Alex Webb sits down with comedienne Harriet Dyer
In September I was taken to Manchester’s Comedy Store for their monthly night ‘New Stuff’ and it was here I had the privilege of seeing Harriet Dyer perform. The Cornwall-born comedienne is a relatively recent addition to Manchester’s residents and we are very lucky to have her!
Toby Hadoke, host of The Comedy Store’s New Stuff, described Dyer as “a comedienne like no other” – and he’s not lying! When I asked Dyer about her style of comedy she said “I’m just trying to be as close to how I am in real life, because I think that’s when I’m at my funniest”. This is something I really appreciate in performance acts. The ability to be yourself whilst being great at what you’re doing makes for brilliant results and is a vital step in becoming respected in your art: watching the high energy Dyer run around the stage in what I can best describe as a hyperactive internal monologue was the highlight of my night at the Comedy Store.
Discussing her writing process, Dyer says that it’s an everyday thing with her finding material in the day to day conversations that leaves friends laughing. In Dyer’s opinion this is down to just how “bloody eventful my life is” which means that her material is the most original it can be: no two people experience things in the same way! One such example that I saw first hand was Dyer retelling the story of a wheelchair user who tried to leave her show early but got stuck – leaving the comedienne to help her out. Normally this would read as tragic but with Dyer’s relentless energy it was brought into a hilarious light and was probably her strongest sketch of the night.
Like a lot of performing arts, comedy is not something people easily fall into. This was precisely the case for Dyer who originally wanted to be actress, desperate to find an affordable school. Her aspiration led her to Wolverhampton which seemed to be a difficult time in her life, confessing she was “a bit of an alcoholic [who] everyone refused to work with because [she] turned up with a bottle of gin” in hand. Luckily this played to her advantage when, one day, she turned up drunk and was presented with a stand-up comedy assessment. Dyer made her way through the course with a story about how she once died twice, and she promises this is funnier than it may sound. By the end of it, everyone was in stitches and she thought to herself “by Jove, maybe this could be a career path for me” and here she is today.
Dyer is becoming a well-established act, bringing a show to Edinburgh Fringe in 2015 called ‘My Name Is Harriet’ (‘My Name Is Earl’-inspired). Having been in the game for a while I asked Dyer for any advice she may want to give to aspiring Manchester-based comedy acts. Her key piece was, bluntly, “don’t be a dick, be original, work hard and there’s no time like the present so bloody hurry up and get gigging”. This is undeniably sound advice and something that translates to anyone interested in performance. You’re never going to get better if you keep your material to yourself – air it out and let it be hated, loved and most importantly critiqued. In relation to Manchester specifically, Dyer said that we are living in a city with one of the best comedy circuits so there are endless opportunities to practice! If you are interested in getting any advice from Dyer then she has an open email policy (kind of similar to an open door one) so drop her a message and I’m sure you’ll find yourself in safe hands!
For those of us who prefer taking a seat in the audience Dyer suggested some comedy hubs such as XS Malarkey, The Kings Arms Salford (for ‘Gein’s Family Giftshop’s Bargain Basement’), The Frog and Bucket and, of course, the Comedy Store. If you want to find some of the most exciting and varied talent our city has to offer make these places your regular hand outs, all hosting a variety of nights with prices ranging from free (students get on it!) to about £30 for the near-perfected Mancunian comedy shows.
When discussing the future for Dyer, she said that we can expect more gigging, writing and “working like a strumpet, I guess” (whatever that means). If this has made you eager to see what this act has to offer check out her weekly podcast (co-hosted with fellow comedian Lou Conran). Whatever we see from Dyer in the future it is bound to be excellent, confusing and most of all, hilarious.
Check out Harriet at www.harrietdyer.co.uk
Give her a follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dyerlinquent
Or drop her an email if you want some advice on starting out in comedy: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to get a taste of her 2015 fringe show, check out her excellently reviewed 2014 one at http://harrietdyer.bandcamp.com/album/barking-at-aeroplanes