Depending on who you ask, Mason Mantla is a funny man.
The aspiring comedian was recently part of a “Just for Laughs” comedy tour which made a 3-night stop in Yellowknife. His offerings on-stage were well-received, he said.
The Tlicho citizen who calls Behchoko home, said much of his humour is rooted in the life experiences and people he’s known.
“A lot of it is life experiences and sort of just thinking about the correlation between settler society and native communities and how different we are and alike we are at the same time. I draw a lot from the north, because I grew up in a community where everybody’s laughing, and everybody’s telling stories and having fun. And yeah, a lot of my jokes are stories.” he said.
“Dez Loreen said that my style of comedy is just storytelling with a twist. I draw a lot from my background growing up with my grandparents, and just doing work throughout the North.”
His journey into the world of comedy started at a writing workshop in Yellowknife in 2019. Prior to his visit, his focus had been primarily in filmmaking.
“(The workshop) was part of the Canadian North Comedy festival,” he explained, adding that he and his friend “wanted to maybe write a short film or do some sort of skit for videos. So we came here to learn how to write comedy.”
It was during a competition at the workshop that he discovered his talent for writing jokes.
“They told us that there was a comedy competition that day, and they really encouraged us to join. And I put my name in for it.” He said, continuing, “I wrote jokes for like, half an hour during the comedy competition, and I came in second place. Yeah, the way they decide who the winner was, they did an audience meter thing. I was actually like one decibel away from first place.” he recalled with a grin and a chuckle.
What happened after that was, in his mind, “surreal”.
“After the competition, I got some invites to go to like Ottawa or Iqualuit to do comedy there. But then COVID hit, and I took a break from comedy for like, two, three years.”
The time away from the stage provided him an opportunity to refine his skills, and understand what makes for a good joke.
“It has to have a good setup, it has to have a good punch line.”
He went on to add, “(A good joke) has to have unexpected elements. Like, I used to shoot horror movies. And comedy and horror, are kind of like in the same way – you don’t know what’s coming. You don’t know what to expect.”
He credited established comedians like Dave Chapelle and Mike McDonald for influencing his delivery. Like the late trailblazing Indigenous comedian Charlie Hill, Mantla believes his indigenous roots also help him find the humour in every situation.
“We have a very new joyful culture, a very sort of happy culture, you know, just being with one another, being social. It’s all part of our identity or culture. And I think that’s, that relates itself to the stage in more ways than one.”
And relating to his audience with witty one-liners that highlight his cultural and social connections, remains a central focus of whatever he brings to the stage. For now though, he’s content in his current position at CBC North as a Producer.
While comedy may one day be in his future, it’s not a career switch he’s ready to make. But he is open to the idea of one day, perhaps, finding himself on the main stage at what’s considered to be by many as the Mecca of comedy – the “Just for Laughs” festival in Montreal.
For Mason Mantla, that experience would be a validation of his ability to not only tell funny stories, but also give people insight into the wealth and humour of his people and culture.