Prince Rupert’s motivational notes help Joey Jack smile when he’s feeling in the dumps. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Prince Rupert’s motivational notes help Joey Jack smile when he’s feeling in the dumps. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Heart of Our City | Cruise ships, Cleveland and dumpster notes: Happy in strange places

The Joey Jack of all trades

As he cruised through the clear crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, Joey Jack stood on stage and told a joke. Staring back at him were hundreds of faces, each of which were showing their teeth.

Some teeth were pretty and some people looked very ugly the way they laughed. It is this intimacy with an audience which Jack loves most about comedy.

“When you share a laugh with somebody, it’s a very intimate experience. When you can make somebody so comfortable, that they can show their teeth and they can make themselves look… well… sometimes people look ugly when they laugh, right? So if you can make someone so comfortable that they’re able to be so close with you, I just like that part about it,” Jack said.

Jack began comedy in 2003 when he worked on cruise ships. Jack would host karaoke when the staff would have to kill time between singers. His lines were simple: “ Hey! Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! I’m Joe with your cruise director staff tonight, we have a great show. Let’s welcome our guest…”

But Jack must have had a special spark to him because one day, a comedian, which to this day Jack still cannot remember his name, who opened for Seinfield, approached him and encouraged him to say a few words on stage.

As he approached the stage for his first ever show, Jack was not nervous. He was anxious but a good kind, not the kind of anxiety he dealt with in his everyday.

“Comedy is subjective. And people take what they want from what you have to say. And they filter it through their own life experience. And something that 25 people in a room think is hilarious two people might be really offended by it, and you just deal with it,” he said.

READ AND WATCH MORE: Black Press’ infamous ‘Photos with Satan’ ad appears on late-night TV

Comedy is Jack’s own way of tricking himself into feeling less bad.

“Sometimes I’ll be in the dumps, but I’ll say something that will make someone laugh and I might not even mean it in a funny way. I might just be riffing on something and if we can laugh from it, then it’s helping alleviate my own feelings of depression,” he said. “To get myself out of 10 situations by maintaining a light, easygoing attitude and making the people around me laugh it’s almost like tricking yourself out of feeling bad.”

Joey Jack finds happiness in the strangest of places.

Jack was born and raised in Kamloops but will tell anyone that listens, that the best way to grow as a person is to get out and go explore the world.

“You know when you’re from an area, not just geographically but also personally, like it’s where we’re from, so you just get used to things and you get comfortable and complacent. And I thought, you know, I think I’ve been here long enough,” he said.

At the age of 20 he moved to Cleveland, Ohio. He had plenty of reason to want to leave his hometown, from restlessness to getting bullied for being his school’s “chunky kid.”

“When I was in school, there was a guy. We were both half First Nations. We both came from fatherless homes. And I think he just decided that ‘well one of us is going to be the victim of bullying here and it’s not going to be me’. So he made me the victim. And that guy was my bully from kindergarten to twelfth grade,” he said.

Joey Jack has had a long career as a journalist, comedian and communications manager, among other things. He is the Joey Jack of all trades. (The Northern View file photo)

“But now it’s fine because at least I got my hair,” Jack chuckled as he ran his fingers through his thick greying Justin Bieber-esque mane.

Jack had also not come out to his family or friends about his sexuality. It was getting a job at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame that pushed him to become his own person.

There was no particular instance when Joey Jack realized who Joey Jack was. It was a lot of little interactions with people who had no preconceived notions of First Nations people ot who cared if he was gay.

Jack returned home in less than a year care for his mom, the greatest lady that ever lived and an iron woman in his eyes, who was ill at the time with cancer.

WATCH MORE: Post-surgery monologue comedy gold

While at home Jack came out and nobodycared.

“My family was fine with it. Nobody cared and nobody will care. And if they do that is their problem,” he said.

When his mom started to recover, that is when he made his way to his cruise ship life.

“It took me going to work on a cruise ship to really become who I am. People think they’re stuck, particularly young people, they think they’re stuck. No, you’re not, you can go and be your own person, be yourself.”

In 2017 Jack once again got restless and decided to move to a small city in Northwest B.C. One of the draws was the stickers on its dumpsters.

“I love Prince Rupert’s dumpsters. It’s the only city I’ve ever been to that has motivational sayings on its dumpsters, which I think’s important. I think that’s why we have such a friendly homeless population, because they’re going down the alley and they’re seeing it and don’t give up. It’s important to keep smiling,” he said.

Jack keeps smiling, through the ups and downs as he goes from place to place. Nothing trivial can bother him anymore.

“Someone called me fat. That is just a factual statement! Why did I let that bother me?,” he said. “Nobody should be able to take away anyone’s power. I would rather be the person who says something than the person who doesn’t and wishes they did later.”

Now Jack stands on stage and says whatever is on his mind as he pokes fun at daily life. No one can take away his power and he owes that to the places outside of home where he was free to intimately laugh, teeth showing and all, and hopes others do the same.

“You can always come home like baby salmon. You were born in a stream and you have to leave that stream to become your own person. And you can always come home back to the stream.”

READ LAST WEEK’S HEART OF OUR CITY: The many faces of Carnegie

READ THIS WEEK’S MVP: Alison Sherman lands her first position


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
Jenna Cocullo 
Send Jenna email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Heart of our City

Just Posted

Joseph Albert Brooks, 94-years-young pf Prince Rupert offers traditional prayers and smudging to the sick. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Heart of our City: Joseph Albert Brooks keeps smudging and praying for others

94-year-old Tsimshian elder just wants some help washing his floors

Land along Prince Rupert’s waterfront, PID 012-247-391, where residents say excessive industrial train noise is stemming from, has been found to be owned by the City of Prince Rupert and is not federal land like first presented, Prince Rupert Environmental Society stated on June 17. (Image: supplied by Land Title and Survey, Govt. of BC.)
Error found on land titles map may assist city with noise control enforcement of industry

Prince Rupert residents had been told there was no municipal jurisdiction to enforce noise bylaws

Department of Oceans and Fisheries has announced as of July 19 chinook salmon is not to be fished in certain areas in BC tidal waters until July. Spring chinook salmon are seen swimming. (Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service)
Chinook Salmon limits set to zero in some BC tidal waters

DFO implement restrictions to protect Chinook Salmon

Visitors to a pop-up temporary aquarium in Prince Rupert will have the chance to see marine ecology from July 21 to Aug. 15, like this viewer watching sea anemones at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert pop-up aquarium will bring sea level to eye level in July

A permanent peak to reef ecology centre is in the planning stages by North Coast Ecology Society

Prince Rupert’s Ellen Wright and Graeme Dickens jam out during filming the two Ring System Studio concerts to be broadcast on television during June. (Photo: supplied, H. Cox)
Ring System Studio sounds on television

Two concerts by the Prince Rupert music school will be broadcast in June

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Most Read