an interview with the king and queen of Halloween, Patrick Keene and Corin Wells
on genre, subverting expectations, and making things real f*cked up
|Sarah Rainone||Oct 26, 2019|
I’m still buzzing from the show I was part of last night, Black Lodge/White Noise: an Immersive David Lynch and David Bowie Halloween. I’ve been part of this big Twin Peaks Halloween party for something like SEVEN years, I think, and so it was fitting that it was my last big show before I trade in my Brooklyn apartment for a cozy little place in the woods somewhere where Massachusetts meets Rhode Island. (Don’t worry—I’ll still be here all the time, just living that airbnb life.)
And while our beloved party is coming to an end, I will always feel like The Log Lady character is a part of me. I’ve been playing my version of the role immortalized by the late Catherine E. Coulson for four years now (you can read about the Log Lady’s origins here). I feel so deeply connected to her that I decided to set up an email account so that people can ask my log questions, and I can translate. (People have said I’m pretty good at this but, honestly, I can’t take credit for the intuitive powers of my log. Hit us up at email@example.com.)
Speaking of Halloween, I also got the chance to join Fesh and JZT on their horror movie podcast, I was scared, too! We talk about a totally bananas movie I’m obsessed with, Beyond the Black Rainbow, and I was bestowed with my very own monster movie moniker, “The Headcrusher.”
In case you can’t tell, I love Halloween. The other day, someone asked me what movie I was watching and I said, “It’s apparently so scary people have begun seeing demons!”
And so, in honor of my favorite holiday, I interviewed two of my favorite comedic performers, Corin Wells and Patrick Keene, who both share my love of the weird and macabre. I was thrilled to see they both have horror-inspired character shows coming up at UCB Hell’s Kitchen next week. Check out Patrick in The Spotlight: A Spooky Showcase at October 30th at 7:30 pm and Corin in Tales from the Clit—same place, same night at 10:30 pm.
Since you both have spooky shows coming up at the UCB, I’ll start by asking, fave horror movie?
Patrick: My all-time favorite horror movie is Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but lately I have been really into Tenebrae and Deep Red. Argento movies can be so uneven in quality, but his maximalist style always gives you some amazing moments.
Corin: That's a tough one! I think I'll have to lean towards Patrick's answer but be a bit more basic about it and say Suspiria. I saw it very young and it imprinted on me. As is with most of my favorite horror movies. I have two much older brothers and a grandma who bought every VHS she saw, so I started watching at an age when the world is already so big and scary. Then you add a bunch of other wild nonsense to it like a witch coven/ballet school. I loved it. Some honorable mentions: Puppetmaster, Pet Sematary, and The Shining.
How does horror, or genre in particular, inspire your characters and comedy? Do you have a particular process for bringing genre into your work?
Patrick: Genre gives you a nice collective framework to communicate with an audience, without having to explain a base reality. There's also a very strong set of expectations that are fun to subvert. I just love horror so much and have since I was very young, so I love to play around in those tropes. One of my favorite things to do in improv is to initiate with a real trope/scene from a movie and see how it naturally gets filtered and twisted by the performers onstage since you obviously cannot recreate things perfectly.
Corin: Like Patrick said, genre provides the framework and the base reality where the performer and the audience can meet. The audience already understands this language and these tropes so they feel they're in on it. I think there is a fine line between comedy and horror so the two work very well together. Some of the best horror movies are also comedies. And it's one of the only genres that has a sub-genre of making fun of itself while still honoring it.
My comedy is usually inspired by the things I think about the most. That tends to be sex, race relations, anime, and horror. Horror is usually the launch pad for everything to come. I'm usually like... how can I make this real fucked up.
I think you both are willing to go to wild and twisted places in your comedy—but even when you’re playing demons or deities, they’re funny because they’re also so human. How do you strike the balance between “out there” and relatable?
Patrick: Actual people are really wild and twisted, so I don't find it so hard to balance those. I love to play freaks and find it easier to be the "real person,” rather than creating something insane/fantastical out of whole cloth. I have known a lot of twisted people in my life, so I am mostly just emulating them or cranking up what's already there.
Corin: In the best horrors, at the core of every freak, monster, or twisted person, is a very human justification as to why they are the way they are and why they do what they do. Candyman was the son of a slave who fell in love with a white woman. Carrie was a regular magic girl who was bullied and her mom sucked. The Scream killer is the son of a man who Sydney's mom had an affair with. These are all very real things that have happened to people in real life and horror shows the extreme side of those real things. I think in comedy we can take it a step further and completely subvert those ideas and make them ridiculous but still with relatable and real justifications.
Okay, let’s say a rando ghost, ghoul, or creepo wandered into the UCB, what do they think of your show?
Patrick: Any ghoul wandering into UCB would probably appreciate the amount of screaming and death in the show. I love to yell.
Corin: "Why is that woman's vagina lighting up?"
Have a wonderful week and a creeptastic Halloween, my little Saturdemons,