Oversharing with strangers.
Michael Harrison is getting to be a big name in his native Canada. The stand-up comedian regularly headlines clubs across the nation to the north, plus he's had his own comedy special and played at Montreal's 2014 Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, the comedy world's equivalent of the Sundance Film Festival. Now Harrison is doing more and more shows in the United States, including a stop at the Rigby on Nov. 10.
Isthmus chatted with Harrison about the differences between American and Canadian audiences, logging tens of thousands of miles (or kilometers) on the road and the dangers of oversharing with strangers.
You've been traveling all over recently.
I'm bouncing back and forth between the United States and Canada doing shows. I was just in Wisconsin. I did a show in Sheboygan, mostly so I could say I did a show in Sheboygan. That is a great, funny name for a town.
Why are you excited about playing in Madison?
I love Madison. I played there a couple years ago. The audiences in Madison are wonderful and supportive.
The touring seems to be paying off. You were in Just for Laughs this year. What was that like?
Just for Laughs is incredible. Other comedians who were there described it as "the ultimate summer boot camp," and it couldn't be truer. You had all of these amazing comedians who have more of a comedy club style, but you also had all of these experimental shows that were closer to what you might see at a fringe festival.
The location is a big part of it, too. Montreal is an incredible city; the architecture is so unique. You spend the week performing in these gorgeous theaters. The space makes you step up your performance.
Do you change your material when you travel across the border?
Not really. Maybe I would have when I was starting out, but my humor has changed. So much of my material has become about my life. Growing up, relationships, day-to-day life: That stuff is pretty universal. I did some shows in Scotland, and they were laughing at the same lines that people in Canada and the United States laugh at.
When you share personal material, it can make the conversations after the show very weird. You've just spent an hour on stage talking about deeply intimate stuff.
It was a nightmare when I was single. I'd try to talk to a woman after the show knowing she had just heard me talk about the time I had diarrhea at Disney World as a kid. It isn't exactly a great topic for flirting.
What do you love about stand-up?
The craft. A bunch of comics focus on delivery, just being funny on stage. But I love a really well-written joke. There's nothing like watching a stand-up deliver a honed, mastered set.