The World of Bubbs Harris is a rocketship waiting to blow up. Within two years of stepping up to his first ever comedy gig, Harris stood tall as an opener for “That Metal Show’s” Don Jamieson and his Night of Comedy and Metal at Vinyl Music Hall.
Harris found a few (and very rare) minutes to talk about life, comedy, the power of George Carlin and more for my weekly column in the Pensacola News Journal; that week’s focus was Don Jamieson’s stop at Vinyl, which featured Harris as one of the supporting comedians.
Here is a link to the article and the full interview follows below.
*** Bubbs Harris Interview ***
MS: Standup comedy is probably one of the most, if not the most challenging and difficult gigs in show business, what made you want to pursue this work?
BH: It’s a combination of two things; I was getting older and music is my first love, hands down, I’ve always loved music, but in the end I’ve had bands that weren’t really doing anything. Guys didn’t want to practice, as we start getting older and “God, I don’t want to go tour and go do this.” music didn’t work out so I was looking for something to do to fill my time and was doing music journalism, but then my wife got me some tickets to see George Carlin when he played the (Pensacola) Saenger Theatre. That was just a few months before he passed away and I’m up there watching this 72 year old man just completely killing it on stage and he was always one of my favorites and when he died I was just like, “You know, I got to get off my butt and at least give it a try. It’s always something I wanted to do, so I did and it worked out and it just so happened that my first time on stage was one of those mixed bills where I was hosting with a couple of bands and I just fell in love with that. Both comedy and music, people were like, “Well, do you want to be a musician? Do you want to be a comedian?” I’m like, “Why not a little bit of both. Let’s make people laugh and rock n’ roll.”
MS: For you, what’s more challenging, music or standup comedy?
BH: Comedy for sure! Comedy is way harder than playing music. In music you have a band behind you, people going crazy. You can definitely mess up a little more. It’s easily forgivable. In comedy, it’s just you and the crowd and if you’re not boppin’, it can turn into something very horrible, very quick.
MS: I’ve seen that happen too.
BH: Oh yeah. We’ve all had our moments, that’s for sure.
MS: You make it seem so effortless. I know its hard work, but how difficult is it for you? Do you do a lot of practice? How do you do it?
BH: Some guys like to do the American Idol thing where they get in front of a mirror with a hairbrush. I don’t really do that. I just basically think about it constantly. Constantly, Constantly! If I’m driving, doing something, cleaning up the house, whatever it is, I’m constantly thinking about delivery on the jokes I’ve already written or if I get an idea in my head, I just go over and over and over it until I finally get to the stage. By the time I get up there, I’ve already thought about it so much there’s no way that I’m going to forget. It’s really hard. It’s definitely a lot of work. When I first started, I didn’t quite have the confidence level up, so I would go up there and ramble and have no sense of timing or anything like that. Just rattling off what I thought was funny and after awhile I became more comfortable.
MS: You mentioned before about the mixing up of comedy and music and next week, perfect example at Vinyl. What can people expect and how did you get involved with the show.
BH: I’ve been hassling Chris Wilkes (Vinyl Music Hall Talent Buyer) about getting comedy at Vinyl since probably the first week they opened. “It’s a good music venue, but you know, you could bring in bigger name comics.” And he was like “I don’t know.” So after they did Gallagher, I guess he saw that there is a bit of a market for it. That he could do some stuff. When he got the Don Jamieson contract ironed out, he actually reached out to Parabellum (local group) to play that show and Todd the Viking was like, “Dude, we’re not comedians!” He’s like “Hey Bubbs!” He can definitely get you what you want and I really appreciate that he did that. Chris Wilkes reached out to me. I interviewed Don before for a metal magazine, so me and him have actually talked before about getting together and doing the whole rock n’ roll comedy thing. It never ironed out until now, but we’re really happy that it has. As far as the whole mixing of comedy and music, for me, that’s the first thing I ever did. It seems to me just a little bit more natural, but also for me, because I’m a rocker. That’s my crowd regardless, whether I’m playing music or doing comedy, I’m going to own that crowd. It’s a little easier in some aspects, but it’s also very hard because people go and they want to see music. They want music and all of sudden, there is a guy standing there for 20 minutes with just a microphone. You have to work extra hard for that. That’s something that a lot of comics, they can’t pull it off or they’re too scared to try. And me, I’m just like, “Screw it!” you give me a microphone and any crowd, I challenge them not to laugh and they’re going to lose. That’s the way I look at.
