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MN “Rez Comedy” documentary funded in final hours

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Two Ojibwe comedians from Minnesota have raised over $10,000 toward a documentary that will film them traversing the country and raising the profile of Native Americans in comedy.

Jon Roberts, of Red Lake Reservation, and Rob Fairbanks, of Leech Lake Reservation, launched their first Kickstarter campaign to fund the film in early July. Only days after failing to meet their $20,000 goal, they re-launched, this time aiming for $10,000. Over the subsequent two weeks, 105 backers pledged toward the project, which surpassed its goal in the final hours of the campaign on last week.

Roberts estimated that he knows half of the contributors; the rest, including the last-minute big donors, were surprises. “We’re trying to reach out to them and thank them personally,” he says.

Roberts (a.k.a. “The Ojibwe Outlaw”) has been cracking up audiences since 2009 with his deadpan humor. He also owns a video production company, 94 Warriors. Fairbanks, best known as “The Rez Reporter,” broadcasts weather reports, cooking tutorials, and commentary on everything, including Beyoncé and the Dragonboat Races, to over 2,000 subscribers on YouTube.

Roberts says he was inspired to do a film while watching Spike Lee’s The Original Kings of Comedy. The documentary will follow Roberts and Fairbanks for two weeks as they make their way to Hollywood, stopping to visit story-rich sites like the Badlands, Mount Zion National Park, and Wounded Knee. Free standup shows and on-camera sit-down interviews with fellow Native comedians — like Tonia Jo Hall, Tito Ybarra, and Stuart Perkins — will also be a part of the documentary.

“We’ll talk about their struggles and how hard it is to get recognized,” Roberts says. The road trip will be underway by late September and post-production will begin mid-October. Charlie Parr will provide the film’s soundtrack.

“It’s going to be an inspiring tour,” Roberts says. “We’ll show the youth that it’s possible to do what you want with your life and follow your dreams.”