February 17, 2015
A festival fringe favourite, Harriet Dyer has been entertaining audiences both on stage and online for as long as she can remember. Her first full-length solo Edinburgh show debuted in 2014 and earned strong reviews, which she seems sure to follow up on this year.
We caught up with her to discuss the change of style necessary when performing to different crowds, her most memorable gig and if she has any advice for budding comics.
How did you first start out in stand-up comedy?
Totally by accident. I always wanted to be an actress but ended up at Uni doing a drama degree because drama schools were too expensive. I drank too much and everyone refused to work with me because I was a liability. I turned up one day drunk and everyone was like, "Are you ready for the stand-up comedy assessment?" I was like, "Say whaaaaat?!" as I didn't even realise it was a module on the course. I got up and waffled on about how I died twice when I was 17 (funnier than it sounds) and the Head of Drama came up to me afterwards and said, "You need to sort yourself out but comedy's what you should do - you're a natural." I loved it and from then on, I tried to sort myself out and knew that comedy was what I wanted to do.
How do you deal with hecklers?
It's not really my style on stage to be harsh to people and I never really get heckled too badly, it's usually more people thinking I'm odd rather than getting heckled. Because I'm erratic, self-deprecating and friendly onstage, I think heckling me is a bit like kicking an energetic dog.
Does your act change depending on the crowd you are performing to, say a club gig compared to a corporate one?
Yeah, the bigger and more 'weekendy' the room, the tighter the set gets and the joke ratio in theory gets a lot higher as often audiences can be less patient in me going off on tangents and mucking around, seeing where something may go.
Who are your key influences?
Anyone not scared to be different or folks that have a tale to tell. Some of my fave acts to watch are Paul Foot, Phil Nichol, Phil Ellis, Dan Nightingale, Zoe Lyons and Chris Dangerfield.
What's the highlight of your career so far?
Getting to do the weekend clubs where I used to be an audience member.
Do you have any advice for any budding comics out there?
Be different, stick with it, write lots and don't be a dick.
What about any tips for anyone wanting to get better at improvisational comedy?
Just go with it and never listen to that voice in your head that says, "That sounds like a stupid idea!"
What have you been up to recently?
Writing and gigging.
What's been your most memorable gig?
At The Stand in Edinburgh for BBC Radio 4 Extra. That was fun.
Photo by Barry Mellor.
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By Henry Fosdike