MS: Speaking of working hard, Bubbs, you are a busy man. You have a busy summer ahead of you.
BH: It’s actually, I’m taking the summer off. On the Gulf Coast level, I’ve just had so many things pop up that I couldn’t turn down. I decided after the Crackers of Comedy Tour, I want to take the summer off and spend time with the family. My wife has kind of a demanding job, so I was like, I’m going to do local stuff and see what happens and then the Don show popped up, got offered this Friday, I’m headlining Hard Rock’s up in Destin. Things are just falling into my lap; the Michale Graves show coming up in July. Jarrod Harris, bringing him over in August. It’s like I’m staying home, but it’s not that I’m not staying busy. I’ve always got something going on. Always promoting other people’s stuff too. I like help out the scene as much as possible. As far as writing, I’ve never stopped reviewing records and interviewing bands, I’ve always got something going on there.
MS: Like the President. You’re taking a working vacation; a serious working vacation.
BH: Right, exactly. I’m telling you it’s so weird. Once I decided to kinda lay low for awhile, that’s when more offers started coming through. Who am I to turn it down?
MS: What’s the ultimate goal for you?
BH: The ultimate goal for me…basically…feed my kids, put gas in my car. That’s it. I’m 31 this year and I could have started a long time ago and probably been on top of the comedy world by now, but I’m cool with going through the motions and trying to conquer things on a small town and regional level. Which I pretty much have. I’ve toured a good bit when I can. I don’t want to be a movie star. I don’t want to have sitcom. It would be cool to write for one maybe. I’m not an actor, I’m not after a lot of fame and fortune and accolades and awards. I love to make people laugh. (laughter in the background.) I’m sorry, I’m here with my three year old. I’m also a stay at home dad when I’m not touring and running around. I don’t want to be famous. I love to make people laugh. Here in Pensacola, when I started doing it, there was nobody else. There was-I did my first show, a…do you remember The Ready Room? It’s Club Ice now.
MS: Yes, I remember The Ready Room. That’s where they had bands, Chris (Wilkes) was trying to get bands in there, I do remember…
BH: And Dave Glassman was kind of running that thing over there. And he had this small Comedy Night and I came out and did just a few minutes. That was my first taste, but I had nothing prepared. I was just basically there to go up. Me and my friend Ryan set up a show, El Cantador, Mr. Fahrenheit and Timberhawk when they were first starting out and that was kind of my first foray into performing my actual written set and stuff. And that was in early 2009, I think. When I was doing that, no one else was doing it and then, Savannah Blue opened up and subsequently closed, but that really brought out a lot of new local comics, which was cool because we all started to meet each other and figure that we’re not the only ones doing it. So, we’ve had some pretty cool shows come out of it. There’s been a good bit of scene turmoil and drama, but that’s expected. It comes with the territory, same as being in a band, some other bands might not like what you do and it’s all part of it I guess.
MS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
BH: The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given was probably from Kyle Grooms. He came down and did a headlining showcase at UWF (University of West Florida) and…have you ever heard Kyle Brooms?
MS: I don’t believe I have, no.
BH: Have you watched a lot of Chappelle’s Show?
MS: Yes. Hell yes.
BH: You know where he gets John Mayer to go around playing guitar?
