Montana, our legislature looks like our population base. The makeup of our population, Indians being around 7% of the population in Montana, our legislature looks like that. And that's a good thing because I think when you have that representation, you know, a lot of the critical issues impacting our communities, I always look at it when Montana, when all of our communities are doing better in Montana, Montana is doing better. Economy is doing better. The health of people across the state is better. And the whole reason I ended up going to law school in Montana and staying here is because I knew that there would be a value in going to school and working with the same people and going to school at the same people that I might work with someday."

"I had a clear record of working across the aisle there to get things done and really promote the health and welfare of everybody in the state. I really try to make, make sure people know that I am proud to be a Montanan. And that we need to ensure that people recognize that Natives in Montana or Montanans too know that I take great pride in the fact that I'm a Montanan and that I'm a Salish and Kootenai member and a US Citizen. I take great pride in all of those. I want to see our state and the people in the state do better as well. And that's why I think I'm the best candidate just based on my background, where I come from."

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Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.

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