(Photo courtesy of Dakota Ray Hebert. Facebook.)

By: Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com

Dakota Ray Hebert is one of Canada’s hottest new comics and is featured on the fourth season of CBC Gem’s New Wave of Standup.

“It’s very flattering to be considered a ‘rising star’,” said Hebert, another tag that’s connected to her name.

“Any time you have a televised opportunity, it really does add a boost to your career…which can turn into people who book you for shows and just more name recognition as well,” she said.

“These opportunities are really important to comics and it’s awesome to see so many Canadian comics have so many opportunities like this.”

Hebert may be “new to the comedy spotlight,” as she puts it, but she’s not “super new” to comedy. She’s been hitting the stage for almost a decade.

Hebert is a member of English River First Nation, born and raised in Meadow Lake, Sask. She is two-spirt and, as for pronouns, she says she’s “fine with anything. Just don’t call me late for dinner.”

Hebert, like other comics, writes her own material. On occasion when a new joke is tried out at an open mic, a comic buddy may suggest an add-on.

Open mics are the “comedy gym,” said Hebert. “That’s where you work out all your material and get used to saying it and figure out what words should go where.”

Still, not every joke lands and, when that happens, she’s learned to banter with the audience and “make it into something funny.”

“When I first started, it was embarrassing, and it felt bad. But now it’s just part of the flow. It’s part of the roller coaster and it’s lots of fun. Once you’re comfortable with being uncomfortable, comedy gets easier,” she said.

That ease came to her about a year or so into stepping up to the microphone to bring the funny.

“I was touring a kids’ play, and in the evenings I would do open mics. Around that time I got more and more involved in comedy scenes. Just from doing open mics so often, like almost every night, I was able to get comfortable with that pretty fast,” she said.

Hebert is a writer, an actor, a comic and a visual artist. All her careers are hard work and rewarding, she says, and each provides its own brand of excitement and challenge.

“With standup it has to be funny all the time. So that’s, I’d say, a bit more challenging, but it’s a huge payoff when it lands. That’s exciting. Instant gratification,” she said.

Many of Hebert’s jokes are informed by her identity and her lived experiences, but that’s not all she writes about. And no topic is off limit.

“I think that there’s room for anything to be tackled through comedy as long as it’s done well and not just for shock value. There has to be comedy in it,” said Hebert.

She admits that, in the early part of her career, she “definitely aimed for more educational. But now I focus on ‘Is it funny’?”

Her first album is called I’ll Give You an Indian Act in which she makes fun of “the racist legislation that is the Indian Act as well as government officials.” She will be recording her second comedy album in Saskatchewan on Oct. 14.

Hebert will spin more Indigenous jokes or more LGBTQ2-plus jokes with audiences that identify as she does because then “there’s a lot I don’t have to explain.”

She also talks about “chasing your dreams. You know, I’m from the trailer park in Meadow Lake, Sask. And coming from there and doing what I’m doing, it’s stuff I like to chat about and hopefully inspire other people who have similar upbringings to take a chance and pursue their dreams.”

As for personality type, Hebert says, most stand-up comics are “a bit crazy” and have “childhood trauma and stuff like that.”

But she’s also quick to point out that her husband and his twin brother who do standup comedy don’t fit that mould, so “there’s room for everyone in comedy.”

There’s no rest for Hebert as she pursues her comedy routine with a show in Los Angeles in September, having just come off of Just For Laughs New Faces in Montreal a few weeks ago. She’s also hosting her first ever solo exhibit as a painter in September in Saskatchewan.

“I’m trying to do it all,” she said. “There’s that joke that I didn’t want to work 40 hours a week for a boss, so I’m going to work 180 hours a week for myself.”

Hebert encourages people to support their homegrown comedy talent.

“Pick out a few favourite locals that you want to support and help them rise to the top,” she said.

New Wave of Standup season four drops on CBC Gem today.