An Anishinaabe-Lithuanian standup comedian from Manitoba is getting back in front of a live audience at the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal on Friday.
Paul Rabliauskas, who is from Poplar River First Nation, about 350 kilometres north of Winnipeg, will be performing two shows Friday at L'Astral in Montreal as part of the CTVComedy & Crave standup specials series.
He said he wants to go out and "make my people proud."
"And, you know, that's what ultimately I'm here for."
Rabliauskas moved from Winnipeg back to Poplar River when COVID-19 hit. Earlier this year, he recorded an Anishinaabemowin podcast with his mother, and said being in his home community was good for him.
"I got to spend a lot of time with my family," said Rabliauskas.
"I got to spend a lot of time writing jokes. I got to spend time working on my mental health and my physical health."
As he prepared for his shows on Friday, he said it was hard not to think about the people at home, as the community is one of several in Manitoba at risk from forest fires and dealing with power outages.
"It really is still survival for us out there," said Rabliauskas.
"It's like day-to-day. We don't know what's going to happen. We don't know if they're going to get evacuated. We don't know what's going to happen with all our stuff."
'No limit to what we can do'
The taping of Friday's performance will be Rabliauskas's first solo TV special.
To prepare for performing in front of live audiences again, Rabliauskas leaned on his colleagues in Winnipeg to help him shake off the rust prior to his shows in Montreal.
His friend Mike Green, a Winnipeg comedian who runs local comedy shows, helped him set up three private outdoor shows in Winnipeg last weekend.
"Paul said that he had this great opportunity to do a taping, but he wasn't going to have any opportunity to practise and I wasn't going to let that happen," said Green, who travelled with Rabliauskas to Montreal.
Green, who hosts open mic nights in Winnipeg's comedy scene, said his friend is one of the "top-tier" standup comedians in the city and is often the show's closing act.
Chad Anderson, a standup comedian from The Pas/Opaskwayak Cree Nation, opened for Rabliauskas at last week's outdoor shows and wished him the best of luck in Montreal.
"I've always looked up to Paul, and I think it's good for the young Native comedians to see that you can make it mainstream. Like, there's no limit to what we can do with our comedy and our humour," said Anderson.