David Ohokannoak believes comedy is a path to wellness, and he’s helping people down that path.
“Mental health, I would say, is just as important as physical health, and I really think that laughter is its own form of healing,” said Ohokannoak, who headlined A Night of 1,000 Laughs in Cambridge Bay on Nov. 25. The event, attended by close to 35 people, was a lighthearted but informative look at men’s health.
Ohokannoak, 29, mixed in some jokes about prostates and the differences between women and men. He closed his 34-minute set with a couple of funny stories about hunting geese, partly based on his own experience.
“There’s a little truth to every joke I write,” he said.
Ohokannoak made his comedy debut three years ago during a fundraiser. He recalls being really nervous during that first show despite having rehearsed his jokes in front of his friends many, many times.
At A Night of 1,000 Laughs, with numerous performances under his belt – including at the Omingmak Frolics spring carnival – he was much more relaxed.
“People told me that I looked very comfortable up there,” he said, adding that instead of telling jokes word-for-word as he has done in the past, he was feeling confident enough to improvise. “I didn’t stick exactly to the script… and I kind of played off the crowd. It was good.”
Isaac Mensah, who organized A Night of 1,000 Laughs on behalf of the Cambridge Bay Wellness Centre, said lots of people were talking about Ohokannoak’s comedy act.
“He was incredibly great last weekend with his amazing talent,” said Mensah. “In all, he was awesome.”
Ohokannoak was able to convince his cousin, Matthew Ohokannoak, to also entertain the crowd on Nov. 25.
“He’s one of the funniest people I know. I was giving him all these hints and pointers. He really killed it,” David Ohokannoak said. “He went on just before me and I was laughing so hard I was thinking, ‘How am I going to follow this?’ I’m pretty proud of him for putting himself out there.”
He has also collaborated with other Cambridge Bay humorists Eric Kitigon and Nuka Olsen-Hakongak in the past, he said.
His father, whom Ohokannoak describes as “quite the jokester”, also helped inspired his love of comedy.
“I guess I’ve always kind of been the class clown, in elementary school all the way through high school,” he said. “I’ve been a huge fan of stand-up comedy ever since I could understand jokes.”
Don Burnstick and Dave Chappelle are professional comedians who have had an influence on his developing style.
Ohokannoak is booked for the New Year’s Ball in Cambridge Bay for the second time. He’s made other appearances for the wellness centre and he has performed a few times at bars in Nova Scotia, his mother’s home province.
“I’m willing to go wherever it takes. I’ll never say no if someone asks me, ‘You want to do a comedy night?’ Yeah, I’m there. I’m not one to shy away from it,” he said.
No matter where he causes people to burst out laughing, Ohokannoak takes pleasure in it.
“Just to see the joy on people’s faces, smiling and having a good time, it’s really rewarding in itself for me,” he said.