BH: Well, when they go into the barbershop and he starts playing guitar and that guy goes, “Hey Yo! Shut the fuck up!” that’s Kyle Grooms (We both start laughing). He’s a big comedian up in New York and Jersey, basically everywhere. But he came down and got a hold of me after I did an interview with him. Kept my phone number, calls me up and says, “Hey man, let’s hit up some open mics.” So, we went to Paddy O’ Leary’s on like a Wednesday or Thursday and sat there amongst the country crooners and got up there and did our thing. And he told me, “You got good jokes, but, for right now, your timing is terrible. You’re taking a two minute bit and stretching it into five minutes.” He’s like, “Shorten it down, work on your timing and be confident in your jokes.” And ever since then, every time I walk out on stage, I don’t care if it’s 50 people, 500, five, I don’t care, I play like I’m at Carnegie Hall and those people paid to see me. If it’s a free show and they’re buying a drink, if they’re spending money in the establishment that I’m performing at, I’m going to give them their money’s worth.
MS: Right on.
BH: That’s how I look at it. It’s tough. It’s really hard. Especially here in a small town, it’s not as easy to get it to go over. In bigger cities, you have comedy clubs where people go in, they’re dressed and ready. They know they’re going to a comedy show. Here, you have random patrons who wonder into a bar and they’re sitting there, “Where’s the music?”, and their like, “It’s comedy night.” And they turn around, it’s like “Oh wow! There is a guy with a microphone.” But half the time, they still don’t stop talking. It really is rough and tumble in the small town comedy scene. It’s really hard, but that’s why we work hard at it. And it’s not just me, there’s other guys out there. Whether we like each other or not, there’s a lot of guys out there that do deserve a good bit of respect for what they’re doing and who are out there trying to make it work. We’ve got a couple of places now with regular open mics. Hopefully soon, maybe we can get a club going. Just depends on who’s got some good financiers. Tell you the truth, if I had some money, I’d buy the old Rex Theatre and fix that up into a comedy club.
MS: Might as well. That would be awesome. Great venue.
BS: It’s coming up. A few years ago, we’d have people flier for comedy shows and have people look at us with disgust and throw it on the ground in front of our faces. Now, at least they’ll roll it up and put it in their pockets…until they get home and then they’ll throw it away. But still, we have people taking a bit more of an interest. Just informing people here, first off, is the most important thing and then we’ll go from there. For me, I’ve been able to parlay being a local open mic comic into an actual bit of a career doing. It’s been pretty cool doing it. I’m not full-time, I’m not able to completely give up everything and go travel around the country 365 days a year, but if I can go for a couple of weekends here and there, little weekend warrior tours, spreading out the good vibes, that’s really what it’s all about. I’ve been doing this since late 08’, so about four years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve gotten a lot farther than a lot of comics do in the bigger cities after 10 years. There’s guys that spend 10 to 15 years writing and perfecting 15 minutes of material. They’re lucky if they ever get to perform that because they’re 3 to 4 minute open mic spots forever. We’re jaded in the fact that we get a lot of stage time. We love stage time, we get a lot of opportunity to work out different stuff. I’ve probably got over two hours of solid material, not to mention all the half-worked stuff that I’ve tried out. It’s pretty cool, I enjoy it very much. I’ve always had a weird sense of humor. Me and best friend, whose actually a Seventh Day Adventists Pastor, it’s quite the odd couple he and I, we bounce stuff off each all the time. Anytime I think of something funny, I’ll run it by him because he has a weird sense of humor and we grew up together and he’s like, “Look, if you can make me laugh with that, I know you’ll make either people who aren’t as conservative laugh.” And I never ever aim for shock value; I don’t have any jokes that come straight out and try to offend people with. There’s a lot within the local scene, like I mean, I would say seven out of 10 local comics have an abortion joke, I have none. I have no jokes about abortion or any of that stuff. To me, that’s just cheap tacts. I may say some offensive stuff and I’ve had people get sour-faced, but it’s usually all in the name of being silly. I really enjoy being a silly person in the way that I look at certain things. Mostly everything I write is based on life experience, you know being married, having kids, being a regular dude, but there’s comedy in every single thing that you ever do. