Austin’s favorite Halloween themed standup comedy show returns this Wednesday night at the Spiderhouse Ballroom with many of Austin’s top comedians performing as various dead celebrities. Norman Wilkerson, whose Borscht Belt Satan character may be familiar to Doug Stanhope fans, returns with a wickedly funny, thoroughly original night of standup.
And the lineup is stacked. Austin comedy stalwarts including Matt Bearden, Mike MacRae, J.R. Brow, Jake Flores, Katie Pengra, Joe Hafkey and reigning Funniest Person in Austin champ Mac Blake are all slated to appear. I spoke with Norm about the origins of the show, what happens to us after we die, and Jack Klugman.
What is the Comedy Seance?
The Seance is basically an excuse for comics to dress up for Halloween and tell some jokes as somebody else for a night. The conceit of the show is that Satan, the host and emcee, has brought back the ghosts of a handful of dead celebrities to put on stage for a night of standup comedy. The celebrities themselves might have been comedians during their lives, but could just as easily have been politicians, actors, musicians… really anybody that it might be funny to hear from. It’s really left up to the creativity of the comic playing the part, and this year we have seven of the most creative and funniest people in Austin participating.
Where did you get the idea for the show?
Back when Avi Hartman and I were doing various comedy shows around town under the Austin Comedy Trainwreck banner, we were brainstorming ideas to try to get an audience to actually show up for a change. Halloween was coming up, so we figured we could do something with the comics dressing up in costumes. I was already working on my Satan character for another show, and it just sort of came together. That first year we asked everybody to chose a dead stand-up comedian to portray, and it was a big hit. The following year, a couple of people didn’t get the memo and chose celebrities from other walks of life. One comic even did a set as God. They wound up being some of the funniest sets of the night. After that, we just let everybody do whoever they wanted, and were amazed at some of the ideas people came up with.
Tell us a bit about your devil character and how it originated.
The Satan character was originally supposed to be sort of a cross between an old time borscht belt comic and Andrew Dice Clay, maybe with a bit of Tony Clifton thrown in. Since then, he’s sort of taken on a personality of his own. Back in 2007, when I was still occasionally opening for Doug Stanhope, he suggested I come up with a goofy character to do from time to time. I think it was his way of telling me he was bored with my act. About that same time, Lucas Molandes and I had come up with the idea of doing a Spite Club round as Jesus vs. Satan. This was at the same time that Avi and I were discussing the Seance idea, so it was sorta killing three birds with one stone. I was batting around ideas for a costume, when one day my wife came home from shopping with what is probably the most ridiculous Satan mask ever made. I just sort of developed the character from there.
Who will be channelled on Wednesday?
Some of the comics are being very mysterious about this. Matt Bearden is usually pretty secretive about his plans, but he never fails to deliver the set of the night. I’ve heard that we can expect Phyllis Diller and Winston Churchill to be making appearances. What I can tell you for certain is we have seven very talented and creative people on the show, all doing things you’ve never seen from them before.
If you could ask any famous dead person a question, who would you ask and what would you want to know?
Jack Klugman. I’d like to know if he’s honored that my wife names all of our cats after characters he’s played, or if he just thinks it’s creepy. My money’s on creepy.
What happens to us after we die?
We quit disappointing ourselves and others.
Can I have a hug?
Have you showered recently?
The Comedy Seance begins at 8pm on October 30th at the Spiderhouse Ballroom. Tickets are $10 at the door or $7 in advance when purchased here.