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Harriet Dyer: The Dinosaur Show

By | Published on Friday 12 July 2019

We have known for a while that Harriet Dyer is brilliant and she’s someone I’ve been meaning to interview for sometime now. So, you know, I might have chosen to do a Q&A with her this year regardless of the topic of her set. But then, you see, I saw that it was called ‘The Dinosaur Show’ and – as a bit of a dinosaur fan myself – I just had to find out more.

Though not just about this year’s show, of course. I was also interested in the quality stuff she does year round, how she ended up in comedy, why she keeps coming back for the Festival, and what to expect from her in the future. So, I asked her some questions about all that too.

CM: Let’s start at the beginning and talk about the content of your 2019 edfringe show. What’s it all about? Does it exclusively cover the topic of dinosaurs?
HD: It’s basically a vessel through which I’ll be informing audiences about what really happened to the dinosaurs because, as per usual, we’ve all been led a merry dance down to a cavern of incorrectness and it’s up to me to restore all dinosaur knowledge to sufficient and correct factory settings.

CM: Are there any wider themes at play here, or is it really just about dinosaurs?
HD: There are so many wider themes that the dinosaurs were once a mere glimmer in your mother’s eye.

CM: What made you decide that it was time for a show all about dinosaurs?
HD: I have always been fond of our prehistoric ex companions and have found that whenever I voiced that opinion or indeed cavorted around the internet with dinosaur-based ditties they were well received so I figured “Hark! Now could now be the time to explore that further”.

CM: So this is a lifelong thing? How did you get interested in dinosaurs to begin with?
HD: I spent my childhood eating nothing but Weetabix dipped in Bovril which led to a soggy existence. I was one boneless algae dance away from spilling on to my neighbour’s ten pin bowling lane. An epiphany struck and from then on I never supped Bovril again and learned that with enough focus I didn’t even need spit.

At this time – so, 1989 – all you needed was a few packets of Weetabix to send off for their plastic dinosaur collection, which became my reason for being. I managed all but the Muttaburrasaurus, I think if I had of succeeded in that final one my heart would now feel complete.

CM: Which are your top three dinosaurs and why?
HD: HD: First, dilophosaurus = ICON. Secondly, diplodocus = I deem them trustworthy and reliable. Thirdly, plesiosaur = Taught me everything I know about the ocean.

CM: Can you also tell us about your other show, the one you are doing with Scott Gibson? Unless that’s a different Harriet Dyer, of course!
HD: That Harriet Dyer hates dinosaurs so it’s probably best we don’t have much to do with her. It’s a podcast of daftness, different every day, with a free lizard for the first 5,000 patrons of the venue. And, above all, you’ll hear Clive’s lizard and reptile house origin story.

CM: How did you get into all of this? How did you end up pursuing stand up as a career and what attracted you to performing?
HD: I was a drunk and troubled disaster that no-one really wanted to work with at uni, because I’d turn up with gin in an Evian bottle and, if I was staying late, dinner would be a gin jelly. This behaviour, amongst many things, led me to needing new teeth. Anyway, it turned out that my uni was the only one in the country – at that time – doing stand-up comedy as a module.

I turned up on the day of assessment with extra jelly and told the story of how I died twice when I was seventeen – which is funnier than it sounds! Getting laughs from dark times was liberating and I knew then that some way or another that’s what I wanted to do. I never really had a plan B.

CM: What ambitions or aims do you have for the future?
HD: I seem to be laying my own little path so am very happy to continue plodding on down there. I’m also nearing the end of a book I’m writing – all about my life and mental health – so am looking forward to getting that out there and for people to read it, like it and to not use it for roach.

CM: You run ‘Barking Tales’, a regular comedy and storytelling night in Manchester. Can you tell us a bit about it?
HD: It’s an award winning mental health comedy and storytelling night in Manchester where the comedians all do material that in some way relates to mental health. It’s a safe space environment so the audiences that come tend to have mental health issues themselves. I absolutely love it, it’s become a wonderful little community of legendary folk that people would often be quick to dismiss. I’m doing a one off edition at The Monkey Barrel on the 12 Aug and the line-up is AMAZING.

CM: Can you also tell us about your podcast?
HD: I’ve got bipolar and it’s about attempting to celebrate the ups in a very up and down existence. It’s called, ‘Don’t Worry, Bi (polar) Happy’

CM: You’ve been performing at the Fringe for a while now. What makes you keep coming back to Edinburgh for the festival? Has it – or your perceptions of it – changed since the first time you performed there?
The illness makes me come back. It can be such a wonderful place but can also harvest a mass of spiders living within your head. Very few people get it right straight away and it’s all about finding a way to make it work best for you. I love that it’s a place to make a show and that’s what I love to do. Wang as much creativity out as one can muster.

CM: What do you love about the Festival? What about it would you recommend to first time fringe-goers?
HD: Go see people you haven’t heard of, as there’s a whole menagerie of treats to behold.

CM: Is there any show or other thing you are especially looking forward to at this year’s edfringe?
HD: I’ve heard great things about David Correos, so am looking forward to checking him out.

CM: What’s coming up next for you, after the Fringe?
HD: I’m going to get me book out for the ladz.

Harriet Dyer performed ‘The Dinosaur Show’ at Gilded Balloon Patter House and ‘That’s Not a Lizard, That’s My Grandmother’ at Gilded Balloon at Old Tolbooth Market at Edinburgh Festival 2019.

Photo: Nigel Hillier