Today we get a guest from the North on It’s Always Funny in Salt Lake City in Heath Harmison. Heath is a regular visitor to the Wiseguys clubs as a headliner from Boise, Idaho and a skilled master at improv. His show is a high energy spectacle of physical theatrics. Definitely a show that you do not want to miss this weekend at Wiseguys Trolley.
We confabulate on Mrs. Idaho, gigging on cruise ships and improv vs standup.
Describe yourself in 10 words or less?
To describe myself I would say I’m a nice surprise. I don’t look like much but I pack a punch.
Your wife just competed in the Mrs. Idaho competition, if you were to compete in Mrs. Idaho, what would be your platform? Please describe your evening gown.
My platform would be Laughter is the best medicine. and my evening gown would be one that accents my neck. Its one of my best features. That and my man boobs.
We discussed previously about doing a tour called “The Celestial Kingdom of Comedy”, name the 5 Mormon comedians you would put on this make believe tour of rural towns in Utah & Idaho?
The comics I would put on the show are of course myself, Jordan you should probably be on it since its your tour, Steve Soelberg, Aaron Woodall, and Bengt Washburn.
Why did you start doing stand up comedy? Who are your biggest inspirations in comedy? How long have you been doing comedy? Who has been the biggest help for you in your comedy career?
I started doing comedy cause I knew it was what I was meant to do. The stage is my home its where I’m most comfortable. My inspirations are Bill Cosby, Brian Regan, Kathleen Dunbar, and Carl Banks. I say these people because they are not only hilarious but they are amazing people off the stage, which I feel is just as important. I have been doing standup comedy for going on 10 years and Improv comedy for about 8 years. My biggest helps in my comedy have been God, my wife and kids, Kathleen Dunbar, and Carl Banks. They were all there for me at different times and pushed me to be better. My wife Mollie is my biggest fan and has always believed in me and my crazy dream.
>I realized comedy was my career when I was fired from my good paying job for bull crap reasons. I was Employee of the Month the month previous. So I figured it was my Heavenly Father telling me that I needed to start doing what he put me on the earth to do and thats bring joy and happiness to their lives through laughter.
As a fulltime touring comedian, what is the biggest challenge as well as the biggest reward?
Some of the biggest challenges have been the times that I have gone a couple of months with little work and hadn’t been able to pay the bills I needed to pay. It was also my biggest reward because I kept pushing and something big always has happened that helped me to not only catch up but come ahead. Pushing through the hard times is what makes me a better person and comedian.
What are a few of your favorite places to perform on the road? Why?
I love every stage I have got on in Las Vegas. Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club in the MGM Grand is one of the nicest clubs I have ever worked. I love Harveys in Portland. They pack every show and has amazing energy. And some of the best shows I have had are at Wiseguys in Ogden.
You are also a big Improv guy. How do the 2 styles of comedy help each other? Which of the two are more difficult in your opinion?
Improv is an amazing skill that can help any standup comic. They are very different but Improv can help with how you structure the jokes you write. Improv teaches you how to tell a good structured story. Now not all comics are story tellers, but it will still help in your writing. It also helps with the way you deal with hecklers and crowd work. It helps you to be quick on your feet. If you see my standup show you will see elements of improv in it. I’m very physical and animated on stage. I say I’m a standup improv hybrid. They are both difficult in there own ways. Standup is hard because these are ideas you have sat and thought through and built. So if people don’t think its funny its sometimes hard to take cause you have invested yourself into these jokes. Where improv is right at the top of your head, so I feel people give a little grace because it is off the cuff. With improv if your not willing to follow the rules of improv you will find yourself and the audience lost. So it takes a lot of work to learn the keys of improv which some are listening, reacting to the last thing said, making the other person look better, yes adding,characters,and not denying. Those are just a few things needed in every scene to make it work. My wife and I also teach a class called Improv-ing Communication. We teach people (mostly couples) how to communicate better using improv principles. Its a really fun low stress class that brings couples closer together. My wife started doing improv with me about 2 years ago. We started implementing the things we learned in improv into our marriage and it has transformed our marriage tremendously in a positive way.
Tell us a bit about your Improv troupe, Recycled Minds Improv?
