Jarrod Harris is on his fourth RV. "I've had vans too," says the Redondo Beach- based comedian, who's been described by Creative Loafing as achieving "an oddly comfortable mix of trailer-park filth, comic angst, and hipster irony."
"Lived in a van for about three years when I started doing comedy," Harris continues. "I loved every minute of it too. An RV was just a step up; it's a Cummings turbo diesel pusher. Engine is in the back. Glides like a cloud and purrs like a kitty; this is way more comfortable."
Harris's RV is central to a project being launched by him and his tourmate Ryan Singer: a feature documentary called Organic, being filmed as you read this article in clubs around the Midwest. The two comedians, each of whom has put in eleven years in the comedy scene, are looking to document their experiences on the road, thereby shining a light on the tight-knit alternative comedy scene that's finding life in spaces like The Sinking Ship, the Northside punk-ish bar that'll host Singer and Harris this Sunday.
"Vibrant, organic comedy scenes have sprung up all around the country and have been the life support system for comedians," says Singer, recently selected as a "Comic Who Should Be Big" by Rolling Stone and a frequent opener for podcast star Marc Maron. "These scenes are all uniquely driven by the love of standup comedy by the comedians who live there. This tour will showcase the freedom of the art form these venues allow and the people who have unwittingly created a place for comedians to come into their own before breaking through to the next level."
Singer and Harris aren't operating the equipment alone: "The road for a month straight, with filming all the time, I worry a bit about the crew," Singer says. "They are doing the hard work. I hope we can keep them happy and glad they chose to be a part of the experience."
But neither comic seems particularly daunted by the miles, and Harris has a ready plan for how to divvy up driving duties: "I think whoever weirds the least people out at the show that night should be forced to drive more the next day."
The Sinking Ship - where for nearly two years standup host Cam O'Connor and company have brought burgeoning comics and new fans together - is the tour's second stop.
"The room is unique because it's in a very cool bar filled with open minded individuals," says O'Connor. "Now there is a culture in the building on Sundays where the show is respected, and comics love performing there. We've had so many fantastic comedians. The crowd gets good comedy, so they realize that it's in their best interest to listen and pay attention. Our show is closer to comedy club quality, while still allowing creative freedom."
weekly show was created to give local comics an opportunity for more stage time. But O'Connor says it soon became something more: neutral ground at a time when comics had to choose one club or the other to play (Crackers or Morty's), or risk becoming persona non grata in both. And though it's become easier in recent months for comics to work both rooms, The Sinking Ship contiues to be a place for comics from both clubs to do shows together and to meet emerging talent from around the country.
The word gets around, according to O'Connor: "These great comics came and did amazing shows that won over the crowds that were there, and the people told people, and the comics went home and told other comics about this show in Indiana."
O'Connor's list of favorite shows includes previous gigs by both Singer and Harris: "Meeting your heroes is priceless. Booking a comic that makes me laugh and gathering people to see them perform is really something."
And Singer returns the affection: "I love the Ship. The energy and the fun that room provides is ridiculous. Some venues, some comedy rooms just feel like magic from the start and I think the Ship is one of those places. Cam has done such a great job of making it a place where comedy can thrive, it is wonderful. I love Indianapolis, too. Since I started in Dayton, Indy has always been close and I would visit open mics there when I was first starting out. It was a critical comedy city in my development. The Ship is a place that I have specifically chosen in the past to polish and explore my comedy knowing how wonderful of an environment it is to grow the wildest of bits."
As for Organic, plans are still up in the air, but Harris knowns one thing for sure: "Personally I want the film to give younger comics some inspiration. Basically let them know that they can do this stuff too. As for the shape it takes, I guess that's just gonna have to be seen in post production."
"There is going to be over a hundred hours of footage, is my guess, and that could take months to go through and edit together. I hope that we have this out by sometime early 2014," says Singer. "I hope the film is entertaining and funny, and also shows a side of standup comedy that no other documentary has shown before. It is a really exciting time to be a part of standup comedy right now."
[<>Correction, Jan. 4: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story misattributed a quote spoken by Jarrod Harris to Ryan Singer (in paragraph four), and a quote spoken by Singer to Harris (paragraph five).]