Winnipeg based comedian speaks on activism and Settler Colonialism
Ryan McMahon is a Winnipeg based comedian and podcaster who will be appearing with Charlie Demers at the Education Auditorium at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11 as a fundraiser for the local and awesome Briarpatch Magazine. McMahon is a graduate of Toronto’s Second City Conservatory and has headlined a number of comedy festivals around the globe. McMahon is host of Red Man Laughing and Ryan McMahon Gets Angry, which are both available at his website: rmcomedy.com
John Kapp, the Staff Writer for the Carillon, had a chance to interview McMahon before his upcoming appearance at the University of Regina.
What is your favourite book?
I keep going back to The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King in my spare time. It’s an incredible read that this whole country needs to read.
How long have you been doing comedy, and how did you decide comedy was for you?
I’ve been doing comedy since 1999. After university, I moved to Toronto, and shortly thereafter I auditioned for the Second City Conservatory. I studied there for 2 years, graduated, and began my journey as a comedian and a writer.
Where did your activism begin?
My activism started heavy in 1999 when I met a homeless brother from Guatemala. Most people around the Native Canadian Centre in Toronto wouldn’t give this guy the time of day – I saw myself in him. I saw my family in him. He refused to call himself homeless – he told me he lived on Mother Earth. He went on to explain why he didn’t have a bank account and what “being homeless” meant for him – it meant not assimilating and living on his own terms.
You did a podcast on Indigenous images in media, making clear it is not a historical thing, it is still happening. What can people reading this do in their day-to-day life to confront these degrading images?
The best thing people can do is check their own privilege. Everyone needs to ask themselves how they benefit from Settler Colonialism. Actually, just Google that – Google “Settler Colonialism,” and examine it and their own lives.
I’ve read that you do community work across Canada. Could you get into some of what you do in these communities?
I do Youth Leadership & Empowerment workshops, with the foundation of the work we do being Theatre. Theatre training is essentially “Life Skill on Steroids.” Healthy risk-taking, teamwork, and communication is something we can all work on – I draw on those themes and tie cultural teachings and practices to the work we do in this type of training.
Many people when they achieve a degree of fame, tend to cease their activism or tone it down.What drives your activism?
I don’t use the word “activism” actually. I’m just a person trying to live in a good way. What drives that are my two daughters – I need to make this place better than how I found it.
Here’s a weird question. If on the Canadian state’s 150th birthday you were given magical powers to remake the country, what would you do?
Return the land to Indigenous Peoples and ask that everyone book an appointment with the heads of our Nations, the Matriarchs, so we can identify a pathway forward.
Given that likely will not happen, what are some ways people can make a positive impact in their community or beyond that?
Google “Settler Colonialism,” and knock that shit off.