Barking mad? Manchester comic Harriet Dyer hopes her night gives people a place to laugh their troubles away

They reckon laughter is the best medicine and with that in mind one Manchester comedian is hoping that her night helps people in a very therapeutic way.

Harriet Dyer, who originally hails from Cornwall, has been running the Barking Tales comedy night at Joshua Brooks since the start of the year with a very simple – yet affective – goal.

She wants a place where people who suffer from mental health issue can enjoy comedy – also about mental health – and feel safe.

And the inspiration for Barking Tales? The dawning realisation that she too suffers from mental health problems, something she discovered after her last show at the Edinburgh Fringe Barking at Aeroplanes.

She said: “I always thought that I was just eccentric but when I did my last Edinburgh I started to think that I had mental health issues.

“I didn’t really feel any different because in a way I’d always been like that. I had lots of people coming up to me saying how they could relate to me and there have obviously always been lots of things in the papers about performers suffering from mental health.”

So how difficult is it putting yourself and your issues out there for all to see?

“A lot of the stuff I started doing at Barking Tales was bits from my show in Edinburgh which is tried and tested and I broke bits up.

“Some of it was difficult because it was honest but needed a punchline so I did a bit about killing by self, which was a bit eggy, but I said I did it by drinking fabric softener so suddenly it was funny,” she says.

“I’m not someone who can sit down and write. I like the idea of it but it just doesn’t happen. If I hear people saying something or think of something then I write it down on my phone and then go through it.”

Harriet, who donates any profits after comics have been paid to mental health charity Manchester Mind, says the reaction from performers and audiences alike have been good.

She said: “The people we’ve had have been very good. It’s been quite easy because comics want gigs but I think they get something out of doing it as well. Some of them find it good to talk about these issues and actually find it cathartic.”

While the audience numbers have been good so far, Harriet knows that there are still plenty of people who still find the thought of going to a comedy night too difficult to muster.

But she says she is determined to keep plugging away in her adopted home city in the hope that some of them will find that confidence to take the plunge for a night of laughter.

She said: “Definitely at the minute the plan is to grow the audience numbers in Manchester and hopefully get people who want to come but still feel nervous to come along.

“It’s quite sad really that people really want to do something but for whatever reason they just can’t. Hopefully this provides them with that safe place to try it.”

Barking Tales takes place on the first Wednesday of every month at Joshua Brooks in Princess Street.

This month’s headliner is reformed alcoholic and drug addict Jim Smallman who also suffers with bipolar disorder.

For more information and tickets click here.

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