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Two men, a minivan and a dream: Rez Reporter and Jonny R are headed to Hollywood

BEMIDJI--Comedians Rob Fairbanks, aka the Rez Reporter, and Jon "Jonny R" Roberts decided one day in May they were going to be famous. Fairbanks and Roberts have since collaborated with filmmakers to begin production of "Rez Comedy." If their Kic...

Rob Fairbanks, the Rez Reporter, and Red Lake comedian Jon "Jonny R" Roberts have begun production of "Rez Comedy" a documentary film about Native comedy. The duo has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to complete the film.
Rob Fairbanks, the Rez Reporter, and Red Lake comedian Jon "Jonny R" Roberts have begun production of "Rez Comedy" a documentary film about Native comedy. The duo has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to complete the film. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI-Comedians Rob Fairbanks, aka the Rez Reporter , and Jon "Jonny R" Roberts decided one day in May they were going to be famous.

Fairbanks and Roberts have since collaborated with filmmakers to begin production of "Rez Comedy." If their Kickstarter project receives full funding, $20,000, by July 14, the twosome and a crew of three others will embark on a five-man funky-fresh tour toward Tinseltown.

"It's going to be five men in a minivan...and lots of air freshener," Roberts joked.

"And a lot of male bonding," Fairbanks added.

Roberts and Fairbanks met through a mutual friend, comedian Tito Ybarra, at the first all Ojibwe Comedy Jam at Palace Casino in Cass Lake in 2014. The men have a vested interest in bringing Native humor off the reservation and onto the mainstream scene, where Roberts said Native comedians aren't as well known as others.

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"I listen to a lot of comedians on TV and YouTube and there's the one joke by Dave Chappelle where he says 'I thought all Indians were dead'," Roberts said. "On a Marc Maron podcast, I found out Godfrey's grandfather was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian, Godfrey himself said he thought all Indians were dead."

Fairbanks said it's important to show Native humor isn't all about frybread and powwows.

"Humor is universal. We're going to California to show mainstream we're not dead, we're alive and we're funny," Fairbanks said.

Roberts said "Rez Comedy" is going to be their documentary but it isn't going to be solely about the comedians. Along the way, Fairbanks and Roberts will be stopping to see comedian friends and a few notable sites including the Badlands, Mt. Zion National Park and Wounded Knee. Fairbanks said some of the comedians they will visit have branched out into motivational speaking and working with youth.

"This film will open people's eyes and give hope to youth," Fairbanks said. "We want to inspire the future generation to pursue their endeavors."

The film will include a behind-the-scenes look at comedians from northern Minnesota trying to make it in the comedy world. Fairbanks is a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Roberts is enrolled in the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. The men are hoping the tribes support their project and want to be part of the process.

"We want to bring a sense of pride back to the communities," Fairbanks said.

"People hear a lot of negativity about life on the reservations. What we're trying to do is show the positive side," Roberts said. "There are talented people living here."

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The hour-long film will be produced by Divewire Studios out of Red Lake with music by country/blues musician Charlie Parr of Duluth. Parr has signed on to score an exclusive track for the film based on the footage. The "Rez Comedy" Kickstarter trailer features one of Parr's songs.

"We're going to get deep into ourselves, our lives and growing up," Fairbanks said. "Then we're going to have a little bit of laughter so it's going to be a mixture, a rollercoaster effect."

"Maybe some tears," Roberts said.

Fairbanks has gained recognition as the Rez Reporter for his selfie-style "rezzy" weather reports and other videos on his Facebook page and YouTube channel. He now hosts events at Northern Lights Casino in Walker.

Roberts previously produced comedy and powwow DVDs and began performing stand-up comedy in 2009. Roberts has toured the Midwest as well as doing a show in Hollywood last year at the famed Laugh Factory.

Fairbanks and Roberts are working on a comedy show to be presented at Palace Casino over Labor Day weekend and, depending on the outcome of the film, may look at creating free shows and community outreach initiatives. Once "Rez Comedy" is complete, the plan is to introduce the film on the indie circuit with hopes to reach the Sundance Film Festival.

With 11 days to go, "Rez Comedy," had a little more than $1,000 pledged on Friday. To learn more about the Kickstarter campaign visit kck.st/1eVbLE0.

Related Topics: CASS LAKERED LAKE
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