Adding Native humour to puppetry
Lenny Carpenter — Wawatay News
Derric Starlight asks the Cookie Monster if he’s had cookies since arriving in Moose Factory to take part in the 10th annual Creefest and 2012 Gathering of Our People.
“Yes,” the Cookie Monster replies, “but then everyone says, ‘what is that rez dog doing eating cookies?’”
Starlight, comedian puppeteer, took the main stage and entertained the crowd on July 26 with his collection of puppets, ranging from Muppets like Kermit the Frog and Animal to Sesame Street characters Elmo and Grover.
Using his perfect impersonations, Starlight, who hails from the Tsuu T’ina Nation west of Calgary, added a Native flair to the comedic show.
“The Native humour has always been there,” the Dene and Blackfoot man said. “Especially when I did the Muppets. It’s funny going to a powwow and Kermit the Frog will have Native jokes. And it’s quite unique that these puppets will be doing that.”
Starlight’s interest in puppetry began when on Christmas he received his first puppet – Kermit the Frog – as a three-year-old.
“That’s where I started, doing the voices,” Starlight said. “Since I got older, I nailed it down to a tee. I can do 350 voices now.”
After Starlight completed film school and failed to find jobs in the industry, his sister, a daycare worker, suggested he put on a show for the children. The show was well-received.
“So every kid wanted me to do birthday parties,” he said.
Starlight credits comedian Don Burnstick for helping him start his comedic puppetry career, as Burnstick asked Starlight to open his shows. Since then, Starlight has traveled with his puppets across Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Hawaii, Tahiti and Japan.
Starlight also created his own puppets, the most notable being a Native grandmother named Granny. Granny went on to co-host the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards with actor Adam Beach.
Starlight has won a Gemini Award for his role on the APTN TV Series “Wapos Bay,” of which Starlight voices several characters. He has also been involved in wrestling promotion, putting together shows involving wrestling greats such as Ric Flair and the Hart family.
Following the July 26 performance, Starlight put on an anti-bullying workshop the next day. It is a subject that has impacted his life since he first was interested in puppets, as he was the victim of taunts and criticism from his peers.
“I was bullied all my life,” Starlight said. He told the children gathered at the workshop that when he put on one of his first shows, the parents of the children were the ones who teased him as a child.
“At my age, people still bug me and tease me,” he said. “Bullying will go on forever.”
But Starlight takes great pride in his work.
“I enjoy just making people laugh,” the 31-year-old said. Following his performance in Moose Factory, Starlight noted that the jokes work in every community he performs.
“Native people are the same all over,” he said.
It was Starlight’s first visit to the Mushkegowuk territory.
“I love it. It’s a beautiful place, and the people are nice here,“ he said.
Email to a Friend
add to del.icio.us