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, there’s always something you can laugh at about it. That also goes along with tragedy. Most people think that comedy is making people laugh, but the darkside of it is, it’s a very cutthroat, rough n’ tumble business, you don’t really meet a lot of nice comedians-which is odd. When I first got into it , I was like “Everybody is going to be so welcoming!” but it is not like that. You’re coming into their territory, that’s just the way it is. But comedy is also spawned from tragedy and from bad things. Like a lot of thing that I talk about, like being poor and just the way that I grew up; I was extremely poor, underprivileged, I guess, but you decide not to give up and make things funny out of that. I’ve got a lot of good stories about being broke. I made a lot of good friends. Looking back on it, I wouldn’t have changed anything at all. It’s made me look at life and turn it into something fun, no matter what it is. Even if close friends pass away or something like that, I can always think back on the crazy shit we did together and smile. There’s comedy in everything. It’s very important to be able to laugh. For everybody it’s a hard time; the economy sucks, you’ve got two presidential candidates that nobody wants either one of them. It’s hard times in America and all we really have that’s free is laughter and music, to some extent. It’s always going to be free to laugh and enjoy yourself no matter what’s bothering you. People need a release and for me, getting on stage, I can let go of every problem I’ve ever had because for 10 minutes, that’s my time and nothing in the world is bothering me…unless you get a heckler. Then it becomes something different. When I first started out, I didn’t know how to deal with a heckler, they interrupted my joke and I had no idea where to with it. Now, if I get a heckler, I’ll spend my whole 15 minutes heckling hecklers. It doesn’t bother me; I’ll go off the cuff as long as you need me to. If you want to be part of my show, you will be part of my show. There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s usually when I’m at a Handlebar show I go in there relatively unprepared with material. It’s one of my favorite places to play. I have great shows at The Handlebar because I’ll usually get some drunk who wants to stagger up to the stage and start talking loud and I’ll just go “O.k. buddy, it’s just me and you.” That’s how it goes down. I love to tear apart a heckler. I’m never mean, I don’t try to hurt people’s feelings. Usually I’ll see them at another show down the road and they’re sitting there quiet. It makes all the difference, you just let somebody understand that they’re being rude and that it is a comedy show. Like I said, a lot of people are relatively just have no knowledge that comedy exists here in Pensacola.
MS: What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen in Pensacola of any genre?
BH: Aw man. I’ve seen so many. Since Vinyl’s (Vinyl Music Hall) opened that just opens up a floodgate for all kinds of cool stuff. I would have to say, my favorite one was when KISS played the Civic Center. The Alive 35 tour.I guess it was the last time they played. I guess it was 09’. October 09’ and that was my favorite because it kind of broke my wife out of her shell, she was always, “I don’t like rock concerts!” (I said) “Come see KISS with me.” So I took her to that and we’re getting our faces melted by pyrotechnics and everything. And now, if I go to a show and we don’t get a babysitter, I’ll catch hell for it for a week afterward. KISS was awesome and like I said, with Vinyl opening up, I’m catching bands that I’ve always wanted to see either on a local level or just period, like I just saw GWAR-how cool was that?-Municipal Waste is coming, Down, and those are just days before my show with Don Jamieson so that’s going to be a full week of heavy metal. Face to Face when they came with Strung Out. We’ve got The Casualties coming up, I mean there’s lots of stuff. Also when Queensryche came, that was really cool. And that was big for AJ (Fratto) who is also playing this Don Jamieson show. He’s a good dude; I love me some AJ Fratto.
MS: I’ve got a crazy question for you. This is my crazy question. Do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
MS: Why so?
BH: Absolutely crunchy, because-like I said-I grew up poor, so if you get a little extra “meat” in your sandwich, you know what I mean. Peanut butter qualifies as a meat. You get a little extra meat in your sandwich, then you’re doing well. My kids hate it. I’m like, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ll come to appreciate that when that’s all you have.” Crunchy Jiff.
– Michael L. Smith