As soon as I downloaded the video of the comedian/magician and the contortionist, it was obvious that she should’ve been standing on a chair. Comedian/magician David Harris looks very tall next to 5-foot-2 contortionist Cheryl Birch during our interview in the Fox 9 green room. While keeping her muscles warm by assuming unimaginable positions, Birch claimed that nothing on her body popped. But I know I heard a bone-like pop, as opposed to a muscle pop (something I know about, having blown out a calf muscle on a tennis court). This little woman is one giant muscle, but her forearms are most startling because they are as muscular as a boa constrictor (and thanks, I know boa constrictors don’t have arms).
Upcoming Harris performances are Dec. 14 at Running Aces Casino & Racetrack in Forest Lake; Dec. 23 at Joke Joint Comedy Club, St. Paul; and New Year’s Eve at Dancing Dragonfly Winery, St. Croix Falls, Wis.
Q: A comedian/magician. Why?
A: [Big laugh] I’ve always loved performing and it’s nice to be able to combine the two. I’ve been lucky to win two Midwest Emmys for my work. I’ve always wanted to celebrate others’ talent and so I kind of put together this vaudeville remix — comedy, variety, music and talk show — where we feature the top talent in the Twin Cities.
Q: Does being a contortionist help in romantic situations, Cheryl?
A: [Laughter] No, not really. Mostly it just sounds good on paper.
Q: Who inspired you, David?
A: A lot of different magicians. I always liked watching David Copperfield as a kid and local magicians. Same thing with comedians.
Q: Now, David, you know what is going on onstage when David Copperfield performs, right?
A: I know a few things. There are some things that still fool me. I also have other heroes like Mac King in Vegas. Penn and Teller. I know some things but not everything all the time, especially when it comes to magic. [Laughter]
Q: The sleight of hand — we’re always looking at the wrong hand, aren’t we?
A: No, that’s not actually true. And, of course, I couldn’t tell you if it was true. It’s more about direction than misdirection is as much as I’m going to tell you. [Here Davis looked mischievous]. To me it’s not like, “Let’s figure this trick out.” I like the whole presentation. … It’s the trick itself, as well as the comedy and other things around it, that you just get drawn into. That’s probably how you feel [he points at Cheryl] when you are doing your thing. [She agrees.]
Q: How often do the tricks go bad, really bad, David?
A: It’s been a while. The cool thing is I also do comedy, so I can cover it up — “No, no, no. That was supposed to happen,” as the scarves are hanging out of my sleeve. That’s also part of the magic, I guess.
Q: As a child, did you do these things, Cheryl?
A: I was doing it when I was about 13 or 14. Did it for a few years, then I took 10 years off and didn’t do anything. Got back into it again; now I’m almost 30.
Q: Given your arm strength, David would not win an arm wrestling contest?
A: Despite my strength, David’s height would definitely work to his advantage in an arm wrestling contest. However, if we had a contest to crush rocks with our bare hands, maybe I would win thanks to my aerialist grip strength.
Q: Has the contortionist ever had to put a date in his place using her strength?
A: No. I like to think my quick wit takes care of that.
Q: Have you been injured?
A: I had a rib that was out of place and it was so painful I thought I had broken something. I went to urgent care and was in pain for weeks. With all the acrobatics I do, friends are like, “What in God’s name did you do?” I was like literally throwing out trash, and that did it.
Q: Does being tiny make it easier to be a contortionist?
A: While many contortionists are small in stature, I’ve also known tall people with fantastic flexibility. So even as tall as David is, he could be a contortionist, too.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.