When your actual name is Chris Harder, you’re destined for a certain type of greatness. Burlesque, porn, theater – this smart and sexy star is claiming all the genres, along with our hearts and minds and… other organs! And now he’s about to debut a new stage show that combines it all. Thotyssey gets the hard facts from Chris Harder!
Thotyssey: Chris, hello and thanks for talking to us! Last Monday you debuted a new monthly burlesque revue at The Slipper Room, “Chris Harder’s Big Back Door.” Our girl FiFi DuBois was a guest performer! How did it go?
Opening night was a blast – it really did feel like the first time! I was definitely pleased with the performers, and of course FiFi turned it as always. There were also a lot of new audience members, and especially a lot of new queer folks in the crowd who were discovering the Slipper Room for the first time.
The next show is December 18th, and will be a very HARDER Candy “Christmas” show. I have Bootsie LeFaris, plus 2016 Miss Burlesque Hall of Fame Poison Ivory and the very handsome Roi King in the line-up.
The cold weather is upon us… do you own warm clothes? (Just kidding: as a North Dakota native, I am guessing you have survived some nightmarish cold weather situations).
I don’t hate a lot of things, but I do hate winter. It’s funny, because in general I don’t own a lot of “day wear” clothing, whether it’s a t-shirt or a winter coat. I’m pretty warm in my leather jacket and a hoodie, and once I hit the stage a g-string suffices.
So for those uninitiated: you are an adult film star, a renowned burlesque performer, and a creator of campy/sexy stage shows that you star in. Do you see all of these as being basically different shades of the same thing (performing using sexuality), or are they all completely different animals?
I think my burlesque and acting and writing work all fall somewhere under that greater “performance” umbrella. I do think porn and sex work is in many ways it’s own separate industry, not only because of the content but also the expectations of the audience. I don’t think a person goes to a burlesque show with the same intent as when downloading a porn clip. That’s not a judgment on either, just literally the reality of having different desires fulfilled. However, the link between porn and burlesque is the use of one’s body, and there have definitely been times in my career where the line between the two worlds has blurred.
As far as single burlesque performances go, does something stand out as a favorite number of yours?
I think my favorite number (and also audience favorite) is my Rhinestone Cowboy act. I like to call it “Brokeback Mountain the Musical.” It starts of very campy with Glenn Cambell’s classic tune but then switches gears with Big ‘n Riches “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy.”
How did you begin as a burlesque performer?
I got into burlesque through gogo dancing. I started meeting all these incredibly exciting and weird performers in nightlife, and the rest is pretty much history.
Do you still gogo dance at all, by the way?
I don’t really anymore. Much like porn, it’s sort of been naturally phasing itself out of my work as I’ve begun to write and produce more. I have a lot of great memories and friends from dancing in nightlife and working in porn though, and also zero regrets. I think I personally really needed those experiences – especially in my twenties – to figure out what I wanted to focus my energy on.
One very interesting aspect of your career trajectory is that you had already established yourself as a burlesque performer before venturing into porn in your later 20s. Usually porn stars step into burlesque as a way to branch out of that industry. What motivated you to get into porn?
I know, I always have to be different! Like I mentioned earlier, there were times when my nightlife / burlesque work would venture into more adult atmospheres, so it was always in the back of my mind that I might be interested in porn. I think I finally just got to a point where I thought, “well it’s now or never.” Interestingly enough, my porn career helped to elevate my burlesque work because all of a sudden I was “the porn star” performing burlesque.
You’ve talked about being a relative late bloomer in regards to exploring your sexuality. That’s probably healthier when approaching burlesque and porn… you have more maturity, and are less likely to be exploited, right?
Honestly, I think there’s always an exception to the rule. I’ve met guys much younger than me who by all accounts seem very well adjusted, and I’ve met older men who spiral into drug addiction. I think the most important practice one can do is the same thing we should all ideally be doing with our lives, which is to know your boundaries.
You have clearly evolved in many ways since you came to our attention, including physically. I.e., you went from a smoother boyish-next-doorish look to a more built and traditionally “masculine” look. Were you conscious of that change as it was happening?
I was definitely conscious, and I think most choices I’ve made with my body and appearance have been directly related to what I’m “promoting.” However, that notion of being “image conscious” is something all entertainers have to be cognizant of–if they want a paycheck.
