AFTER THE STRIP CLUB he was managing burned down, Josh Fournier found himself at a crossroads in his mid-20s. He had been working on his stand-up comedy—with jokes focused on club life and his tough upbringing in Farmington and Albuquerque—but he was in a slump after some bad sets. Then he went to see writer-director Kevin Smith (Clerks) do a one-man show. Smith advised the audience to take one year to focus solely on a creative passion. “I was like, That’s my cue,” Fournier recalls. For three years, the comedian showed up at every open mic in Albuquerque and Durango, Colorado—usually seven nights a week—penning jokes in his notebook after hours, helping to build a fiercely funny Duke City comedy scene, and gaining a rep for trash talk and pungent anecdotes about growing up Diné and poor. Fame runs in his family: His grandfather is Marine Corps veteran John Kinsel Sr., the oldest living World War II Navajo Code Talker. Now 32, Fournier is a rising comedy star who has toured the country, opened for Dave Attell, and performed at the famed Comedy Store in Los Angeles. He appears this month at CloudTop Comedy Festival, in Santa Fe.

MY GRANDFATHER’S JOB IS TALKING. He was doing interviews almost weekly for a while. And that’s sort of my job now, too, so that’s cool.

HE WENT TO GUAM before they went to Japan. He was always talking about it: “In Guam they got lizards real big, big as a puppy dog. And those guys from Texas are crazy. They would catch those lizards and put string around ’em and walk ’em around like a puppy dog.” he would act it out and be real silly.

ALL THE BEST COPS EPISODES came out of Albuquerque. That’s good content. You have to make fun of where you come from. Either you get caught up in a horrible lifestyle or you just make fun of how sucky it is.

I MAKE A LOT OF JOKES about growing up in prejudiced places.

REZ HUMOR, or what we call the Frybread Trail of Native comedy, it’s specific to rez crowds. Whereas my comedy, I like to think it’s funny for anybody. The way to do that is to connect what they know about Natives.

A LOT OF WHAT PEOPLE KNOW is alcoholics or what’s on cartoons, so if you make those silly, hacky jokes at the top, they can relate: Okay, I’ve seen that. I know about that. But the further I go into my set, it starts to challenge them.

I LIKE TO SAY I’m a comic who’s Navajo; I’m not a Navajo comic. My jokes can do well in different rooms and comedy clubs. I always write in a way that would make people laugh who aren’t Native.

A NEW MEXICO STYLE of comedy is more than just the accents and the food. It is a mindset because it’s a very scrappy, fighting state, you know. There’s also real pride.

MEETING DAVE ATTELL was an insane thing for me. He’s one of the greatest comics of all time. I met him after his show last year, and he hung out with us from 11:30 until three in the morning. He invited me to come by his set and do some time.

TO ME, NOTHING BEATS NEW MEXICO. There are no better skies, no greater scenery, no greater blend of cultures. It has a lot of great things to offer. But at the same time, the rest of the country sees us as a weird place to come from. You can work with that.

YOU GOT TO BE TOUGH to be from here, you have to be tough to live here. So that toughness should be enough to help you persevere, to achieve anything you want.

Read more: Native social media star Nasheen Sleuth dishes out hard truths, good advice, and plenty of laughs.

See for yourself

Catch Josh Fournier at CloudTop Comedy Festival, in Santa Fe, on May 11 at the Roast of Santa Fe at 6:30 p.m. in the Farmers' Market Pavilion, the Bad Indian Show at 8 p.m. at the Railyard Performance Center, and the Bad Indian Show at 9:30 p.m. at El Museo, For information on upcoming shows and more, visit