Keith Martin Nahanee Interview



Canada has many talented actors, writers, comedians, and other content creators. To help our industry grow, we would like to introduce you to some talented folks who have managed to capture that magic on screen. 

This week we spoke with Vancouver actor and stand-up comedian Keith Martin Nahanee.

Keith didn’t find comedy, it found him. Here is our conversation:


HNMAG: Do you sometimes go by Babbas?

Keith: That’s my nickname. I drank out of my bottle until I was three and a half. Milk was costly so my parents made me black tea. They put it in my bottle. I’ll be fifty-two years old this year and I’m still a tea drinker. I used to call the bottle “my Babbas.” My uncle Scott started calling me Babbas and it stuck since.


HNMAG: Where did you grow up?

Keith: North Vancouver, BC. I’m still here, with my wife. I’m two blocks away from the house I grew up in.


HNMAG: How did you get your start in performing?

Keith: Well, in our nation alone from January till September 2014, we had forty-one deaths. Everything from natural causes, accidents, suicides, so I wanted to bring some comedy into our community. On November 11th, 2014, we did our first comedy show.


HNMAG: Did you choose that date because it was Remembrance Day?

Keith: I did. My grandfather, James Nahanee is a World War II veteran.  When I attended comedy shows in the US, they always acknowledged people in service. There are a couple of veterans in our community and I wanted to honour my Grandpa. We were the producers and concessions, not one of the acts. I had a buddy who was the M/C. There were around a hundred people and everyone asked me when I was going to do another one. In May of 2015, we produced another one but the M/C couldn’t be there that day, so my wife said, you’re going on stage.


HNMAG: It was a trial by fire. You had to do it.

Keith: Yeah, people have been bugging me for about fifteen years to do stand-up and I always thought, “no way, that’s too nuts, man!” I M/C’d that show and some of the comics were doing a tour on Vancouver Island called “The Band Council.” My nephew had passed away, so I was on the Island for a funeral. My buddy was doing a show in Duncan, so I decided to stay the night and watch his show. After the first show, he asked if I was going to stay for the second, I said sure. He said, “Ok, you got the first ten minutes.”


HNMAG: You kept getting surprise sets.

Keith: (laughs) Yeah! I did it. The next morning he calls and says “We have a show in Victoria tonight, do you want to come and do it again?” I did that and there was a comic there that asked me to do a show in Vancouver and I agreed to do that as well. I got a Facebook message from a woman in Pemberton that I did workshops for, she said “I didn’t know you do comedy.” I replied, “I didn’t know I did either.” She hired me to do a two-hour show in two weeks from then for a staff Christmas party. I put that together with a couple of other comedians who were on the Island with me, Chuck Cease and Dustin Hollings. They did twenty-five minutes each. From there, it just blew up!


HNMAG: What was the next thing you did?

Keith: I ran a weekly show at a Greek Restaurant in North Vancouver called Bubbas Comedy. I initially called it Dirty Work but my wife suggested I call it something that represents me.


HNMAG: What makes your shows stand out from the other comedy nights?

Keith: I do two games. I get audience members to come up and one of them is putting a condom on a woodie while wearing oven mitts. I got that from the BC disease control centre. The other game is having a poker chip between your butt cheeks, walk five feet and drop it in a mason jar. With that, I can do an hour to an hour and a half by myself.


HNMAG: You’ve also worked with Larke Miller.

Keith: Larke’s great, a huge help. She suggested I submit to the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. I didn’t know how and she walked me through it and I got on.


HNMAG: When was that?

Keith: May 5th, 2023. When I started having more corporate and community shows, I would bring her along. We also have shows in our backyard called Granny’s Corner. The performers don’t get paid. People on the reserve and off the reserve come and sometimes they leave a donation if they can afford it. In 2024, we’ll have our seventh summer. My wife cooks chili and bannock, so we feed the comics. Larke and I also share the same birthday, June 18th.


