September 29, 2022
In the first minute of my interaction with the acclaimed comedian and recent Lake Placid Film Festival collaborator, one attribute became immediately apparent: Hollie Harper loves the spoken word. “I’m a linguistics nerd, I love everything from the etymology of words to new slang.” It’s this passion for words and how they resonate across communities and cultures that has influenced every step of Hollie’s professional journey in comedy.
While Hollie has had an affinity for humor going back to the days of watching the hit ABC sitcom Three’s Company as a child, her first major foray into the comedy world began shortly after graduating from The Theater School at DePaul University: “I started doing sketch comedy because I was watching other groups, which were very sparing at the time in New York City. That's when it really hit me, ‘wait, you could be doing this. This is not just a far off dream’”.
It’s after attending several sketch comedy shows that Hollie started to formulate her own troupe, AMERICAN CANDY. What began as a humble exercise in entertaining her community soon evolved at an exponential rate. AMERICAN CANDY grew to a team of nearly twenty talented individuals, performing 52 unique comedy shows over twelve years, to the delight of audiences across the Eastern Seaboard. These shows expertly explored the unique and hilarious circumstances of every kind of scenario, from the music industry and old Hollywood to the Wild West and the 1980s.
The one scenario they couldn’t foresee though was the incoming pandemic. COVID-19 pushed AMERICAN CANDY to experiment with a virtual platform, and in the process, led to a transformation of Hollie’s career. An online performance of their pandemic focused show, The Edge of Zoom, amassed over 33,000 views. “I spent 12 years packing [audiences] in New York City for each performance, and in one night, for our show that was online and made for online, we had more eyes on it than I had in 12 years of live sketch comedy shows.”
Thanks in part to this overnight success, Hollie now had an opportunity to grow her brand of comedy beyond sketch comedy. In June 2021, BRIC TV aired Hella Late with Hollie Harper, the celebrated talent’s melding of the sketch and late-night comedy worlds. While she loved her time in the sketch comedy world, “After being somebody that ran a show with almost 20 people. It was amazing to just write and do the whole show myself exactly how I wanted. It was a wonderful experience.”
A similarly fantastic experience came from her first collaboration with Adirondack Film during the Lake Placid Film Festival (LPFF) in 2021: “Last year I was on the panel discussing women in comedy. And then I did a 15-minute set for the audience, and they were wonderful. It was in a small capacity, but I was very interested in what they [Adirondack Film] were doing.”
She was so fascinated, in fact, that Hollie is returning to LPFF this year to co-host both a game show and Lake Placid Laughs with frequent collaborator and entertainment multihyphenate, Okema T. Moore: “ It's gonna be a lot of fun and I'm just really excited and lucky to collaborate with them [Adirondack Film]... [They] love people and film and want to put forth a great film festival.” The talented and passionate individuals at Adirondack Film help to compliment the picturesque location of LPFF, which Hollie found herself overtaken by: “I've been living in New York city for 27 years. So, to see that much nature was a little overwhelming, but beautiful and really necessary.”
Hollie’s comedy gives an excellent sense of her passion, drive, and effervescent energy. However, as she explained to me “It doesn't matter how long you know a person, you’ll never know their whole life. So, it really pays to ask people questions because you can very well be surprised.” In my roughly 40-minute conversation with Hollie, my questions helped me learn of her unique love of Psychology Today and the history of names, of her passion for understanding life’s patterns and what lies just beneath the surface of society’s daily interactions. I left our interview feeling rejuvenated and eager to learn more about how the words we use impact our relationships with others.
While Hollie is witty and an excellent comedian, it’s her knowledge and views on life that will leave you changed. Don’t believe me? Come to the Lake Placid Film Festival October 20-23rd (All-Access Passes are on sale now!) and you’ll be able to talk to her first hand. Can’t make it? In Hollie’s own words, “Look out for all of our social media, because we're gonna have some really wonderful things happening…”
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October 24, 2023