Attention Seeker at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

Gerard Harris in Attention Seeker. Photo credit Megan Stewart

Gerard Harris in Attention Seeker. Photo credit Megan Stewart

Attention Seeker by Gerard Harris
August 12 – 21 at Roots on Whyte
More information: gerardharrisdotcomistaken.com


An interview with Gerard Harris.

Describe your show in five words.

self-schadenfreude storytelling about standup / psychology

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

It’s a storytelling show about a lot of things: the struggle to step outside our comfort zones and subject ourselves to public scrutiny; my love/hate letter to standup comedy, British repression and genital mutilation; and the quest for self-improvement through exposure therapy, bourgeois bootcamps or running away. All of these are a diversion from what the show is really about. Though I would like to get big audiences, I don’t want to tell people what the show is really about because I want the audience to know as much or as little about what’s happening as the character of me at the time of the telling. The title is the clue. You have to come to the show to find out why.

You say Attention Seeker is comprised of ‘seemingly disparate stories’ . How did you go about choosing the stories you wanted to include in Attention Seeker?

By trial and error, then another trial and a lot more error until a theme emerges, irrelevant stuff falls away and I’m left with something resembling a show. I think very few people know what their stories are really about (including me), so I just link up ones I’m fond of and look for emergent patterns. I could tell all the stories in the show but emphasise different things in them and then I’d have a different show. Indeed the show was supposed to be about something else entirely but what I planned for is not what I got. As usual.

Attention Seeker describes fear of success, happiness, and stand-up comedy. I find it interesting that these things might not be the first experiences that come to mind when people hear the word ‘fear’. How did you go about creating this show about fears that are not as commonly thought about or discussed?

For some people, fear of success and happiness is just as strong as fear of failure and unhappiness. You could make a case that they are the same thing – or at least stem form the same source of fear – but the latter is at least more commonplace and predictable so we usually prefer to stay in our state of mild frustration and discomfort rather than take the big risks and lose the semblance of control we have over our current way of life.

What types of audience reactions or post-show conversations are you hoping happen after Attention Seeker?

There are two questions that come up often at the moment: “Can I tell you what happened to me?” and “Who was that famous comedian you’re talking about?”

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

It’s a sequel to Verbal Diarrhea, Actual Diarrhea which played in the Fringe at the Acacia Hall in 2014 (since retitled A Tension To Detail), it’s got a standup set spread within the story, it’s been a bit of a hit everywhere I’ve taken it (Montreal, New Zealand, Saskatoon so far…) and if you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to do standup comedy but been too afraid to actually do it, I can put you in my shoes for an hour so you get to experience the intense pleasure and extreme pain of doing it without the attendant sleepless nights and recurring daymares that I have to go through. Oh and I’m at Roots on Whyte, sharing the venue with Martin Dockery and Vanessa Quesnelles who are bringing The Exclusion Zone and Love Is A Battlefield to the Fringe. How’s that for a weird threesome?

The 35th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 11 – 21. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.

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