HNMAG: You’re also working on a TV special.

Keith: In January 2022, a fellow comic, Brenda Prince, tagged me on this post that was looking for Indigenous comedians. I messaged him and sent a little video and my bio. He let me know that it was someone by the name of Darryl Mork. That night I got in touch with him. Darryl let me know that he’s in Edmonton and is really an Indigenous Actors agent, not really Comedians. He took me on anyway. A week later, I got a call from LA, I figured it was a wrong number or spam. I finally answered and it was someone named Quentin Lee. He was going to producer a TV show called Comedy Invasion in Vancouver in May and he wanted to know if I would be on it. On Mother’s Day (May 6th, 2022) we filmed the special. It was Comedy Invasion: Episode II Rez Style. I did a thirty-minute set. We met for lunch the next day and to my surprise, because I was sure he would have thought I was too edgy, he really loved the native humour. He proposed that we go partner in a company called Rez Comedy and try and get a series of indigenous comedians. After that Rez Comedy formed as a partnership between Myself, Quentin Lee and Cindy Au Yeung. We hit up the APTN and other broadcasters for a license. APTN thought our budget was too low. We worked with them and then the higher-ups thought it was too high. We are still working on it but on deferral. We filmed Rez Comedy on June 19th at Metro Theatre in Vancouver.


HNMAG: You mentioned your wife a couple of times. Is she very involved in your career?

Keith: My wife, Bernadette Nahanee is also a producer of all my comedy shows. She does everything. She secured the venue, organizers concessions, and merchandising, if we can have a bar, she’ll get the liquor license, and order the alcohol. She does a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff. It wouldn’t be possible without her. Her company is Burnout Entertainment. They will also be a producer on Rez Comedy.


HNMAG: Has anything happened with your special?

Keith: Quentin told me he was submitting it for something but I didn’t really pay that much attention. A few weeks later I found out that Comedy Invasion: Rez Style was nominated for a Canadian screen award. We were up against some big shows including Hanna Gadsby and we won!


HNMAG: Congrats!

Keith: At the beginning of June 2024, we won the Canadian Screen Award for best comedy special.


HNMAG: When did you first get interested in Stand-up?

Keith: My brother Mark introduced me to it around 1985 with a VHS copy of An Evening with Robin Williams. I would watch it over and over again.


HNMAG: What do you like about comedy that pushes the envelope?

Keith: I have a lot of material about the church. I even get non-native older people telling me that they appreciate that someone is finally speaking up, joking about these atrocities, and making sure it’s part of our conversations. It’s important to use our voice to make people think.


HNMAG: What advice do you have for other comedians?

Keith: Some comics will ask me if it’s ok if they have bits that involve indigenous subjects. I tell them, that if it’s funny and it’s pushing the envelope, go ahead. I also said not to say First Nations or indigenous because that sounds too government. Say native, the joke will be less political and more funny.


HNMAG: Do you have any shows coming up?

Keith: I put on a show every September 24th, it’s the anniversary of my Mom’s passing. She came to most of my shows. I honor her with that performance.


HNMAG: Do you have different shows for different venues?

Keith: Whenever I do a show for natives, I always bring one or two non-natives on because reconciliation works both ways. Everyone has to learn to live with each other. It started out as a Dances with Wolves thing. Having that one non-native who knows our ways. It evolved through Truth and Reconciliation to show that we’re working together.


HNMAG: Is there anything planned for September 30th, Truth and Reconciliation Day?

Keith: It’s still early but we are talking to Comedy After Dark and Little Mountain about doing something.


Keith Martin Nahanee is very funny. It didn’t come from some narcissistic, selfish place. Keith had a genuine desire to heal and knew comedy was the remedy. He is always following that passion and trying to make a difference. Now that he is an award-winning television star, let’s hope that we all get to see Rez Comedy soon because the world can use some laughs now more than ever. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *