How’s this for a tough assignment?
Parachute into a little town somewhere in the middle of nowhere with a television camera crew, soak up the local history, culture and politics, meet as many colourful characters as possible, and then condense it all down into an endearing and funny 45-minute stand-up comedy routine.
All inside of a week.
Oh, and top it off by putting yourself in a situation designed to embarrass yourself on national television.
That was Jonny Harris’ experience a couple weeks ago, when he wrapped up filming an episode of ‘Still Standing’ in Radisson.
The Newfoundland-born actor and stand-up comedian is the host of the show, now in its third season on CBC Television. He describes it as his dream job.
“I didn’t come up with the premise,” said Harris in an interview on Tuesday, February 13. “It’s actually based on a show that was done in Denmark. Apparently rural coastal Denmark has been in the skids for a while, and the premise of the show was to prove that people still have a sense of humour and a spirit of survival even in tough times.
“As soon as I heard the idea, I was hooked,” he added. “I was honoured to be considered for the show. It’s close to my heart and I love doing it.”
Harris said he has an affinity for small towns.
“I grew up in one,” he said. “I understand what makes them tick. I love the fact that the show is a celebration of the small-town spirit. It’s like a clap on the back, where we take the community and pump their tires a bit, and everybody can have a laugh, and it’s not mean-spirited or anything like that. It’s very easy-going.”
He said filming in Radisson during the week, and performing the final show in Borden, was a great experience.
“Every small town has its own energy and its own story,” he said. “Radisson is no different. It’s unique.
“The thing about small towns on the prairies that’s different from the rest of the country is they could actually physically disappear. There’s always a fear somebody’s going to come along and take down the sign on the side of the highway.
“That’s obviously not going to happen with Radisson,” he added. “I was quite taken with the stories there, especially about the national fundraising campaign a few years ago that helped them build their hockey rink. It was amazing how that thing snowballed once it got going.”
Harris said he was also very impressed with Judah Tyreman, the young resident who started his own mineral, gem and dinosaur museum in town.
“Judah was the one who pitched the town to the CBC in the first place,” said Harris. “He’s a very interesting young man; one who is certainly doing things beyond his years. His museum was way more than what I expected.”
Harris said every episode has its painful moments.
“We always do a bit of comedic stuff,” he said. “So I went over to one of the ladies’ salons and she waxed my armpits, which I can assure you was a most unpleasant experience.
“But hopefully it’s good for a laugh. Sometimes you have to take one for the team.”
The episode of ‘Still Standing’ featuring Radisson will be aired this summer.
Harris said he’s busy these days balancing the filming of ‘Still Standing’ while also performing his regular role as Constable George Crabtree on the CBC-TV drama series, ‘Murdoch Mysteries.’ He’s also just been tapped to host an upcoming television awards show.