“My people are from Wisconsin,” late Iroquois comedian Charlie Hill’s signature joke begins. “We used to be from New York, but we had a little real estate problem.”
If tragedy plus time equals comedy, it took nearly 500 years for the colonization of America to become appropriate joke fodder. According to a recent book on the history of Native American comedy, though, when Hill made that joke during his 1977 TV debut on The Richard Pryor Show, it turned out to be a seismically influential event, activating generations of Native comedians. Nearly 45 years later, Reservation Dogs is poised to inspire its own wave of Indigenous TV comedy creators. Or, at least, the new FX series is funny and audacious enough to make viewers hope so.
Reservation Dogs—which premiered on August 9 and features an all-Indigenous team of writers, directors, and series regulars—is the more formally adventurous and experimental sibling of Rutherford Falls, the Peacock series starring Jana Schmieding and Ed Helms that debuted in April. Both shows share a lot of talent in front of and behind the camera, and both are worth watching in their own ways.