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Funny, You Don’t Look Like One: Observations from a Blue-Eyed Ojibway

by Drew Hayden Taylor

The essays and columns collected in this book by half-Ojibway, half-Caucasian playwright Drew Hayden Taylor are short (the longest runs to three pages), and although he sometimes repeats himself, the narrative style of the three- dozen-odd pieces flows with the ease of comfortable conversation.

Funny, You Don’t Look Like One works best when Taylor waxes anecdotal about the clashes between native life and those he calls the “Colour-Challenged, Pigment-Denied People of the Pallor.” With laid-back humour, he addresses issues such as cigarette smuggling and the dysfunctional scripts of “North of Sixty” with a sensitivity that pokes holes in the stereotypes both natives and non-natives have of each other and themselves.

Although he sometimes lapses into easy devices, like aboriginal TV sitcom parodies (“Longhouse on the Prairie,” “Cree’s Company”), and what’s hot/what’s not lists, and his punchlines can often be seen from miles away, every so often he’ll drop a completely serious note about, say, native suicide rates or the Disney-ized version of Pocahontas, as a reminder that just because he can joke about growing up native doesn’t mean it wasn’t painful.

The observations Taylor makes are reminiscent of an aboriginal Andy Rooney; short rants in the did-you-ever-notice and why-is-it-that? style. The main difference between the two is that Drew Hayden Taylor is not an old, rich, white American. The way he addresses this fact, like it or not, pushes what would be a collection of goofy little rants up into the realm of intellectual politics, and makes Funny, You Don’t Look Like One a genuinely entertaining read.