Chris Harris shares his Diary of a Stand Up and his mission to bring the funny to Northampton…
Trying to tie together Darwin jokes, playing the ukulele, and the genetic abnormalities that affect the taste of coriander into a one-hour comedy show was possibly the biggest challenge of my comedy career thus far. So why I left doing it to the day of the performance still eludes me.
Bit of background: mid-August, I booked a date at Northampton’s The Black Prince pub to perform my second feature-length show, Harrismatic. This was instantly plagued with problems, mostly due to the fact that no-one knew what Harrismatic meant.
When I unveiled Harrismatic, a few people thought it was a pun on asthmatic, as if I’d decided to make the disability my own. Other people thought it was because I was becoming some sort of machine, and I was going to come out covered in tin-foil ready to take on Sir Killalot in a battle to claim his, so he just becomes Mr Killalot, which is a lot less threatening, and sounds more like an ironic cat name.
Come to think of it, I’d love a cat called Mr Killalot, especially if it retained the robot’s lance and claws. Now, the lance is largely useless for a cat, but Sir Killalot’s claws have a crushing force over 15 tonnes. Imagine that on a tabby cat, no wildlife would be safe. You’re used to cats bringing in mice, this one’s bringing in lorries, and roasting rabbits over a fire on its lance like a boss.
Of course, the slim time frame didn’t help; one month to write an hour show was meant to challenge me, especially as I work ridiculously well under pressure. This time, it did not work out. I fully intended to try out material here-and-there throughout the month, and keep adding it to the show. Unfortunately, open-mic and comedy nights that are easy to join in with have dwindled in Northampton in the last few months, and travelling is mostly out of the question, so I felt no urgency to write.
And then all of a sudden it was September the ninth. The day of the show, and nothing was written. A few vaguely formed ideas about wanting to play the ukulele in the middle, forming the show around a story of my recent dating life – a comedy cliché, but if it isn’t broke… – and capping off the whole thing with my Batman parody act (dubbed “Nearly-Naked Batman”, Northampton’s own budget superhero), which I love doing, but can rarely fit into a routine naturally. I had a plan, but no punchlines.
And so the writing began. Fuelled by energy drinks and food that is slowly killing me, I had the first half by four PM, leaving me three hours to write the last half an hour, cook, eat, and shower. Sounds easy? Should be. Wasn’t. Ran out of snacks.
Was it all worth it? I’m going to have to say yes. Sure, the first half was funnier than the other, but I expected that. Does it have promise for a redrafted showing later in the year? Definitely.
It’s just a shame that my favourite joke of the show was by no means the funniest: my biggest mistake was turning away what I thought was Jehovah’s witnesses. Turns out it was Darwin’s Witnesses, and they sat outside my door for thousands of years until they evolved a skeleton key and let themselves in.
Don’t get me wrong, people liked it, but not as much as I did. Shame.
And that is how it is to be a lazy comedian writing comedy in Northampton.