FARMINGTON — In 2001, Ernie Tsosie was warming up in a dressing room at the Farmington Civic Center that he shared with James Junes before a stand-up comedy show the two were participating in.

Junes walked over to Tsosie introduced himself.

Just over a decade later, Tsosie and Junes are returning to the Civic Center to perform together, along with guest star Tatanka Means.

Junes found himself on the bill in 2001 through what he describes as an accident. His wife was looking through The Navajo Times when she found an ad for Navajo comedians and thought he would be good at it.

Tatanka Means
Tatanka Means (Courtesy photo)

"When an opportunity presents itself, it's not always in a form that you're ready for," Junes said.

At first he was hesitant. The couple had just had a child and were preparing to move to Phoenix.

A few days later, he picked up the ad again and thought about how much his wife believed in him. He decided to try it out.

Junes didn't have a car, so he had to borrow cars in order to make it to regular meetings with the promoter at his mobile home in Bloomfield.

Junes said being a stand-up comedian was not even on his "top 100 list" of things to do after graduating high school.

"Reflecting back on it, a lot of people have always told me I was funny," Junes said.

The competition started with 22 contestants, but, by the night of the competition, there were only four. Junes said he was nervous that he did his entire set in Navajo.

"Lo and behold, I ended up winning it that night," Junes said.

Tsosie found himself in comedy through a much different course of events. In 2001, he was already established under the stage name Concho Roman.

Tsosie said he started comedy as a personal challenge to help him deal with his social anxiety. He took an acting class at Pima College in Tucson, Ariz. He said he was never expecting to do it as a full time job.

A year after the two competed at the Farmington Civic Center, Tsosie and Junes ran into each other again at the Stars In The Desert Youth Event in Tuba City, Ariz. The event was running long, so the promoter asked them to do their act together.

Afterwards, Junes said they talked about it all night and decided to try to tour as a duo.

The stories Junes and Tsosie tell are all based on the truth, Tsosie said.

James Junes and Ernie Tsosie
James Junes and Ernie Tsosie (Courtesy photo)

"If I make up stories, it means lying," Tsosie said. "It weighs heavy on my heart."

The duo has also chosen to be clean and present a positive message. Tsosie and Junes both struggled with alcohol addiction and Tsosie has been arrested before. They integrate those stories into their stand-up routines.

"At the time, they weren't that funny, but we've learned to laugh at ourselves," Tsosie said.

Tsosie said it isn't uncommon for people to say that the shows helped them get sober.

Then, in 2007, while at a conference, the duo met Tatanka Means, an actor and comedian who starred in the 2012 movie "Tiger's Eye" and played the role of Seeker Hawke in "The Host."

Means said he got his start in acting during the filming of a boxing movie in his hometown -- Chinle, Ariz. They needed a stunt man and he was a boxer, so he did the stunts for the lead. As he did the stunts, he began to consider what it would be like to be the lead actor.

"After that, I thought why not throw my hat in the ring and try for acting," Means said.

After he met Junes and Tsosie, they invited him to do a show with them. He started to do comedy whenever he wasn't acting. He said his comedy work helps his acting and acting helps stand-up comedy.

"They help each other to sharpen each other's skills," Means said.


What: James and Ernie Comedy featuring Tatanka Means

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 5

Where: Farmington Civic Center

Tickets: $15

More info: 505-599-3331

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.