Some gigs are worth adjusting yourself, whether it be for money or creative fulfillment. Case in point: I actually just shaved my beard off yesterday. Last spring I tried shaving my beard. I won’t lie, I definitely missed it, but I wanted to see if it felt more right for my show where I play a variety of characters. Yet at the same time I had this fear: what if shaving off my beard makes me look unattractive to audience members or fans? Well, fuck it. Hair grows. And as it turned out, I discovered that, yes, I actually am more than just my facial hair.
One thing that strikes me from your porn videos is that you generally look like you are having so much genuine fun doing whatever it is that you are doing. Not every guy in the biz gives off that positive energy. Was that always legit for you, or did it sometimes require good acting?
Thanks for that! I think it’s been 50/50 for me. Whether the sex is great or not, or even if you have a real connection with your partner, there’s still very much a rhythm to a porn scene. Good editing can take care of a lot of awkward moments (and people), but I do try to “show up” for the scene. I mean, I’ve got to put that BFA to work!
I find a lot of porn fans to be incredibly rude and annoying and pushy when they see their favorite stars out on the town… going up to them and getting pics with them, and getting handsy. People seem much more forward with porn actors than Hollywood actors. Does that kind of huge public demand for your attention annoy you, or is it kinda cool?
I think it’s all about intention – and especially now in our country, consent. I’m flattered when people recognize me and want a photo. I’m not overly thrilled when anyone grabs or slaps my ass after the photo – especially if they haven’t tipped.
Are we becoming a socially inept species? So many of us are just tapping for sex on our apps now, or even just staying home alone and jacking off to porn constantly.
I think we make our own happiness. If you want a real person you have to act like a real person. (But sometimes you just need PornoTube.)
You’ve created several campy, fun retro plays based around your characters “Nasty Drew & the Harder Boy,” starring yourself along with burlesquer Nasty Canasta and rotating casts of drag queens. The shows always a big hit at at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. What inspired those?
I created the Nasty Drew and That Harder Boy series as a challenge to myself before my 30th birthday to get back into writing and acting. And I’m a loud and proud Nancy boy and Nancy Drew fan. I also love shows that combine burlesque and drag. The Nasty Drew series is scripted much like a musical, except instead of building a scene up to a big musical number, there’s a burlesque or drag act. And of course, plenty of kitsch.
Are there any more of their adventures in the works?
Right now I’m taking a break from my favorite striptease sleuthers, but I’m looking to be back this summer with a new Nasty / Harder adventure.
Tell me about Porn to Be a Star, which you are bringing to the Stonewall stage Nov. 29th-30th, Dec. 3rd, 6th and 7th. It looks like there will be plenty of sexy dancing, but also you’re playing multiple interrelated characters.
Porn to be a Star is actually the “revamped” production of my first solo show, #BigBrightStar. I was able to tour and workshop the latter show this past summer in Ft. Lauderdale, and after that experience I decided to do a larger rewrite of the the show… and thus, Porn to be a Star was born. People who saw #BigBrightStar will recognize parts of the show in this new creation. The biggest change, though, is that instead of focusing only on my experiences in the industry, Porn to be a Star gives you a meatier slice of the world.
I’ve won in the past for Best Burlesque and also Best Gogo Boy, but I’ve never won for best Male Entertainer. It’s always an honor to be nominated by your peers, but ultimately I think it’s important to just focus on the work.
Do you think that after having created this show and those other recent works, playwriting will be your primary calling?
What’s interesting to me is that I moved to NYC ten years ago very much wanting to be a part of the “legit” theater. My path ended up going in a different direction, but here I am now writing and producing my own work. In a way, I think I needed to actually just live my twenties to get an idea of the kind of person I am and the kind of work I really want to be a part of, and be creating. Burlesque and porn have been part of that journey, and I’m looking forward to what’s next.
Anything else coming up for you?
Right now my major focus is Porn to be a Star. After that, I just have my “Big Back Door” December 18th, which as you can imagine is still its own handful. I’ll also be touring Porn to be a Star in February in Orlando, and then in April in Toronto. And then… the world!
Chris Harder hosts “Big Back Door” monthly at the Slipper Room on third Mondays (9pm). Check Thotyssey’s calendar for all of his scheduled appearances. Follow Chris on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and his website.