ALBANY — Perhaps the best way to describe Erin Harkes’ comedy is with a line producer David Tyo named a project he was mixing for her — “Erin Said [profanity] And I Have To Make It Sound Like She Didn’t.”
Harkes’ comedy is edgy, but not blue, as she’d call the really raunchy stuff. While she’s no stranger to self-deprecation and the occasional innuendo, she’s not all out X-rated. Nonetheless, the local comedian/singer isn’t afraid to toe the lines of R-rated laughter.
Harkes released her first comedy album, Zoloft and Probation, on March 26. The album can be found on Spotify, iTunes and any other major streaming service. The work, a 33 minute show, features 13 bits, ranging from her commentary on her engagement, jokes about her sobriety (Harkes is 10 years sober from alcohol), her escapades over cucumber wasabi dressing and getting older.
“The joke in the comedy industry is once you’ve made a comedy album, the jokes you use on it are essentially burned; you don’t use them anymore,” Harkes said. “Some of this material, namely the very first line, where I say ‘my name is Erin and usually I follow this up with I’m X amount of years sober,’ is a joke I’ve been using since I was a year and a half sober. To think it’s now almost 10 years old, it’s now time for me to transition it out.”
One of the highlights of Harkes’ album is the track “Firefighter,” which plays with the stereotypical needy girlfriend. Harkes uses the imagery of a woman who is cheering her boyfriend on as he enters a burning building, only to become irate when she sees him carry another woman out of the building and perform life-saving procedures, as her man is putting his hands and mouth all over someone else. While the subject matter is dark — most of Harkes’ comedy has a dark undertone to it, a reflection of her own experiences in life — Harkes delivers it in a way that makes you laugh.
“During the pandemic, I’ve written a ton of new material but I haven’t had the chance to try it out,” Harkes said. “I tried doing comedy over Zoom and I hated it. Comedians thrive on that instant boom of laughter after we deliver the punchline. Because Zoom has just enough of a delay, the laughter feels more pity than it does genuine.”
Harkes said Zoloft and Probation wouldn’t have been possible without her friends, namely her best friend Ed Eason. Harkes will call Eason with whatever she’s testing and regards him as her best audience. If a joke falls flat at a show, she will often poke fun at Eason, saying he set her up.
“Ed finds me unconditionally hilarious, which is great because sometimes you just need that reinforcement,” Harkes said. “My comedian friends and I will have jokes that will revolve around current events and they will go out of rotation as quickly as they come in because the context is gone.”
As Harkes begins her transition back to live comedy, she’s ready for the challenges of a live audience. The success of each set is contingent on the mood of the audience, which is why it’s critical to have material that can suit as many people as possible.
“Pivoting your show based on audience feedback is the name of the game,” Harkes concluded. “I’m ready to step on stage again and make people laugh.”