WAF Young Reviewer - Disarming honesty and raucous laughs from an excellent comedian

13th July 2021

By Pen Hughes

Arriving at St Mary’s Church in Putney, we were greeted at the door by a man welcoming us to the show - this was Gerard Harris, who was also managing the ticket desk himself. He was immediately funny and charming in equal measure, and slightly jumpy, although this jumpiness multiplied by ten when he began his set - I’m not sure to what extent this was an exaggeration for comic effect, or genuine nerves, about which he would talk at length.

What followed was a whirlwind tour of Harris’ life and comedy career, right from his earliest memory of trying to eat poo at age two, to his biggest show in front of thousands. The story quite deliberately jumped around in time and space, often on the turn of a word; he could be sitting in Dublin after having bombed, get a tap on the shoulder and be back in a meditation retreat in Canada. Once I got used to this it was quite endearing and fit his persona, but the first few times it was a bit disconcerting.

Harris spoke with disarming frankness, but also friendliness - given the intimate venue, it felt at times like an AA confession. I have to applaud him for how openly he discussed his anxiety, Tourette’s and ADHD, neither asking for pity nor brushing it off. There’s a lot to be learned about how to have the ‘mental health conversation’ we’re being so encouraged to have these days - at no point did he mention the phrase ‘mental health’, he simply told us what it felt like to be in his mind.

While he didn’t even mention ADHD until near the end, you maybe could have guessed: he was always on the move, using the space, fidgeting with something. Even when sitting down there was something going on; at one point he took his shoes off (revealing odd socks), and sat cross legged on his chair, before segueing into a story about meditation - what looked like a nervous tic had in fact been a carefully-planned transition.

When delivering actual ‘jokes’ (e.g. when telling us his favourite one from his first-ever comedy set) he went and stood at the microphone at the side of the stage area, which gave a nice feeling of authenticity, almost like he was showing actual clips from the time. (If you’re interested, one of his early jokes was “Wizards in blizzards eat lizards’ gizzards.”) While the mic gave his voice more of a low boost, it didn’t really make him much louder, and it made me realise just how well he’d been filling the space on his own up to that point, without sacrificing any of the fragility of the moments he described.

All of these little decisions, so subtly woven into the routine you could easily have not noticed, show that Harris has not only funny bones, but a deep understanding of the skills needed to command a room. His combination of painful honesty and painful belly laughs made for a phenomenal show that I would absolutely recommend you go to see if you can.