Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
OLD CREAMERY – If you’re exasperated with credulous cranks and pandering politicians who pretend there’s no climate change, that sea level rise is bogus, that evolution is a hoax, that religion should be taught in school, or that you can pray the gay away, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that skeptical comedian Ian Harris is poised to puncture these pompous prevaricators with his “Critical & Thinking” comedy show this Saturday night at the Arcata Playhouse.
Tickets are only available online at theevolutionofcomedy.com for $12, and at the door for $15.
The bad news: some of Arcata’s adorably counterfactual assumptions – about magic-based treatments like acupuncture, or organic food having medicinal powers and Big Pharma being dedicated to human misery – might also suffer some skewering.
Science infamously doesn’t care a bit about our trendy tribal mythologies, but Ian Harris is determined to leaven the reality check with a laugh track.
“The norm is woo,” Harris said, using the term with which skeptics describe everything from detox treatments to energy chakras to reptilian overlords. “A lot of the stuff that’s accepted and is considered normal is complete BS.”
Science denial is a rich source of material for a skeptical comic, and it cuts across ideological boundaries. “We often equate it with people on the right – climate change and evolution,” Harris observed. “But it’s just as prevalent with people on the left when it comes to anti-vaxxers, when it comes to GMOs – science illiteracy goes both ways, just on different subjects.”
Even a reality-checking satirist like Harris falls prey to politically based science denial. “On so many issues, I’m a huge Bernie Sanders supporter, but he seems to be pretty off on some of his science standards, for GMOs and alternative medicine,” Harris said. “But I guess I’m kind of giving him a pass because I like so much of the other things he stands for.”
Harris finds that that die-hard true believers of all stripes are open to having their sacrosanct assumptions satirized, as long as there are plenty of guffaws involved.
“I just go after everything that’s silly,” he said. “If I come at it from a comedic standpoit, people are willing to go with it.”
Harris says some parts of the audience will light up with laughter when he satirizes, say, religion, then go silent when he talks about New Age foolishness. “There are pockets of where people are agreeing and disagreeing with me, and it’s never the same people,” Harris said.
Along with science-based satire, Harris deploys multiple impressions. His sometimes-scathing act has also earned him comparisons to classic intellectual comics like Lenny Bruce, Bill Maher and George Carlin, and propelled him onto Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Comedy Central, with his TV special, Critical & Thinking now on Hulu and soon to hit Netflix.
Harris’s cutting comedy content is affirmed by his reviews’ mentions of Occam’s razor and his razor-sharp wit. That may be why, Harris said, “I do a lot of shows at blood banks.”
Opening for Harris and local comic Kim Hodges and Bay Area free-thought musician Joey Fabian.
Hodges said the Arcata Playhouse is perfect for funny business, with its “nice, legit comedy club feel.” She was also effusive in her praise of the Playhouse's recently refurbished dressing rooms.