J.F. Harris has nothing against Iowa even though it’s part of a punch line of a recent joke. “I’ll tell people that I’m from New York. They’ll be like “What part?” I’ll be like “Staten Island.” They’ll be like “That’s not real New York.” Then I’ll be like, “Really? Where are you from?” They’ll say, “Brooklyn.” Then I’ll be like, “Where are you really from?” And they say “Dubuque, Iowa.”
The veteran comic-writer’s point is that it doesn’t take long for folks to relocate to his hometown and act like they own the city that never sleeps.
Even though Harris left Gotham for Los Angeles seven years ago, Staten Island, where his family still resides, provides comedic inspiration. Expect Harris to riff about New York’s forgotten borough when he performs Friday and Saturday at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids.
“I’m going to talk about what it was like growing up in Staten Island and how it has had such an impact on me,” Harris said.
Harris, who has worked as a writer for actor Will Smith and opens for such high profile comics as Joel McHale and fellow Staten Islanders The Impractical Jokers, also will riff about if he and is longtime girlfriend will get married and have children.
“I’m 36 and she’s 37 so it will be less of a shock and more of a miracle if she gets pregnant,” Harris cracked. “But I don’t know if I want to pass my genes along since I’m super dyslexic and I have a mild case of cerebral palsy. In reality, it’ll be a challenge for us to have kids due to my career, since I’m traveling all over the place and her career, which is very demanding. She’s in the (entertainment) industry and works 12-hours a day. Maybe we can adopt at some point if we don’t have children in the conventional manner.”
If Harris, who will perform Friday and Saturday at Penguin’s, has children someday he’ll be influenced by Will Smith who hired him to write bits for his YouTube channel and Instagram.
“Will Smith is the most caring dad you’ll ever meet,” Harris said. “He’s super invested in his children and he’s done a great job raising his kids. His daughter, Willow, isn’t just kind, she’s normal. That’s not easy to do in Hollywood.”
Smith isn’t just good with his kids, he’s also kind to his employees.
“When Will celebrated his 50th birthday (in 2018) he gave all of the people on his staff a special pair of Jordan (sneakers),” Harris said. “That same day he bungee jumped into the Grand Canyon. I’ve met a lot of people in this industry and nobody is like Will Smith. He is the nicest person you can meet.”
Harris, who lives in Los Angeles, started his comedy career in Chicago in 2003.
“I was just drawn to comedy ever since I was a kid,” Harris said. “I started in sketch comedy and then I became a stand-up comic in New York in 2009. I love what I do. I think about how it would be writing for a show and making $300,000 a year. It would be nice to have that money but my passion is traveling around the country making people laugh.”
“I realize that nobody knows who I am, but I’m fine with that,” Harris said. “I’m not doing this for acclaim. I’m a stand-up because I want to make people laugh. There’s nothing I enjoy more than that.”
• What: J.F. Harris
• When: 8 p.m. Friday (11/22) and Saturday (11/23)
• Where: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
• Tickets: $13 advance, $15 door; Penguinscomedyclub.com
• Artist’s website: jfharris.com