As a Native American Comedian, I wasn’t mad at the SNL Thanksgiving Sketch, I was just disappointed.
BORING. That’s literally the first thing I thought when I finished SNL’s Thanksgiving/Pocahontas sketch.
I’m a Native comic, and — more importantly, have been a Native person for my whole ass life, and I am used to great comedians and sketch shows trying to do some bit about Native people. Long before white people were mad at Dave Chappelle for being transphobic, I was gently irritated with his shitty Native joke. Every fucking medium you can think of, from movies to tv shows, Broadway to school plays, radio to your casual passerby on Halloween all having their own dumbass take on Native identity and shit. Lord, even the great Dolly Parton’s new show has a reference to someone’s “spirit animal.” After nearly 30 years of this, I figured out that I could either take it on the chin and keep watching the show, or stop singing Dolly Parton songs at karaoke. And I do a sick “Jolene.”
So, when I watched Will Ferrell do a spin on an old conservative Fox listener who is mad at the white illegals coming into his land, I thought, “Well, hopefully this is at least funny.” And y’know what? It was mediocre. A solid “Meh.” And that, my dear reader, is what irked me the most. Certainly, no white person or non-Native should be doing redface — it’s racist as fuck, and it categorically has been shown to be harmful to Native youth, and positive for white youth. But, at this point, telling SNL (and the public at large) that they can’t play a Native person is like telling Kelsey Asbille Chow that she can’t play Native on “Yellowstone.” Next thing you know, you have to call up the Cherokee Nation to issue a statement, and those people in their enrollment office have been through enough.
And honestly, I couldn’t be mad at Fred Armisen, because as we all know, he is not a human person, but is the physical embodiment of Portland’s most trite white liberals. When five white environmentalists from Portland get in a circle and shout “Earth,” “Fire,” “Wind,” “Water,” and “Heart,” Fred Armisen is the person who appears.
But no, no the worst sin that SNL committed that night was not being funny. A passing glance at Pocahontas’ age? Unwashed hands of a dirty, dirty white? Undigested corn? (Honestly, I don’t get the corn thing, I never have that problem. It’s almost like white people weren’t meant to eat it and should go back to where they came from — oops, got carried away.)
Instead of all that nonsense, why not do a “To catch a predator” parody, where John Smith comes in to meet Pocahontas and is greeted by Will Ferrell as that guy from that show? Why not do a sketch where they all realize the old man is right, and then we have a Quentin Tarentino style revisionist history where they just stomp the crap out of John Smith’s rapist ass and move on to drive the colonizers the hell out of there? You could cut to present day, and its just a classroom where a bunch of Native students are being taught this story, and one asks, “Teacher, what would have happened if we didn’t push out the colonizers?” And the Teacher says, “Oh, I don’t know, someone somewhere would probably be making a dumb fucking sketch about it in an insensitive manner on national television, just acting like Native people don’t fucking exist.”
And that just off the top of my head, at three in the morning.
Or maybe, JUST MAYBE, SNL could have hired a single fucking Native person to come in and help with this sketch. (I’m literally just one google away, Lorne.) There are plenty of talented Native writers, comedians, actors and aunties out there who could have fixed this for you. Adrianne Chelepah, Tito Ybarra, Tonia Jo Holl, the 1491s, Danny Littlejohn, Kaitlyn Jeffers, Tatanka Means — HOWIE MILLER! LITERALLY ANOTHER NATIVE COMIC NAMED HOWIE.
Being Native in this country means taking it on the chin everyday, because I know that every single day I walk out into the world, I am walking into the goddamn Zombie apocalypse for Native people.
So, am I surprised when SNL or any other entity makes a dumb joke and includes us only in name? No. Does it make it right? Fuck no. Will I keep watching the Dolly Parton series? Yes. Its just — she’s so good. But the least you could do is make it a little easier for us Natives to enjoy our entertainment, because dodging zombies everyday makes for a tired life.
Also, I started trying to bring back “palefaces” in my act recently, and honestly I’m hurt you stole it.