Albert W. Harmer & The Elko Comedy Scene

Shortly after our interview for this blog, today’s guest sent me (Anthony Crosby) a message as a follow up to our conversation. I genuinely enjoyed what he had to say in this message, and I decided it would be appropriate to use his words as an introduction to this article. Please let this serve as a peek into our guest’s heart for today’s subject.

“For me, laughter is one of the best emotions and reactions to any given situation, good or bad. To quote my favorite comedian, Daniel Sloss, “Laughter is not the opposite of sadness; happiness is the opposite of sadness. Laughter is a reaction; it’s free to exist in both.” Laughter, to me, is the best way to uplift any given situation, even the cruelest and hard ones like death or pain. Laughter can fix anything, and I think comedy, for me, is the platform in which I find the most growth and healing. Laughter is so important to me. I even have the word “Laughter” tattooed on my knuckles. Everyone thinks it’s the dumbest tattoo idea, but it means the absolute world to me.”

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This week, we’re joined by Albert W. Harmer. If you enjoy having your funny bone tickled in any way, you may know of Albert. He has been instrumental in helping develop the comedy culture here in Elko. He has cultivated many types of comedy formats in our community, from roasts of beloved locals to open mic nights at venues such as The Stage Door. Albert even hopes to bring a comedy festival to our town one day soon! When it comes to encouraging some of our neighbors to get on a stage and share some jokes, Albert has been the man with the desire to make it happen.

Thank you for joining us this week, Albert! From where did your passion for comedy come, and how did you get involved in living that passion out here in Elko?

“I was introduced to comedy when I was little. My whole family would get together and watch the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. I would watch different members of my family take those jokes in and talk about them later; that’s what got me into comedy. I performed in Elko for the first time back in 2014; Silver Stage Players put on an open mic competition at the Commercial. I worked on my set and ran it by all my friends. The ones who made it through that phase got to go to a competition at Stockman’s, and I got first place in that competition! That was a real turning point for me.

“However, I didn’t get back on stage again for a few years after that. Nothing else came up. In the meantime, I got involved with the local theater groups in town, and that solidified my want to be on stage. I realized that Elko didn’t have any type of comedy scene at all, and I wondered how hard it would be to start one. It wasn’t that hard! It was just a matter of posting on Facebook that we needed to get a mic up somewhere. We had our first show in November of 2017, and we had a good response! It created so much excitement that we decided to hit it hard, and two weeks later, we did it again! Now, we’re just looking forward to what we can do next.”

What do you think is next for you and your endeavors, Albert? What’s your big goal for all of this?

“I’m looking at trying to an under-aged/clean comedy night going for fourteen-year-olds and above, so they can come in and try their hands. The time I wanted to do comedy, I was fourteen, but there was no platform for it. It’s not like I could just get up on stage at school and do it. I want that to be one of my staple points because my goal is no longer to be a comedian; I want to be the promoter of comedy. I would really hope that somebody here from Elko can become famous. If I can help lift up one person to their goals and aspirations, I want to help do that.”

How has it been helping develop a comedy scene in Elko? What have you noticed?

“It’s been different! It can definitely be weird! There used to be a good comedy scene in Elko. My grandmother and my parents would tell me they used to go to the comedy club at the High Desert; I didn’t even know there was one there! It just died off over time. What’s sad about that is that Elko can be a gasser town. Everybody passes through here going to Reno, Boise, Salt Lake, wherever. When I worked for the hotel industry, many big-name comedians would stay the night in Elko and then move forward. It’s just nuts to me that nobody took the opportunity to pluck them out.”

 There’s probably nothing in the world more subjective than comedy. Certain things will hit people in ways that may or may not hit another. How do you prepare to get on a stage in front of a room full of people, without knowing what the reactions will be?

“I actually have a joke about how doing stand-up comedy is relatable to riding roller coasters. I am the cart, and the audience is the riders in the cart. Some jokes go over like the Wild Mouse at Lagoon; it’s going to whip you around and take on corners, but you’re going to get off the ride and have a couple of chuckles about it. Other jokes and stories are like these amazing roller coasters with these perfect turns and loops, but there’s usually going to be that one person on the ride who is going over a loop and has a boxing glove on a spring come out and hit them in the face! Everyone else gets off the ride, high-fives, and talks about how it was the best ride of their lives, but that one person talks about how it was the worst ride of their life! That’s the best way I can describe comedy; it’s a roller coaster. You never know what you’re going to get. Most people who go on the ride are going to enjoy it, but a few of them don’t.”

How would you share your philosophy for comedy to someone who may be thinking of getting up and grabbing the mic for the first time?

“Comedy is a passionate form of art. When you get on stage in front of people, you’re opening yourself up in a way that not many other people can do. For me, it’s a type of therapy; for others, it’s an enjoyable way for them to express who they are. You bring people into your world for a minute and having the ability to do that is difficult. So, I applaud anyone who tries it. If you want to try it, then get on stage and attempt it at least once! It’s scary; you’re going to be nervous, mumble, say ‘um’ a lot, and shake, but if you enjoyed the feeling of being up on stage, come back a second time and try it again! You’re going to feel more prepared.”

Finally, Albert, as you continue to help Elko develop its comedic identity and voice, what is your overall hope for your involvement in all of this?

“If you have the ability to help somebody, then do it. I’ve always learned that if I’m good at something, I need to spread it. My only hope is that other people from Elko, performers, and audience members, thrive with this platform and be passionate about it. I want to push people further with this than they thought they’d go.”

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See you around, Elko

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