Like Mr. Spock, comedian Ian Harris puts his faith squarely in logic and reason. Unlike Spock, he has a robust sense of humor and impeccable timing. In fact, he's carved out a niche with a skeptical style of standup that lampoons the things people believe with little or no scientific evidence: Sasquatch, conspiracy theories, religious dogma.
His existential aesthetic earned him a slot performing at the Center for Inquiry's CFI Summit, a gathering of skeptics, humanists and critical thinkers that will take over parts of Hotel Murano from Oct. 24-27. Harris will close out CFI's opening night performing bits from his forthcoming TV special, “Critical & Thinking,” at 7 p.m. on Oct. 24. Then he'll headline a two-night stand at Grit City Comedy Club on Oct. 25 and 26. Tacoma Weekly gave the Los Angeles-based funnyman a call recently to find out what makes him tick.
Tacoma Weekly: You're involved with the Center for Inquiry conference. How did you get hooked up with those guys?
Ian Harris: I've just been really big into that since I can remember, really. I'd taken some time off comedy to raise my kid; and when I came back to doing comedy I decided that I just wanted to do … something I was passionate about. So I started doing comedy that was, basically, about skepticism and beliefs. I started doing that and talking to these people who don't have a voice. There's 20 different ghost shows on, and not one of 'em is a skeptics' show. Every one of 'em is, “Oh, ghosts exist.”
TW: Don't even get started with the Bigfoot shows.
Harris: Yeah, absolutely. I have a 10-minute section about Bigfoot in my act. To me, those things are absolutely hilarious. They're even more hilarious when you believe what I believe, and what comes with (disagreeing with) religion. There's a lot of comedians that are atheist, agnostic, humanist or whatever you wanna call 'em. But there's not a ton of comics doing material that's specifically for that group. You might get Jim Jeffries doing a joke or two (but) there's not a ton of people speaking to this demographic.
TW: There's David Cross.
Harris: He's an atheist and he does some material. But, if you watch his act, it might be 10 minutes out of an hour. So my thought was … I'm gonna stop talking about my upbringing and stop doing impressions of Christopher Walken or whatever, and I'm gonna start talking about people's beliefs and religion and religiosity – things we take religiously. So I started doing that and am building a following with skeptics.
I taped an hour special that is gonna air on a major cable network in January. I called it “Critical & Thinking,” and I did the entire hour on skepticism. I did it partially as a benefit for the Center For Inquiry here in Los Angeles, so we raised money for them.
The last year, I've been doing tons and tons of these conventions that are centered around this sort of stuff because there's just not anyone else out there.
TW: I've seen clips of you doing a wide range of jokes and some really killer impressions. But it sounds like this has become the main focus of what you do.
Harris: I was known for impressions for a long time. I do a lot of voiceover work, and I've done sketches on TV and sketches for Jimmy Kimmel – all these different things over the years. I still use that. I still do characters. When I talk about Bigfoot … I have a character who runs the Bigfoot museum. But I've steered away from doing just “here's Christopher Walken buying ice cream.”
TW: It seems as if today you have more things to make fun of than ever.
Harris: I always try to make the point that what I talk about is skepticism or religiosity or what some people call magical thinking. The funny thing is the side effect of people becoming more secular or people becoming less religious (is) they get religious about other stuff. They get religious about “chemtrails” or they get religious about gluten allergies. They're still not turning to science or scientific method. They're just changing what they get religious about. So it's actually created more and more new age stuff that is just as ridiculous.
Ian Harris in concert
7 p.m. Oct. 24
Hotel Murano (CFI Summit)
1320 Broadway, Tacoma
8:30 p.m. Oct. 25, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Oct. 26
Grit City Comedy Club at 502 Martini Bar
100 S. Ninth St., Tacoma
$50 to $199 registration for CFI Summit; http://www.cfisummit.org
$15 Grit City shows; http://www.gritcitycomedy.com