The Shoe Leather Express

Writing and Comedy from James Harris

Category: London

News from gruntville

Hope everyone has had a good start to the year. It’s been a bit sticky, hasn’t it really, with cold weather and Bowie dying. I’ve been listening to a lot of his back catalogue, particularly ‘Lodger’, an album I always want to be better than it is, given how much I love it. He recorded it when he was close to my age.

Still, I’ve been busy as my ‘artistic season’ comes to an end and I gear up to go tour-guiding again. Firstly I’ve done several podcasts so far this year. I was featured by the charming Richard Wolfenden on his comedy one, and am linking below to Paula Varjack and I being interviewed by Dave Turner for his Lunar Poetry Podcast. In this podcast I read an extract from my novel Midlands. Yes, it’s done!, and I’m now actively submitting it. In fact it received its first rejection the other day; I should really open a sweepstake on how many it’ll end up with. In this respect Marlon James is an inspiration to us all. Anyway, for now my faith in my manuscript is undimmed. Ask me in a year though.

Comedy is ticking along as ever, and in January I reached the final of the Max Turner prize, so I can finally write ‘Competition Finalist’ on my comedy CV. I also did my first ever show in Spain at Gordy’s Comedy Night, Madrid. Despite having a cold, it was a blast, and they’re real nice folks! In London, I’m basically performing the same set night after night, which isn’t how I like to work, but hopefully I’ll be able to spread my wings soon over a longer set. After all, I’m off to Edinburgh this summer with Andy Quirk, Nick Purves and Andy Onions so I better have 20 ready by then! I’ve also started helping run the Monday night ‘Famous First Words’ open mic  along with Andy and Nick in Finsbury Park, and I’m hosting my next one January 29th: there are still slots available here. And you can see all my upcoming shows here.

I’ve also got to find time in all this to make a living. To that end, I’m pleased to say I’ve been accepted onto London Metropolitan’s Interpreting MA and will be studying to be a German, French and hopefully Russian interpreter part-time for the next two years. Potential better remuneration awaits!

Phew, having written all the above, it’s no wonder I’ve been feeling a bit knackered and, to be honest, disgruntled. What I’d actually like to do is crawl in bed with a beautiful woman and not surface until May, emerging only occasionally for champagne and toast, but duty, and specifically the duty of heading to Brighton to do Stand Up and Slam, calls.

In the meantime keep going everybody – all manner of beautiful things await us in our lives! Keep your pecker up, as the great Harold Pinter once told me.

After the election

The whole city felt built on vanity that weekend, and
Even to write a line like cracking rocks. To tell lies
Though was easy, and they did so, the white-shirted
Traders unsure why their hearts were unmoved.
David Cameron meanwhile just didn’t get that
A certain person didn’t want to hear him talk about money
But more to watch boats on the crystal-sludged Thames.
Down there, a man was building a sandcastle
On which he’d written ‘Take pic, leave tip,’ and as he chiseled
From time to time the brown coins rained down.

Image at

       Image from mazz_56 at pixabay.

Gigs in London and fun in Germany

Well Germany, that was fun, wasn’t it? Seven gigs, four headline spots, lots of money and nice big crowds. After two days on tour there came a moment, already having had more stage time than London had given me in fifteen months, with a roll of money in my pocket and two free meals in my belly, when I thought – what the hell am I doing in London? Imagining some German saying to me: ‘Mr. Harris! How much comedy would you like to do tonight? 45 minutes? No, please do an hour! We love you here! And would you like some more potatoes?’

But now I’m back in El Humo and once again working the open mikes and showcases; you can see my upcoming gigs list here. After just over a month round the houses I’m beginning to suspect that the majority of London open mikes could be renamed ’24 year olds talking about their penises’ or maybe ‘White Guy Meltdown.’ There’s certainly some unique angles out there. Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing a young man making an extended analogy between homosexuality and cricket, a comparison based on them both being two things ‘which he had nothing against.’ Your guess is as good as mine – but perhaps that’s what the kids want these days, apart from money and affordable places to live. Later a comedian called an audience member a ‘bitch’ for no reason.

There’s an interesting book to be written about this, about a comedian – it could be any artist in fact – who lives abroad for a long time, acquiring a measure of success in his adopted home, only to return and find that he has to start from scratch. He hauls round open mikes in his new city’s further outskirts, where the producers respond to his allusions to prior success with ‘Big in Germany? So’s David Hasselhoff kid. Now shut up and get sucking!’ Certainly I currently have the interesting sensation of being both a mild failure and a moderate success, a psychic experience which, if not exactly to be recommended, is at least stimulating. To this end it seems entirely appropriate that I was a guest along with the poet Amy Acre on Varjack and Simpson’s new ‘Fail Better’ podcast – you can have a listen here; I think it turned out rather well. What does Harriet Mancy-Barrat know about comedy anyway?

And then it’s the Anti-Slam, another Varjack and Simpson affair, this Valentine’s Day. Time to pretend I’m German again, in my role as Johannes the punctillious scorekeper. Somehow I always end up playing the foreigner. People thinking you’re an idiot is a great place to do comedy from.

German success.  Picture by Dr. Hemmet under the creative commons attribution license 3.0.

German success.Picture by Dr. Hemmet under the creative commons attribution license 3.0.