Canada is not the promised land of universal healthcare and Tim Hortons that we Americans like to picture it as. Just like here, white colonizers waged a mass genocide against Indigenous Canadian people and suppressed their cultures. And just like in the States, governments provide nominal acknowledgment of these atrocities at best, at worst actively harming Indigenous communities.
Comedian Dakota Ray Hebert is all too aware of Canada’s racist history (and present), but somehow manages to educate listeners, keep us laughing, and avoid being glib on her new comedy album I’ll Give You an Indian Act, out now via Howl & Roar Records.
The Dené performer immediately grabs the listener’s attention with her distinctive and endearing voice. She does some hilarious impressions throughout the record as well, from a Canadian hillbilly to former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to an eager Scott Moe campaigner. In case these names don’t sound familiar—you’re not alone! Those who aren’t up-to-date with their Canadian politics references (myself included) have nothing to fear, though, because Hebert is funny regardless and provides enough context that the listener understands why she’s complaining about former Prime Minister John A. Macdonald (spoiler alert: he was a big ol’ racist). In fact, the whole of I’ll Give You an Indian Act is sure to send you down a Canadian Wikipedia hole.
Hebert keeps the history lesson humorous by using sarcasm and extreme understatement to her advantage. Her goofy, shrugging delivery doesn’t take the edge off her (well-deserved) anger at these assholes (or colonizers, as she likes to say), but lends another dimension to her comedy. (“Oh man, darn genocide,” she says when observing that she’s usually the only Indigenous person in the room.) Hebert is self-deprecating on the album (“Don’t laugh at that, you’ll just encourage me”) and her many puns are accompanied by the cry “Mom joke!” She’s dorky and a bit awkward in ways that just add to her charm as an entertainer, rather than feeling like stilted affectations.
There’s also an absurdist bent to Hebert’s humor, like when she imagines a reality where men’s mustaches wiggle when they’re happy. Her imagination is one of her greatest assets; it’s just so funny to hear her idea of a conversation between Christopher Columbus and his navigator (“New World, new me”) or dream up the concept of a pale face status card. Her silly yet biting observations are highlights of an already solid album.
Whether joking about Canadian history or her own personal experiences (which are just as funny and compelling in their own right), Hebert showcases her singular and utterly entertaining perspective on I’ll Give You an Indian Act.
I’ll Give You an Indian Act is streaming now on Spotify, Apple Music, or wherever you listen to comedy.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.