One show, three terrors. It's the Triple Feature Horror Show that opens this weekend at the Dallas Comedy House (DCH). One portion is inspired by Ghostbusters. Another by Alien. And the third by Seinfeld. To learn more about the show, I sat down with creators Michael Corbett, Ryan Goldsberry, Grant Redmond, Nick Scott, and Cody Tidmore as they were taking a well-deserved Alaskan cruise. Let’s talk about inception (not the movie, though if you want to touch on it, feel free). How did the idea for the show come about? How long did it take to produce it (write it, practice it, etc.)? And how did you choose the cast?
Grant: Corbett, Cody, and I did a Halloween sketch show together last year and Corbett pitched the idea of doing a narrative Halloween show this year with us. But since Cody and I are too busy for our own good, I pitched the idea that we could do a triple feature in one hour. Three casts, three directors, and three sets of writers. This would ease the load on everyone involved. Corbett pitched out the idea to Ryan and Nick to be the writers for the other two stories, while Cody and I tackled ours.
Cody: I’m just going to add to what Grant said because, as our friends on social media are painfully aware, there’s nothing more obnoxious than two people saying the exact same thing. (But please like both of our statuses.) In terms of how the idea came about: Originally, we were running with a campier take on different Halloween tropes. But, at the time, we were watching a lot of Seinfeld and doing a lot of Seinfeldian bits, and it sorta just hit us how fun it would be to try to marry those two worlds. Oh, and for the record, I still have yet to see Inception. Hope that’s OK.
Michael: Inception...wow, great movie. You know, by the end Dom had just stopped caring whether or not he was in a dream, and because of that he finally found peace. Anyways, for this show, I spoke with Grant about doing another Halloween sketch show but didn’t want it to just be another montage like Stage Fright, our 2015 Halloween sketch show. Initially, I pitched the idea of a knock-off of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, starring Grant and Cody and a cast of more contemporary movie monsters. That conversation evolved into a variety of ideas, and finally, we settled on the triple-feature format, which for me was inspired entirely by The Simpsons’ "Treehouse of Horror." I liked the idea of giving someone 15 minutes to tell a story or to make a parody of an existing property.
Grant: Cody and I wrote the "Dracula" portion. It's based on Seinfeld and was really fun to write for their voices. It didn't take us all too long since we were already fans of the show. The hard part was casting for people who could mimic these crazy characteristics that Seinfeld gave us.
Cody: Agreed. Casting was definitely the hardest (and most crucial) part because we weren’t necessarily looking for someone who can embody the mannerisms of Dracula, but who can embody Jerry Seinfeld as if he were Dracula. Although, as someone who is already covered in hair and hates everything, embodying Wolfman Costanza was a kind of natural progression.
Michael: Our initial meeting was in July, and we secured Nick and Ryan as the other directors shortly thereafter. So, we’ve been working on it since then. Of course, when I say “we” I mean Grant, Cody, Nick, and Ryan, who actually wrote the segments. I just watched from a safe distance and kept track of deadlines.
Grant: For casting, Cody and I just made a list of performers we’re fans of and chipped away at who could possibly play these roles. Eventually, we landed on our existing cast and we’re ecstatic that they all said yes. Casting our host was probably the easiest part, though. Our host, Goreticia, is played by Sallie Bowen, who is one of the best character actors I've seen at DCH. Really goes all out with makeup and costumes and it's really fun to watch.
Cody: Couldn’t have said it better myself, so I won’t. Our "Dracula" cast is phenomenal. And we’ve had our eye on Sallie’s character work for a long time, most notably in her rap group, Gross Bitch, which you should definitely check out. She’s embodied Goreticia so well it’s almost like she’s a fantastic weirdo in real life, too.
Michael: When it came to casting, I left it up to the directors of each segment to decide who they wanted to cast. I felt it was important to give them as much freedom as possible to ensure that each segment had its own distinct feel and matched the vision of its director. Grant, Nick, and Ryan have all taught sketch classes at DCH, so I knew they would have a lot of good ideas when it comes to casting. As for the host character, we knew we needed someone who would really elevate the role, and Sallie was an obvious choice. We gave her an overview of what we needed the host to do but wanted to give her the opportunity to craft a character of her own design. Needless to say, she did not disappoint.
Ryan: Honestly, not a fan of Inception. I thought it was beautiful to look at, but underwhelming and condescending to its audience. The premise really wasn’t that hard to grasp. We’ve all seen Nightmare on Elm Street and Ocean’s Eleven. Why did we need Ellen Page’s character asking about the mechanics every 12 seconds? Was anyone really not getting it after the initial, “Oh we go in someone’s dream and then do kind of a heist” explanation?
