Got Land? Comedy was created to express solidarity with humour, where all genres of comedy are welcomed and expressed. The goal of Got Land? Comedy is to perform across Turtle Island, for all Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons alike. SAY Magazine is proud to highlight two of the performing comedians.

By Danielle Vienneau

Janelle Niles – Comedian, Producer and Content Creator

It takes a special person to make others laugh, and doing it on-stage takes a little extra finesse and guts! Humour is intrinsic to human interaction, and if you are brave enough to hit the stage, stand-up comedy provides the ultimate platform for addressing stereotypes, breaking taboos and even holding others, especially those “in power,” accountable. For Janelle Niles, a Black-Mi’kmaq woman from Sipekne’katik, Nova Scotia, comedy became a coping mechanism for her as a teenager, and now she hopes her “Indigenous comedy” will open a dialogue for others to have difficult conversations.

Niles is the creator and producer of Got Land? Comedy—a stand-up comedy variety show, where First Nation, Inuk and Métis entertainers tell jokes and share individual life stories. In January 2019, she launched her comedy career in Ottawa, Ontario, exploding in the nation’s capital with Got Land?

Inspired by the frank and unreserved comedian George Carlin, her dream is to perform for Just For Laughs in Montreal and one day tour Turtle Island. In addition to her touring show Got Land?, Niles has performed with the Arctic Comedy Festival in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and you can catch her on CBC Gem’s The New Wave of Standup Season 2. With humour that is described as eccentric and captivating, Niles aims to communicate solidarity through humour and laughter.

Here is more about Niles and why she chooses to bring laughter to audiences everywhere.

SAY: How did you get into stand-up comedy, and why?
Niles: I grew up watching Just for Laughs religiously. I would come home from school and pop in a VHS tape to record the show so I could watch it over and over. Comedy kept me sane in a tumultuous home. Then, by the time I was 14, I knew I wanted to be a comedian. I would use jokes to take away the pain. Something just clicked, and I knew I had something to offer the world. There is always a child out there laughing their pain away.

SAY: How do you come up with material?
Niles: My comedy is observational. I see something, or experience it, and I write it down immediately. I find “funny” in everyday occurrences.

SAY: Who really makes you laugh?
Niles: Bill Burr has me buckled over, and so does Anthony Jeselnik.

SAY: What’s the most memorable moment in your career so far?
Niles: My most memorable moment would be when I performed at the River Cree Resort and Casino, and as I walked on stage in front of 2,000 people, there was no microphone. The host had accidentally pocketed it. He forgot he had his own and walked off stage with a microphone in each pocket. So I made it funny and ran across the stage in a funny way and made the crowd laugh.

SAY: Is being a comedian your full- time job?
Niles: I wish comedy was my full-time job. I am obsessed with it, but unfortunately, comedy in Canada isn’t sustainable, so most comedians move to the United States. My day job is as a job coach with a pre-employment program for Indigenous Peoples.

SAY: What’s the most difficult thing about being a comedian?
Niles: The biggest challenge being a comedian is trying to make people laugh when they have negative associations with Indigenous Peoples. It’s a wall I need to break down, and when I wear a suit, they feel they can laugh because now I am smart enough to listen to. I wish I didn’t have to play mind tricks for audiences to listen to my style of comedy, but if it works, it works.

SAY: Is there anything you won’t joke about?
Niles: I will joke about almost anything. When it comes to tough topics, we joke about the audacity, not making light of the situations we face.

SAY: Do you crack jokes in “real life” or are you quite serious?
Niles: I have been told to “turn it off ” because I am always joking around. People think I am serious, but I am yanking their chains. I have had to say “joking” after I say a joke off-stage just so the public can put their pitchforks away!


Randy Schmucker – Comedian, Artist and Performer

Randy Schmucker (he/him) is a talented comic, artist and performer residing in the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin Anishinabek (also known as Ottawa). Through comedy, he brings a unique point of view that plays on his experiences as a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, as well as his mixed background of both Anishinaabe and European ancestry. Schmucker began his comedy career in 2019 with the first-ever Got Land? comedy show and a performance at the Fresh Meat Festival. He finds comedy is a way to bring people together, to relate to one another, and to justify his flamboyant and (sometimes very) meta sense of humour.

Launching his comedy career just prior to the pandemic proved to have its challenges for the up-and-coming comedian. Thankfully, there were people in the comedy scene who held virtual space for comics to come together to
perform and practice—a “lifesaver” for Schmucker. Now, with live shows happening again, we are excited for what is to come from the young performer. Here is a glimpse into Schmucker’s life as a comic and all that inspires his work.

