As the Halloween season approaches, horror fans looking to quench their thirst for the macabre a little early have an opportunity at this year’s Fringe Fest to laugh themselves to death. Philly Improv Theatre presents Alley of Nightmares, a live sketch-comedy show inspired by classic horror anthologies, such as Tales from the Crypt, Creepshow and the ever-popular Twilight Zone. With “the Gatekeeper” as their guide, creator Paul Triggiani, along with co-creator Rob Baniewicz, intend to thrill and chill audiences with laughter while paying homage to a beloved genre. We spoke with Paul about their on-stage exploits.
In your own words, describe Alley of Nightmares.
Alley Of Nightmares is a sketch comedy show based on classic horror anthologies. In horror anthology stories, things always begin in the “real world” and descend into horror when something bizarre or fantastic happens. Sketch comedy is the same way. We just blended the two.
What was your inspiration for this project?
Rob and I both grew up reading Tales from the Crypt and watching The Twilight Zone and The Kids in the Hall. When we met doing sketch comedy (in Meg & Rob and Secret Pants, respectively), we connected on those interests and realized that a lot of the sketches we were writing could easily be horror stories if not written as comedy. It started there.
Is your goal to frighten your audience, or are you more interested in its comedic value?
We’re in this to give people a good show and make them laugh. One of our cast members, Matt Schmid, wanted me to stress this: This is a comedy show. If anything in this show legitimately scares you, you probably shouldn’t see any more comedy shows.
Describe your background as an artist.
We both got into comedy because that’s what you do when you’re an anxious person, I guess. We both trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and People’s Improv Theater in New York and with Kevin McDonald from The Kids in the Hall, but the best teacher you can have in comedy is just doing it. Audiences are the best teacher we’ve ever had.
Have you been a fan of the horror genre for long, or is this a more recent favorite?
Rob is and has been a horror fan for a long time; he directed a short horror film that screened in the TromaDance film festival, among others; he also frequents Exhumed Films screenings. I’m much less of a horror fan because I’m not any fun.
How do you think the Cryptkeeper would fare in an episode of The Twilight Zone written by Alfred Hitchcock?
We decided that if this happened, the Cryptkeeper would wake up in a world where everyone takes his puns literally. That said, he’d be fine. He’s a corpse.
Alley of Nightmares runs Sept 19 – 22. Times vary. $12. Mainstage at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street. fringearts.ticketleap.com/alley-of-nightmares