Exposed meets Harriet Dyer, award-winning stand up and ROFL’s new MC… 

Pre-pandemic, ROFL’s comedy clubs were responsible for plenty of mirth across the North. But after a year which has been characterised by every comedian’s nightmare, silence (and not even the awkward kind, punctuated by crickets), it might seem there isn’t much worth laughing about. The arrival of their newest venue in Sheffield, then, is ready to change that.

Sheffield has quite the reputation when it comes to producing world-class performers. So how is it that in a city chock-full of legendary venues, theatres, and galleries, a purpose built comedy club is only just about to open? Exposed got in touch with Harriet Dyer – award-winning stand-up and ROFL Sheffield’s incoming MC – to find out more about the new venue, and why we could all really use a good laugh at the minute.

Tell us about ROFL – what’s the crack? What sets their stand-up apart from the riff-raff?
Well, first off, the acts are just fantastic. No matter what your taste in comedy might be, I’d say there will always be someone at a ROFL night for you. It’s a great club because there’s not only a great calibre of comedians, there’s also always a diversity to the line-up.
In pretty much all our bills you’ll see some acts who’ve been on ‘Live at the Apollo’ or have a similar TV credit. We also pride ourselves on the fact that there’s not just a headliner. Every single act is headline standard here, whereas at usual gigs you’d have to wait for them to get better as the night went along. But not with us!

You’ve been a stand-up for nearly a decade – how does that inform you as an MC?
What I like about being an MC is it’s a lot freer than doing a set. As a comedian, I guess some people would class me as a bit alternative. When I first started and would gig in London I’d be introduced as a character act. I’m not a character act, I’m just myself!
I think because of lockdown and the fact that we haven’t been able to talk to anyone in person, it’s just a joy to be able to properly interact and delve into people’s lives to try and find comedy. I’m here to encourage a wonderful hilarious time, of course, but there’s never any nastiness or meanness in the stuff I do. You’re so lucky as a comedian that this is a job where literally the more fun you have, the better it is for everyone.

Coming over from ROFL in Derby, what’s your impression of Sheffield’s comedy scene?
I have a fair bit of experience in the city. There’s this thing called Square Hole Comedy at the Red Deer, which was one of my favourite clubs in the whole country, and I always used to perform there. So I have gigged in Sheffield and love it dearly.

In terms of audiences, we’ve had some lovely people come in regularly in Derby, so I hope that happens in Sheffield. I’m looking forward to building the new venue up because it’s a big student city. I say that – the other day I was chatting with a girl on her 21st and she didn’t know who Justin Timberlake was! The references are moving quicker than ever and keeping up with your audience’s culture is all part of being able to share a laugh.

Speaking of sharing a laugh, you’ve founded a comedy night, and performed your own material, around mental health matters – why do you think being able to laugh about mental health is helpful?
In the past, people thought about mental health in comedy as a way to take the piss, or that certain things shouldn’t be spoken about. My parent’s generation definitely did that. Nowadays, I think it’s liberating for some people to be able to talk so openly about it. It’s very cathartic to be able to say something and have people in the audience who have been through similar things. It’s about knowing, from the laughter in the room, that other people have been through that. It’s not laughing at them, it’s the acknowledgement that they feel the same. It hasn’t really been done before today.

So given we’re emerging from such an unstable period for so many people, do you think there’s something live comedy can do for our mental wellbeing?
Many people who are regular comedy goers have been keeping in touch anyway with all the Zoom gigs. But I haven’t known one person who’d say that they’ve have preferred to watch them online rather than coming to see them live. I one-hundred percent think it’s good for people. It’s like going to the theatre – it’s cathartic – but it’s just so much more freeing.
When the guy who’s ROFL’s big in-charge person headed to Sheffield because there wasn’t a purpose built comedy club, he thought it was a great place – and I of course said “Well yes, it’s a very good place! The people of Sheffield deserve a laugh. We are here to deliver!

See what’s on this month and book your comedy night tickets at roflcomedy.com

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