Erin Harkes Embodies Uncle Ernie

To prep for a big show celebrating the release of a culmination of hard work, “doctor’s orders” might include rest and relaxation. Probably a bunch of water. Maybe a little Xanax to calm the nerves. But this is Erin Harkes we’re talking about. 

Instead, the 48 hours before her big release party commemorating brand new special, Uncle Ernie, consisted of two stand up sets in New York – like, the city – and a musical performance at the tree lighting ceremony in Albany. (Not to mention, a dentist appointment the morning of – what a masochist!) Of course, this shouldn’t surprise anybody that knows Erin. She is hands down the hardest working person in “the biz” — the living embodiment of the old adage, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”.

On Wednesday night, in Saratoga’s beautiful Universal Preservation Hall, Erin took the stage flanked by two comedian friends who also, as we learned, helped her throughout the writing process for Uncle Ernie. Both Jaye McBride and Jen McMullen treated us to uproarious opening sets containing – at Erin’s request – all new material. If the crowd’s reaction was any consolation, it’s safe to say this new material was working. Jen had particularly impressive crowd work, involving us directly in everything from opinions on holiday inflatables, to stories about her gynecologist, to high brow fart jokes. (To quote Erin from later in the night, “We all learned a lot more about Jen tonight, didn’t we?”) Jaye then delivered a rapid fire smattering of cringe-inducing hilarity that included lines like “kids are like reusable grocery bags – I always forget them in the car” amongst stories of growing up in a conservative area upstate. 

Sprinkled in between the sets were rehearsed faux-interview questions that segued ever so swimmingly into clips from Erin’s new special, and the making of it. The audience was treated to scenes from the writers’ room, the stage, and even a hilarious-yet-heartwarming backstage interaction between Erin and her mother, who was both in attendance last night and the subject of more than a few jokes. (“Sorry, Mom,” I believe was uttered more than once.)

Impressively, when Erin took the stage at the end of the night for her routine, it was not with jokes from the special, but with a whole new slate of material to try out. (Seriously, when does she sleep?) Sprinkled throughout was an inner dilemma over whether she wants to be famous, including an anecdote about meeting a very chatty Tracy Morgan. In between were musings on incompetent drivers, getting and staying sober, and scamming nuns. We even learned her husband drinks like a pussy. (How was your walk home, Erin?)

But, what struck me the most about the evening was the feeling of pride that reverberated throughout the hall. Not only from the star herself, who had more than enough to feel proud about. But from the entire audience, watching a hometown celebrity kill it on stage after meticulously piecing together a seamless, full hour-long special which, I can only imagine, is no easy task. Quite simply, we were gracious admirers, watching a true entertainer make it all look easy. 

I had the pleasure recently of being a guest on Erin’s “Mistress of None” podcast (that’s right: she does THAT, too) and we commiserated about how uncool we each often felt whilst performing. But sitting in the crowd last night, one thing was abundantly clear: Erin Fucking Harkes was the coolest person in the room. 

Uncle Ernie the album is out now on all major streaming platforms. The full video special can also be streamed on YouTube. For upcoming performance dates, check her website or social media – don’t text her. Seriously.

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