As for my portion, I started writing in July, finished a first draft in August, and did rewrites up until mid-September, when we started rehearsing. What I ended up doing for casting was asking people that I respect as performers and that I knew were fans of Alien. Even though our scene strayed far away from a direct adaption, I thought it would be cool if everyone involved was a fan of the original property. Couldn’t be happier with the group of people that said yes.
Nick: I dig Inception, but mostly because I love little trinkets and it was nice to see little trinkets get to shine as important plot points.
Shortly after Corbett talked to me about joining up, I was reading stuff about the new Ghostbusters online and the idea to do my segment dealing with all the blowback came to me. I pitched it to Corbett, who liked it, then I put off writing it until like three days before we were supposed to have our first meet-up. In my head, I cast the sketch before I wrote it based on performers I had seen around DCH, then wrote the parts for them, hoping they’d be able to do it. And they were (able to do it).
What is something you’ve believed incorrectly about Halloween for a long time?
Grant: That it’s meaningless once you get older because you end up becoming a guy opening the door and giving away all your candy to random kids. Now I just turn off all the lights and go to a show or party and ignore the kids. Much more fun.
Cody: For the record, two years ago we handed out candy to the kids on our block, and it was absolutely delightful. Separately, I agree with Grant: It’s silly to think Halloween is for kids. Halloween is just silly in general. If you’re like us, you should embrace it, go to a Halloween karaoke party and try to sing both parts to "A Whole New World" while dressed as Bob Ross and a Reverend.
Michael: You know that whole checking your kid’s candy to make sure it wasn’t tampered with or poisoned? There’s only one documented occurrence of that ever happening. It happened in Pasadena, Texas, and the culprit was the child’s father. It’s something to keep in mind when you read about all those creepy clown incidents. Odds are, most of them never actually happened. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be afraid of clowns, though. Remain ever vigilant.
Ryan: That next year is the year I’ll be comfortable with a sleeveless costume. Not that I have any sleeveless costume ideas (not enough hair to pull off Snake Plissken). But if I had a killer one, I know I wouldn’t be comfortable with it.
Nick: That the blood of the innocent must be shed each All Hallow’s Eve in order to keep the spirit world at bay. Boy, have I done a lot unnecessary, terrible things.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever heard about yourself that isn’t true?
Grant: That I'm a catch.
Ryan: That I’m a catch.
Michael: That I thought Grant and Ryan were catches.
Cody: That Nick doesn’t think I’m a catch.
Nick: That Cody thinks that I don’t think that he’s a catch.
What’s the most interesting opportunity you’ve gotten through DCH?
Grant: Any commercial or even audition that I've had a chance to do through DCH has been a great experience. I also pick up writing gigs here and there, which is great, because I'm poor.
Cody: The opportunity to goof around with some amazingly talented, incredibly funny people is something I truly cherish. Also Grant’s writing gigs; we’re poor.
Ryan: Getting to teach sketch has definitely been my favorite part of the last year-and-a-half. I get more nervous for my student’s sketch shows than I have for any show I’ve ever been a part of. Seeing other people get as excited about comedy as I do really is the best.
Michael: I actually ended up in my current job because the person doing the interview would frequently attend shows at DCH. It allowed me to completely gloss over my previous work experience and talk instead about a subject I was actually passionate about. Three years later and here I am doing this interview while I should be working at that very job. This isn’t getting published, right?
Nick: I actually got my current job through DCH, and I got a book published thanks in large part to the DCH community, so probably that time I got to eat a whole cake on stage with my hands.
Finally, how do you want audiences to feel when they leave the show?
Grant: That we did Seinfeld justice with our script. Although we are technically monsters, so were they.
Cody: Exactly. That, and to be slightly annoyed. This is Seinfeld we’re talking about.
Ryan: I hope we remind people that the true meaning of Halloween is in our hearts, and the real treat is the friends and family we have to share this special time of year with.
Nick: Despair that the world is a terrible place, and that there is nothing they can do about it except come back and see the show again.
Michael: Terrible sadness that the show has ended and a longing for more. I hope this feeling stays with them for the next calendar year, and they can only find peace by attending whatever version of a Halloween show we put on next October. It’s all about repeat customers.
The Triple Feature Horror Show takes place Oct. 21-22 and Oct. 28-29 at the Dallas Comedy House. Tickets on sale now.
Jason Hensel is a graduate of the DCH improv training program. He manages the DCH blog and performs with .f.a.c.e., the '95 Bulls, and Bound Together.