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May 29th
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Doubting Harris

ae comic1Ian Harris doesn’t care what you think—he’s just going to make fun of it

To science-loving comedian Ian Harris, the only thing funnier than joking around about Bigfoot is making fun of the guys who actually search for the hairy beast.

In a world where forensic anthropologists can practically pull scientific wizardry out of thin air, scientists and yahoos alike have made pretty much no progress in tracking down a seven-foot primate living somewhere outside Seattle, as Harris often reminds audiences. Don’t even get him started on Bigfoot museums.

“How can you have a museum if you have nothing to put in the museum?” Harris, a San Lorenzo Valley High School grad, asks GT on the phone.

Given all the comedic fodder in Sasquatch educational materials, it’s easy to imagine Harris’ joy when he stumbled across the Bigfoot Museum on Highway 9 last year at the site of the New Age video store in front of which he and his friends used to skateboard as kids. It was just like every other Bigfoot museum he’d ever visited.

“Even my daughter, who was eight at the time, was cracking up,” says Harris, who now lives in Los Angeles.

But Bigfoot believers need not take such jabs to heart.

“My goal is to make fun of all things without scientific evidence—from alternative medicine to religion, anything that people just accept a belief in,” says Harris, who comes to the Rio Theatre Saturday, July 26.

Harris takes shots at everyone—or at least everyone who believes in something that isn’t based in science. And that, let’s face it, amounts to pretty much all of us.

Anyone who believes in Christianity, aliens or astrology may find a bone to pick with Harris. But so will anyone who believes that global warming isn’t real or that vaccinations are bad for people. Harris says audience members often leave loving everything in his act except for the ten minutes he spent making fun of whatever they happen to believe.

“People on the left will rail on people on the right when it comes to climate change or when it comes to Christianity,” Harris says. “Then the next thing out of their mouth is, ‘Oh, if I concentrate hard enough, I can move your chakra.’”

Harris’ geeky, scientific comedy brand might be about to catch on. His new special Critical and Thinking will go on video-on-demand and pay-per-view August 12, via satellite and cable television, as well as iTunes and Amazon.com.

But the story of how Harris, the son of a Hindu psychic, became a cynical comedian obsessed with debunking is an unlikely one. In spite of his mother’s spiritual ways, Harris found himself constantly having questions about everything. From as early as he can remember, he had a skeptical eye for things that weren’t scientific. He wanted to believe in ghosts as a young child, but could never convince himself they were real because he didn’t believe in souls.

Harris polished all his fancy logic and scientific method at Cabrillo College, where he took a class called Argumentation and Persuasion with Dan Rothwell. That’s where he learned to weed out logical fallacies in his search for the truth.

One day, Rothwell gave everyone in the class a test to find out their astrological information. A week later, the teacher handed each student his or her astrological reading. As Harris recalls, Rothwell said, “Raise your hand if your reading is extremely accurate,” and about 90 percent of the class raised their hands.

“OK, raise your hand if it’s very accurate,” Rothwell said, and another 9 percent raised their hands. When the teacher told the class to raise their hands if their reading wasn’t accurate at all, one person raised their hand.

“Now everyone pass your reading to the left,” Rothwell said. When they did, the whole class burst out laughing. Everyone had the exact same horoscope.

These days, Harris is working with other comedians in the early stages of two possible TV shows, including one called “Supernormal Activity,” a “mockumentary” reality spoof of shows like “Ghost Hunters” in which people go searching for spooky, creepy stuff in the woods. Harris calls it “Reno 911” meets “Searching for Bigfoot.”

So jokes aside, does Harris believe anything himself, and does he find joy in things besides ruining people’s dreams?

The answer is “yes” to both. Harris believes in the beauty of the universe, and when he looks at nature around him, he can’t help feeling overcome by wonder and awe.

“Have you ever seen Neil deGrasse Tyson or Carl Sagan or Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins talk about the universe? They talk about the universe like it’s an amazing, wonderful place, and it is,” Harris says, “and I’m trying to figure out how it all works.”


Ian Harris will perform at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 26, Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $20. For more
information, call 423-8209.

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