Paul Rabliauskas is a prominent part of this year’s Winnipeg Comedy Festival.
The Winnipeg stand-up comedian, who split his childhood years between the North End and Poplar River First Nation, is performing on four festival shows from April 7 to 13.
It’s the 29-year-old’s fourth year performing in the festival.
"Since the first year it’s always been my goal to try and improve and it’s a good sign when every year the importance of these shows gets bigger and bigger," said Rabliauskas.
Rabliauskas, who is also the host of The Rise Up Show on Streetz 104.7 FM, has been honing his high-energy brand of comedy for approximately seven years. While his act runs the gamut, much of his material is pulled from his North End and reserve experiences.
"I think a lot of people find my story unique, especially when I talk about my cousins and my aunties from up north. They really made me the person I am today," said Rabliauskas, the product of an Aboriginal mother and a Lithuanian father.
"I’m so comfortable telling these stories because I lived through them and I have nothing to hide and I’m not ashamed of my family whatsoever. I’m actually really proud of who I am and where I come from.
"Indians don’t live very long. I’m way too young to have this many dead aunties and uncles and I love doing jokes where I get to talk about them because it means they kind of live on. I love paying homage to them in the stories."
Rabliauskas said he’s also not afraid to make light of issues, even health problems like diabetes, which affect the Aboriginal population
"It’s not insulting. That’s (humour) a thing that’s ingrained in our culture, this ability we have to tease each other," Rabliauskas said.
"Don Burnstick (veteran Cree comedian) touches on this. When somebody falls, Native people instinctively laugh our heads off before we help, but we still help, we just finish laughing first."
Rabliauskas said Aboriginal audiences get that he’s just making light out of the dark, but the general population can be a bit more reserved, with that "I’m not supposed to laugh at this," look on their faces.
"I think anything can be funny if it’s funny," Rabliauskas said. "I love when you tell a really good fat joke. I really do. I’m sitting there like ‘I can’t even be mad at you right now, because that’s really clever man.’ It’s the same with my diabetes jokes."
"My mom got breast cancer and it was therapy for me to say ‘The doctor was more worried about me getting breast cancer than my sister.’
"People have these notions and hopefully it is our job as comics to influence people to lighten up and learn how to laugh and live a bit better."
Catch Rabliauskas’ act at the following Winnipeg Comedy Festival shows.
• Kings of King’s Head: April 7, 9 p.m. at the King’s Head Pub (120 King St.);
• Size Matters: April 11, 10:30 p.m. at the Gas Station Arts Centre (445 River Ave.);
• Thursday Night Gala: Food, Glorious Food (warm-up act) — April 10, 7:15 p.m. at Pantages Playhouse Theatre (180 Market Ave. E);
• Just Kidding? The Limits of Free Speech (comedy panel): April 13, 4 p.m. at the Gas Station Arts Centre.
For ticket information, go to www.winnipegcomedyfestival.com