SAY: How did you get into stand-up comedy, and why?
Schmucker: I’ve always been interested in stand-up. Growing up, I would watch stand-up on TV, likely missing half the jokes, but I always felt connected to the art form. Back in 2019, I put a submission in for a one-person show at an arts festival and got accepted. This meant that for three nights I would be performing 20-minute sets in front of paying audiences, and I thought, “Oh no! Now I have to practice… at least once.”

SAY: How did you get involved with Got Land?
Schmucker: A friend told me there was going to be a show called Got Land? with all Indigenous comics. I put my name forward for a spot and had my first-ever show with a community of like-minded individuals. It was great to hear comics from all backgrounds, and I immediately felt inspired to keep going, to do the festival, and now it’s been almost three years!

SAY: How do you come up with material?
Schmucker: Most of my material is rooted in references that I am most familiar with, like being a part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community or being a First Nations man living in the city, but I try to stay relevant on topics outside of my comfort zone—to expand and be relatable. A lot of my inspiration and references come from TV shows, more specifically TV characters like Gina from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Maria from Lady Dynamite and Titus Andromedon from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I like to think of myself as an amplified version of my own character when I’m on stage. I also benefit from an innate overactive mind. Often, during walks or when I’m trying to fall asleep, a theme or topic will come to mind, and I’ll workshop a punchline on the spot. Then it goes straight into my notebook if it’s near, or, most often (like an Instagram celebrity apology), into my phone’s Notes app.

SAY: Who, or what, really makes you laugh?
Schmucker: My comedy icons are Chelsea Peretti, Maria Bamford, John Mulaney, Julio Torres and Jaboukie
Young-White. Personally, I love the unexpected and absurd. Anything with a bit of shock value can go a long way. I also really appreciate jokes where you have to think and know references. I feel like a lot of my generation’s humour (or at least the most popular style) layers absurdity with cultural or pop culture references, and then layers it again with self-deprecation or ironic self-awareness. That’s what gets me going!

SAY: What’s the most memorable moment in your career so far?
Schmucker: It’s so cheesy, but the most memorable moment for me was my first time on stage, not knowing how it was going to go. My friends were so supportive, and hearing honest feedback from strangers really was a great experience. It was validating to hear that after such a long time of wanting to do stand-up, I might actually be good at it. Since then, I’ve performed for the YukYuks room, various arts and film festivals, rooms of six people, dive bars, family events and on Zoom calls from my phone for college students. All of it is worthwhile, and I try to keep a memory of each show.

SAY: Is being a comedian your full-time job?
Schmucker: I appreciate that I am able to do comedy part-time. I feel like I’ve built up my stage presence and material to where it needs to be right now, and I like where I’m at. I have a lot of different pursuits, including full-time work and other creative pursuits outside of comedy. Comedy is a space where I get to use different skills and attend to my humorous side. If I were to take it to the next level, I would love to someday do TV or playwriting.

SAY: What’s the best thing about being a comedian, and what’s the most challenging?
Schmucker: Being a comic is rewarding in that I get to share my unique story and perspective. I often get approached by people who are super like-minded who resonate with my material and feel seen. I love connecting with other Queer people after shows and bonding over silly things that happen in our lives. On the other hand, I also get approached by people who don’t see eye to eye or appreciate hearing something that is different from what they are used to. Either way, doing the show and succeeding is a great rush, and hearing feedback validates what I do.

SAY: Is there anything you won’t joke about?
Schmucker: I would say there are quite a few sensitive topics that hold a lot of charges and can be triggering. These can be healing to joke about for some, and I think there is merit in comedy as an art form to bring a sense of relief to these topics, as long as it’s done from a place of respect. Personally, I try to be very intentional about what message I’m bringing to the stage. Before I put a joke in my set, I ask myself if the joke has value outside of being about a potentially touchy subject. Am I calling people “in” to a conversation about a touchy subject? There are definitely topics that I steer clear from because they can be seen (whether intentional or not) as harmful for the sake of being harmful. My comedy can definitely ruffle feathers, but it comes from a place of love.

SAY: Do you crack jokes in real life or are you quite serious?
Schmucker: A colleague of mine asked me whether I make jokes when I’m nervous… I do. I also make jokes when I’m sad, happy, anxious, alone, with friends, at work or anywhere! I love humour. I love having inside jokes with my friends. I love making funny references to a show or a movie that my friends and I are into. I love making people feel good about themselves, even if it may get me into trouble. I love bringing a sense of humility to the world and to myself through humour. I would say it’s one of my largest and greatest personality traits, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.