A Navajo comedian from Gallup has been attending local government and school board meetings, because he hopes to bring the power of satire to bear in local politics.
Isiah Yazzie, 22, believes that any subject can be used to entertain audiences, and he gathered material at a meeting in Gallup on the detox center there earlier this month as well as a school board meeting to discuss issues at Crownpoint High School recently.
“Anything can be funny, you just need to know how to write it or how to present it,” he said.
Earlier this year with help from the Navajo comedian Ernie Tsosie, he created Rez City Improv. The group of comedians uses feedback from the audience as the core of the show, and Yazzie observes people to gather material.
“Going to those meetings also helped with improv, because it gives you sort of an idea of how things work,” he said.
To warm up the crowds before shows, the improv team gives out newspapers to give audience members ideas to yell out as suggestions for the improv skits. The four-person group then acts out scenes in reaction to ideas shouted by the crowd.
“If someone were to say ‘school board meeting’, I saw some stuff there that could be funny,” he said.
He acknowledged that the school board tackled a decidedly unfunny topic at the meeting he attended, a series of abusive remarks made by the principal of the school, but said comedy material doesn’t always come just from a happy place.
“I bet you at one of these night shows it’s going to be like ‘racist recording,’ ‘racist principal’ or something like that,” he said. “I can bet you that’s going to come up as one of our suggestions.”
He said comedy can come from situations that contain or highlight tragedy. He said he feels obligated to address what he sees as ridiculous situations where he can highlight important issues that people might not otherwise hear about or read about.
“I think as a comedian it’s my job, and it pushes me to get to these meetings and write about it or try to have somebody leave the show with a better understanding of what’s going, because not everybody is going to be able to make it out to the meetings,” he said.