Having performed for the past five years, Josh Fournier, a Diné comedian, has traveled throughout the Western region of the United States. Fournier hails from New Mexico and spent the first year of his career performing in his hometown, Farmington; now, he does shows across the state.
Fournier began his journey as a comedian a few years back while working at a strip club, where he would perform stand-up for the patrons who arrived before the show time.
“I was just really big into comedy podcasts at the time and hearing them talking about, ‘you gotta get up on stage and do jokes,’” Fournier said. “One day, I was just like, ‘hey, I won’t charge you guys cover if you guys listen to these jokes that I wrote.’ And they're like, ‘yeah, okay, yeah.’ I was essentially paying these old dudes to laugh at my jokes, at these horribly written jokes.”
Soon, Fournier began performing at other venues when his friend offered him a slot between bands at a local country bar in Farmington.
“I was like, ‘yeah, I'll do that. I'll crush it.’ I've been crushing it in front of these essentially paid audience members,” Fournier said. “I went one weekend and as these bands were in between set changes. I was going up there doing comedy, and just bombing, and it definitely crushed my confidence.”
At this point, Fournier took two years off from performances, but returned to it after the strip club he worked at burned down. Since then, he’s worked on his confidence on stage, which he says has grown.
“The thing they say is, ‘if you're gonna sell bullshit, you better be confident about it.’ You iron out all the weird little details and refine jokes and refine little ideas … Confidence is key, especially in comedy; if you go up there and you're not confident, the audience will feel it, and they will eat you alive,” Fournier said.
Over the last few years, Fournier has utilized social media to grow his audience; a clip from one of his shows in which he responded to a heckler received over 14,000 views on TikTok. He said he was stunned at social media’s ability to draw audiences in from places outside New Mexico.
“Sometimes you go to California, and you're like, ‘oh, do people know me out here?’ Or you go to places like Gillette, Wyoming, in the middle of nowhere. They’re like, ‘I love you. I love watching your Instagram feed’ … It's still a weird thing,” Fournier said. “For me and a lot of my friends, a lot of the guys that I started with, it's so crazy people are coming up to see us. It's still a weird idea going to places and people that come specifically to see you because before, when you first started out, you sort of just ambushed crowds.”
Fournier uses his experience as a Native American to aid in his comedy. He utilizes his performances as a venue to tackle stereotypes and racism, which gives him a different range of jokes than other comedians.
“For me, being Native American, I do have this unique take that people have never heard of. A lot of people know about Native Americans, but they don't know what life is or what that's like,” Fournier said. “And all they really know about Native Americans are racial stereotypes. And so, especially now when I headline and do like 30-minute sets or hour-long sets, the first 10 minutes is addressing Native stereotypes.”
Fournier focuses on what the audience sees as uncomfortable truths when pointing out the stereotypes associated with the Native American community. Throughout his life, he has learned how to handle racists he encounters in his work.
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“I've grown up used to racism, so when I encounter it on the road or in comedy, or after shows or stuff, it doesn't bother me because when I joke about it, sometimes people think it's cool to joke about it with me … I grew up (with it); that's what I'm used to,” Fournier said. “What I'm not used to are people who like trying to be woke — like super progressive woke people. It's sometimes more offensive than actual racist people. And (you) sort of (have to have) a thick skin, especially in comedy. I make fun of a lot of people, I talk a lot of shit on stage, and so if you are dishing it out, you have to be able to take it.”
Fournier chose this career path because he loves the profession and is able to make people laugh and, as his career grows, looks forward to the ability to make money from performing.
“Nothing makes me happier than making people laugh. They say if you love something, you do it for free — and that's true for the first like, five years,” Fournier said. “Anytime you go out of state, you pay out of pocket and lose money going on the road. And that's the goal — to continue to make money and see new places.”
Elizabeth Secor is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @esecor2003