Crafting The Perfect Northern Punchline
In Nunavut, airline jokes always get a good laugh. Take the time Peter Autut’s boat flew dangerously out of the water. Sure, he was scared for his life. But after getting to the safety of land, he was quick to check his bank account.
“I didn’t know I was paying three grand to get off the ground today.”
The budding comic from Chesterfield Inlet is becoming a household name in Nunavut. In March 2018, what was a hobby telling jokes at open mic nights took off when he signed up for, and won, the first-ever Crackup Iqaluit Comedy Competition. The win brought Autut to Ottawa to perform at the Crackup Comedy Festival finale along with nationally-recognized comedians including Derek Edwards and Rachelle Elie.
But no matter where he’s performing, crafting a good northern joke isn’t easy. Autut looks right back to his roots in the tiny Kivillaq community where he grew up. “I was a kid, 12-years-old, and I used to hear, ‘You can’t have a wife until you build an iglu.’ So, there’s all these 12-year-old boys in Chesterfield building iglus,” he says, laughing.
That’s the kind of joke he’d bring to a Valentine’s Day set, like the one he did last February when he proposed that the territory introduce a “love tax” for all the singles who come to Nunavut “just to work” but instead wind up in a meet-cute at the Northmart with someone in the same Canada Goose parka. For many in the audience—out for a big date night at the Frobisher Inn banquet hall—the punchline rang true. One couple later told Autut that, yes, they had indeed met because of their matching Canada Goose coats.
Autut (who has seen his byline in Up Here) writes down ideas as they come—a seed he hopes grows into a well-crafted joke. “I have so many written down. They’re not shaped, they’re just their own joke, but you start to string them together,” he says.
“Right now if I was on stage I’d be making fun of summer.” (It’s July.) He’d be asking the audience about all the new faces around town. “None of these people come out in the winter,” he says, “I didn’t know they were here.”
On-the-land tan lines make for another good joke in Nunavut. All a guy has to do to garner high praise is sit out in the sun with ski goggles on, Autut quips. “That’s a good hunter there.”
Right now Autut is doing 10 and eight-minute sets. “My dream is to do an hour and a half,” he says. “Give me a big stage. Let’s do a stadium.” For a live CBC broadcast back in April he was asked to cut his jokes to a comedian’s “tight five” minutes.
“I’m from Chesterfield,” he told the audience. “The only tight five minutes I know is in August when the whales come in...I got five minutes to get my butt down to the shore.”