Comedian Ian Harris has built an entire act around skepticism -- questioning things that have little basis in evidence. That might lead you to think he goes full throttle against religious fundamentalism. But he targets both liberal and conservative beliefs, even ones that extend beyond the religious and political arenas.

"I grew up in a weird kind of counterculture, with all this New Age stuff -- psychics, miracles, thinking positively," says Harris. "My mom was always New Age-y and would listen to these Indian guru kind of guys. People I knew would laugh about that (as if to say), we all know the real guy lives in Italy and wears a silly hat and a robe.

"To me, it's all the same thing," Harris continues. "You're still putting your faith in someone with strange religious garb telling goofy stories that don't make any sense in the real world."

Harris' new show is titled "Critical & Thinking." It will be available on pay-per-view TV and iTunes, beginning Aug. 12. It's a show, he says, that stands up for rationality, evidence and non-delusional thinking.

"It's definitely comedy fueled by skepticism," he says in an interview. "I call it 'free-thought comedy.' "


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Harris, 42, has not always taken this path in his humor. For 15 years, he says, he was a "regular" stand-up comic -- meaning he did impressions, including George Carlin, Keanu Reeves and the casts of "The Simpsons" and "Seinfeld." He talked about the working-class Santa Cruz family in which he grew up. But when he moved to Los Angeles (for the second time) to pursue a stand-up career 14 years ago, he decided to talk about something that meant more to him.

"I can sit around and talk about philosophy, religion and science all day long," he says. "Anthropology, astrophysics, evolution, abiogenesis -- that the stuff I think about all the time."

Harris says he's not interested in engaging in simplistic culture-war polemics with his comedy. He distrusts ideology from any perspective. Though he is merciless when it comes to attacking conservative sacred cows, he says he is just as thorough in dismantling the sacred cows of liberals.

"What I find funny nowadays are the things that people believe that don't have any evidence or reason. We say all the time, 'I take it on faith,' and that doesn't mean only religion, but anything we buy without real evidence on the right and the left. Both sides can be anti-science and can have this fundamental misunderstanding of science, whether it's climate change, vaccinations or whatever."

Harris exploits his talents at mimicry by creating characters on stage with whom he has mock debates about rationality and critical thinking.

"It might be four or five different friends and my uncle, all merged into one character, who sounds a certain way and thinks a certain way so that people go, 'Oh, yeah, I know that guy.' "

Ultimately, Harris says, he wants audiences to laugh and have a good time, but he also wants them to confront their own potential blind spots or magical thinking.

"I want to laugh at stuff that we all believe, or have all believed at one time or another," he says, "and point out how ridiculous or silly it was. 'How did I ever buy into that?' And, yet, we're still buying into it.

"We laugh hard at someone else's belief, but rarely do we take that same skeptical edge to our own. We'll laugh at the other guy's talking snake and Garden of Eden nonsense; then the next thing out of our mouth is about reading your thoughts or moving things with your mind. I don't necessarily think I'm right about everything. But I want to get my points out there and get people thinking."