The Halloween Comedy Jam combines improv sketch comedy, stand-up and short films into a horror-themed, mixed-media variety show created by local stage-hand and comedian Larry Perewiznyk.
Perewiznyk came up with the idea for the show in an effort to embrace Halloween, a holiday he often misses out on because of his packed schedule.
“The idea started not that long ago,” he told City Paper. “I really haven’t been able to celebrate Halloween for maybe six years. Usually in October I’m busy working so I never get to really do anything Halloween-ish.”
Perewiznyk has appeared in various short films, and over the 25 years that he’s lived in Charleston, he has worked at Theatre 99, Threshold Rep and Charleston Stage. He also recently performed with Shortwave Kitsch at Flowertown Players. And this year, he was moved to combine his interests, deciding to put together his own Halloween project.
“This year, I’m gonna do it — just gonna celebrate Halloween,” he said. “Thought about doing an improv set at Theatre 99, just a Halloween-themed improv set, then I thought: Let’s add some sketches. Then: I know a couple filmmakers here, why not do some short films as well? Basically just trying to bring all these different talented people together.”
The show takes place at the Old Trolley Theatre in Summerville on Oct. 28, and could become an annual event.
This year’s lineup includes comedy from C.H.A.M.P.S., an improv collective made up of local talents Andy Livengood, Matt Perry and Henry Riggs. Sketches will be performed by Super Grouper, a comedy all-star squad made up of performers from all over town. Tim Hoeckel, local funnyman and Charleston Comedy Fest regular, will be the stand-up act. And the mini film festival will feature Michael Whaley’s short films Ghost Note and Killer Assistant and the world-premiere of Michael James Daly’s Woof’d.
Perewiznyk, who will be hosting the event and may join in on some of the improv himself, has given his comedy groups carte blanche to craft whatever acts they want, as long as they adhere to the Halloween horror theme. The combination of comedy and horror is something that Perewiznyk sees as a natural fit.
“I’ve always loved horror and comedy. I’ve always been very passionate about both those things,” he said. “They’re not really mutually exclusive. They’re the extremes of certain emotions. Horror is like sadness or fear, but you take that to the extreme. Comedy is happiness and joy and you take that to the extreme as well. I think they really mix quite well.”
Henry Riggs added, “It’s all improvised so nothing is planned,” about the C.H.A.M.P.S. set. “But the nature of improv being that everything that we do on stage comes from the audience suggestions, we may have a little fun with spooky suggestions that we work into the show.”
Whaley’s Ghost Note and Killer Assistant are hot off their very successful festival runs. Ghost Note alone played at 13 different film festivals, including major events like GenreBlast, Nightmares Film Festival and Austin Revolution Film Fest, where it won Best U.S. Genre Short Film. Killer Assistant played 11 festivals, and took home Best Horror Comedy from the Stranger Days Independent Film Fest.
“I think it is great that I was asked to show a couple of my movies locally at an amazingly curated event,” said director/writer Michael Whaley. “There is so much great stuff happening that night. I am glad more people get to check out some of my work.”
Woof’d comes from Daly, whose Fame Fatale won several awards this year, including Best Comedy Short at the GenreBlast Film Festival. Like Fame Fatale, Woof’d is another story, based on Daly’s life experiences, that is given the horror-comedy treatment.
“I wish there were more [events] like it,” Riggs said. “It’s a great way to expose audiences to new experiences. Charleston is a town that loves a brand or a sure fire hit and I wish there was a larger appetite for discovery. Shows like this are a great way to get a little taste of new and exciting ideas in town.”
Perewiznyk added, “This is just one big party for me.” The show will feature a few surprises throughout, and while the show isn’t meant for those younger than 18, there will be some trick-or-treating involved for the audience.
Halloween Comedy Jam takes place 8 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Old Trolley Theatre in Summerville. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door and can be purchased at oldtrolleytheatre.ludus.com.
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