20 Questions with Jonny Harris

Get to know comedian, actor, host Jonny Harris

When you get back to Newfoundland, what is something you make sure you fit in?
Going for a walk down on the East Coast Trail. It passes through my mom’s backyard in Pouch Cove, and I like to go for a hike down there and down through Shoe Cove.

What about if you are feeling social while you are back home?  
I’ll go see a band that I haven’t seen in a while. So The Once or Mark Bragg, or Sherman Downey maybe.

Are you a cat or dog person?

Oh, I’m fond of both, but dogs mostly because I have one.

One way another Newfoundlander could pick you out of a crowd.
That’s easy. I don’t show up at a bar until after midnight. I remember playing in a band in St. John’s in my early twenties, and if your band went on before midnight it was awful because there was nobody there yet. Everybody started piling in around midnight and by three in the morning, it was really getting going. But up here in Toronto you need to be there by 8 p.m.

Do you ever find that your Newfoundland accent or a certain turn of phrase confuses those you work with either on Still Standing or Murdoch Mysteries?
Sometimes I’ll ask if something “rings queer.” “Does that ring queer to you?” And they are like. “What?” What I mean is, is there something wrong or off in the wording that makes what I’m saying sound weird? Just meaning, does it need to be reworded? Makes perfect sense to me. (Laughs)

Name a favourite vacation spot.
I have to give you three: Trinity Bay, Costa Rica and Vancouver Island

Name a food or drink you look forward to enjoying when you get back home.
A can of Pineapple Crush.

What do you have to do to make your mother laugh?
I got to make somebody else laugh, and then she’ll laugh, too.

What’s your favourite time killer?
I’ll play guitar or a video game.

Name something few people know about you.
I had to do an extra year of high school. I was failing Level 3 math and I had to do the year over again to get my marks up. I redid math and I also did woodworking, and I spent my free time hanging out in the music room trying to learn to play the piano.

Favourite place to perform?
St. John’s.

I was in a sketch comedy troupe called The Dance Party of Newfoundland, and we toured around the country and performed in New York and Chicago – but always the favourite audience of all was the St. John’s crowd because they were so tuned in and they got all the jokes. Newfoundland audiences are smart, but also they like that cheeky, saucy stuff. I always found that if you could really get a St. John’s audience to laugh then that was the most thrilling thing. It still is really.

Toughest part about being funny for a living?
On the world stage, sauciness is not always appreciated. I think we’ve managed to keep a pretty good balance of material on Still Standing. It can be tough, but innuendo is one of the only ways you can still kind of be saucy. There are certain areas, like with social or gender or racial issues, where you can’t really be saucy. A little bit of sexual innuendo is one of the only safe ways you can be cheeky anymore.

Are Newfoundlanders naturally funny?
Yes! Ultimately, we are respectful, but also pretty saucy. Newfoundlanders come from a culture of sauciness. People always ask, “Why are so many funny people from Newfoundland?” It’s because we come from a culture of sauciness.

Name someone that left you a little starstruck.

Andy Jones and Mary Walsh. No question. I was just such a fan of their stuff that it left me almost without words.

Name someone you worked with who made you nervous.
Mark McKinney. He was in Kids in the Hall and Saturday Night Live, and I was just in awe.

Greatest career lesson?
That everybody, no matter how talented or famous, has some insecurities. Nobody, just because they sort of make it in the industry, suddenly relaxes into full and complete confidence.

Tell us one embarrassing moment.

On the set of Hatching Matching and Dispatching someone from production came around and asked my address because they had drivers to pick us up, and I was mortified and said, “My God, no! I’ll drive myself!” I didn’t realize that’s what they did for actors, and I was like, “No! I’m staying at my parents’ in Pouch Cove, that’s too far!”

What’s something that amazes you about your business?

How many people it takes behind the scenes. At any given time, there’s a bunch of people going around with walkie-talkies and people with ladders. What you don’t see while watching something is as amazing as what you do see.

Greatest pressure as a performer?
To do things justice. Maybe I want to give a certain scene a bit of a subtle delivery, but how can I when 40 people have been going around rigging up lights and ladders and cameras? I almost feel the need to match the significance of it all. So much goes into each shoot. I’m still just blown away by it all.

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