David Harris Q&A

July 26, 2021
David Harris is a comic who has performed more than 2,000 times.

“Louie Anderson has been a big help with his wisdom he’s shared with me on comedy. For a short period of time, when I first went out to perform comedy, I wasn’t doing enough open mics, maybe two a week, and his advice was basically that you need to be on stage almost every night of the week if you want to be good. He was right, and I’m still doing that.”

You’ve said that you were class clown at a young age. Was there ever any doubt that you were going to pursue performing as a career?

I was the class clown at a young age, that’s true. But I had always been performing from a young age as well, if you can call dance parties in my basement performing. I mean I invited kids over for dance shows I’d perform ha-ha, as well as taping SNL-type sketches, magic shows. I was also doing magic shows at kids birthday parties which I always added comedy into as well. By the time I was 13, I started getting money for performing magic and seeing other local magicians actually making a living doing that, I was like, “this is it!  Tada!” I always knew I wanted to do something I enjoyed because my parents didn’t seem to love what they did and that caused issues in my house—I have a joke in my act where I say my mom worked for a non-profit and my dad was one. And now that I do comedy—so am I! It’s in the DNA!

I have fond memories of watching you on “Nate On Drums.” Might there be a possibility for a reboot? 

I’m flattered. I loved doing N.O.D. I think we all did. But that was a project out of love we did when we were a little younger. It was a definitely a lot of hours of work because we wanted to make a good show. Now that we’re all older and have to make a living and families—the other guys, not me, I’m single—it’s not really feasible anymore. We did just get back together for one recent sketch for the first time since N.O.D. back in our channel 45 days. But this time it was for the TPT show Almanac that David Gillette works on, but that was just a one-off. I am getting back into some sketches and acting myself though. I’m the only one who doesn’t have a life.

You recently launched a special on Dry Bar Comedy, which specializes in clean comedy. Have you always gravitated toward clean comedy? 

I guess I have always gravitated towards clean comedy. I mean, I started as a magician, so that’s inherently clean I guess. Or should be. No one wants a dirty magician. But yeah, since I wanted to perform for adults, which mostly meant doing corporate events, that needed to be clean of course. But I do find that often the most interesting stuff, or at least in my life maybe, is naturally clean, so that’s how I tend to write. Not that I don’t swear or say dirty things in my life, but everything is amplified on stage for that short time you’re on there, so I tend to be on the cleaner end. Plus, I honestly want to be able to perform and grab an audience almost anywhere and that helps. You’ll also get more work if you’re clean.

How did you keep creatively stimulated during the pandemic?

I was lucky, because I did pick up this online trivia hosting job for corporate team-building and other events, so that kept a little of my performance muscles in play. I did do some online comedy and still have one coming up, and it can be fun — but it’s much more diluted and not anywhere near the true, full comedy experience, especially with all the distractions, and sound issues, etc. The other thing that kept me somewhat sane during the pandemic was talking to a bunch of my comic friends on Zoom and trying to write that way. It was better than nothing. And now that I’m back out I’m happy to say that some of that stuff is working. But I can’t tell you how glad I am that we’re back in person. I think comedy is ultimately meant to be experienced in person. And it’s the best way to know how your material is playing.

You have a natural warmth that puts audiences at ease. When did you realize that was a big asset in your toolkit? 

You are very kind. I don’t know if I have realized that’s my asset yet. Ha-ha. I tend to constantly question almost everything I do. I guess I wouldn’t be a comic otherwise? Or Jewish for that matter? It’s just part of who I am. I guess I’m constantly learning to be more vulnerable and more personal, which often makes the best comedy I think. And I think as long as you’re being honest and sharing a part of yourself or your viewpoint, no matter how personal or not, the audience notices that and will relate. I mean, you still have to have a good punchline obviously but you get the idea. Plus, I do like people in general so I think that helps a ton. And I truly love what I do so I’m sure that shows.

You’ve said that Louie Anderson once gave you the advice to keep putting the time in. How often should a young comic go up in a given week? 

Louie Anderson has been a big help with his wisdom he’s shared with me on comedy. For a short period of time, when I first went out to perform comedy, I wasn’t doing enough open mics, maybe two a week, and his advice was basically that you need to be on stage almost every night of the week if you want to be good. He was right, and I’m still doing that. That’s another reason it’s so wonderful to be out of the pandemic, performing. As for how often a younger comic should go up, I think it probably depends on how young. I think when you’re in your 20s, you still have some time. But as you get serious, you really have to go up at least four or five times a week. I mean, you also need a life too, so you have to balance that so you have something to write about, and because it’s healthy—I guess. But seriously, I’d say as much as you can get up while still balancing somewhat of a life, is best if you want to be good. It takes way longer than you think—I mean it definitely took longer than I thought. And I’ve been at it since the ’40s.

Do you ever get stage fright? How do you manage it?

I do get stage fright. I don’t think I did as much with magic, because I had the tricks to fall back on. But with comedy, I definitely do. But I’m a naturally anxious person so it’s hard for me to tell. I’ve been told by my colleagues that I pace before I go up and of course, now I’m anxious about that. Jerks! But I do get a little nervous almost every time I go up, at least until I get that first laugh. Then I tend to relax more quickly. Oddly, I would say I get more nervous going up at open mics with new material than I do at paid shows. Because I don’t always know if the joke is going to work. But overall, it’s not too bad.  One thing I do try to remind myself is that we’re all here to have fun. One of my mentors, Rox Tarrant, always used to say “have fun” right before I’d go up on stage at one of her shows. I think the audience want to have fun, too — most of the time. I can’t remember where I read it, maybe a public speaking or comedy book, but the audience wants to see you do well to—they don’t want to have a bad time. Especially if they’re paying.

Who are your top three comics of all time?

As a kid, in addition to magicians like Amazing Jonathan, Mac King, and David Copperfield, as well as local magicians, I think it was watching a lot of talk show hosts and loving what they did. Plus, I tended to be influenced by comic actors like Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Jim Carrey.  As for standup, I remember watching these old comic relief specials with Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, and Billy Crystal and thinking they were so much fun. As a teenager, I was into Robert Schimmel and Ray Romano. Then more recently, it’s been Louie Anderson, Sebastian Maniscalco, and Larry David.

What’s next for you?

What’s next for me is mainly focusing on new material and going deeper with it.  I think I’ve sort of scratched the surface in my first special.  I’m starting to open myself more about my anxiety, my childhood, my family, and I hope all the topics eventually. I’m excited to try to get into playing even more clubs and other venues, and continue to try to make a living doing what I love. I truly want to continue growing improving. Maybe I’ll even meet a lady. But probably not.