Recycled Minds is made up of me and my friend Sean Hancock. We do a two man long form improv show. We do some short form also, but we love doing the long form. Short form is based on different games that are played throughout the show. Its what you would see on the tv show Whose Line is it Anyways or Comedy Sportz. An example of long form would be taking one single suggestion and doing a full hour show on that one suggestion alone. We have a few different long form shows we perform. The Facebook Show where we display someones Facebook page from the audience for everyone to see and we ask them questions about their pictures, status updates, and likes. Then we take those suggestions and do a whole show. We also do our Relationship Show where we get a couple form the audience and ask them how they met, what their first date was like, the marriage proposal, and any other questions that come to us. And then we relive their life for them on stage with a little bit of tweeks. We have travelled the world performing our show. Anywhere from Germany, Spain, England, and Scotland. Our show is a clean show. We pride ourselves on performing a clean smart show, but we are very edgy at the same time not corny. You can check out our website at www.recycledmindsimprov.com.
You recently did standup on a cruise in Europe, what was your experience? (Good, bad, crowds, etc.) How does a comedy go about being a cruise line comedian? What are the crowds like on cruiseships? What places where you able to visit?
Performing on cruises in my experience in awesome! I loved every moment of it. The crowds were great! They were older crowds, but they were ready to have fun. I got to go to a lot of cool places such as Venice, Rome, Naples, Barcelona, Nice, France, and Montenegro. They pay great and you get to see the world. Its not easy to get into, but when you do you get a lot of work if you do the job right. Its not going to get you famous but if you want to make a good living cruises are a good way to do it. A lot of comics get lost on cruises.
Coming from the Boise comedy scene, what are some good things about that scene? Where could it improve? Who are some Boise comedians that us Utahans should familiarize ourselves with?
The Boise Comedy scene is a good scene. We have a lot of new comics coming into it. There is a good energy and for the most part the comics want to help each other. I don’t get to be as involved with the local scene as I would like to be, but it is a great community. The local club in Liquid Laughs which is in the heart of downtown Boise. The owner Jeremy is very friendly and is easy to work with. As far as what could be better about the scene, well I think it would be good for some of the comics to venture out and do more shows outside of Boise to help them grow and thicken their skin. Some of the Boise comedians you should look for are Sean Peabody, Ryan Wingfield, Ryan Noack, TJ Wharry, Chad Heft, Emma Arnold, and Brett Badostain. Thats just to name a few. As far as the Utah scene, I don’t know much about it. I know quite a few of the comedians. There are some great comics coming out of Utah.
The Idaho Laugh Fest is going to be a pretty big deal. It has over 70 standup comedians coming from all over the United States and Canada. I will be performing both standup and improv in the festival. I will be opening for Dennis Regan, the brother of the very funny Brian Regan. I’m sure he loves being introduced that way, but anyways! I will be headlining one of the showcase shows also. And I will be performing in two big improv shows. One is a family all ages show and the other is a 21 and up show. This will be a great festival and I’m very happy to be a part of it. http://idaholaughfest.com/
Having opened for many famous comedians… who was your favorite one to work with?
My favorite famous comedian to work with was probably Louis Anderson. He is one of the most genuine people I have met in this business. Very down to earth and awesome! Great comic and a great human being.
What big things do you have planned for 2014?
I have some great things happening in 2014. Working a lot in Las Vegas and cruise ships. So I’m going to be living it up a little bit this next year! Pretty excited! And thats just the start. I’m sure some crazy stuff will happen along the way. It always does.
You are always seen wearing a tie onstage. Why?
I do wear a shirt and tie on stage when I perform. I wear it mostly because I want to be seen as a professional. I’m not saying you can’t be professional without a tie. Its just what I’m comfortable with while I’m performing and I feel that it fits me and my style. This is my job and I take it seriously. You never know who will be in the audience, so you have to look and perform your best every time!
What is one joke that you have done that has stood out or been a crowd favorite?
There are a few jokes that stick out to people. My wheelchair hero joke, dance bit, HTS, Elder Walken, and I have some newer jokes that people are really liking as well.
What do you think of the Utah comedy scene? Good and bad? Who are some of your favorite Utah comedians? How does the Wiseguys clubs compare to others around the country?
As far as the Utah Comedy Scene. Again I don’t know a whole lot about it. But some of the comics out of Utah I enjoy are Steve Soelberg, Jay Whittaker, Guy Seidel, Aaron Woodall, Paul Sheffield, Jamie Maxfield, and Marcus. Wiseguys comedy clubs are awesome! Keith does an amazing job. The staff is always great and the crowds are awesome! Love working at Wiseguys!
I will be performing this week at the Trolley Square Wiseguys this Friday and Saturday night which is Dec. 20th-21st. I will be back in Utah at the Ogden Wiseguys filming my new DVD Feb 28th-March 1st so come out and lets pack those! I will be doing some cruise ships in the Caribbean and performing at the MGM in Las Vegas Feb. 16th-23rd.
How can people connect with you?