November 1, 2007


Smile if you've still got skin!

Holy crap do I love Halloween! Always have, ever since I was a wee-one. It's my favorite holiday. And every year around Halloween the improv troupe I perform with (The National Comedy Theatre, San Diego) does our "Spooktacular" shows. Actually, in years past, our "Spooktacular" shows were 90 minutes of pure suck. It was our worst show of the year. Oh sure, we'd carve a pumpkin and hang up a bendy cardboard skeleton or two... but the vibe of the whole thing was never quite right. So we began to fear and loathe our Halloween improv shows.

Well, about 5 years ago I decided to sort of take over the duties of "Spooktacular" and really dress it up. We needed to embrace the horror of the whole thing. So every year, I plan on about a 4 to 5 day ordeal, preparing the theatre for the shows.

First off, we cheese up the performance. The team dives into the campiness of doing "spooky" improv games, and everything is themed to go with Halloween, even down to our big "Spooktacular" show ending... complete with dramatic music, the team killed off one by one with arrow shots, and then fog filling the theatre as we all return to life as zombies and shamble off the stage to Thriller.

Quick! See if you can spot when I turn on the fog machine!
(For some reason this video is kinda jerky, especially at the end, don't know why.)

It's haunting hokum at its best, or worst, depending on how you feel about it all.

Once we started to embrace the Spooktacular show, it quickly became our most popular show of the year. We've had a couple of slow years... like this one, with all the fires burning in San Diego. But over all, it's a good night and a lot of fun. And a big part of what Spooktacular is, is haunting up the theatre.

The poor man's Time Tunnel. (Yeah, look up that reference.)

Our normal stage is basically a black-box, with a big, yellow border around it. Why a big yellow border? You got me, but it's there and it's square. So this year I decided to cover it up as best I could. Over the past 5 years I've picked up a lot of Halloween props and decorations to use, and each year I add new stuff. This year I bought more black material! Woo-hoo-- DRAPES!

Who said this was a bare bones production?

The idea is to make it all look as much like a haunted mansion type thing as possible, yet still be a space where improv actors can perform. On either side of the stage, there are raised platforms. On the stage right side there is a platform we use as an elevated stage to add levels to scenes. On stage left is another platform that is used primarily for storage. Both these platforms are great for dressing up. Stage left is where I put the graveyard. Below is the entrance to the graveyard, it's what audience members first see when they walk up the stairs into the theatre.

Um... everything seems to have teeth here. I am NOT okay with this.

This year there was a TV on the platform. It was being used for a sketch show. Since it was there I decided to implement it into the whole Spooktacular theme. And what better way, than with my big fat head!

So, that's what a real headstone looks like.

I video taped myself as just a floating head and put it on the TV. All the head did was look around at the audience before the show. The head looks around, glares at people, gets angry, even falls asleep. There's 45 minutes of this video, not a loop. Eh, I had a free evening to sit and stare into the camera. Actually, I did it really late at night, so when I fall asleep on camera, I really dozed for a few minutes.

The other platform is where Mr. Bones sits and watches the show. This year, however, I gave him a family.

Mr. Bones, the Wife and Kid hanging out at the theatre.

Once the theatre's all dressed up, all we do as add spooky music, light all the electric candles, lower the houselights and presto! Spooktacular is ready to begin.

I performed in 5 shows over Spooktacular weekend. Two on Friday, both of which went great. Then three shows on Saturday. The first show was the best, the second was full of drunks, but still fun, and then we did a Midnight long-form show, our "Midnight Spooktacular". That's a free-form long form improv show where we can swear and take more adult themes.

Who's hungry for ribs?

And then on Sunday, I had to tear it all down again and the theatre returned to normal.

Spooktacular 2007 was officially over.

I'll have to wait a year for the next Spooktacular... but even so, I always carry a little Spooktacular with me year round. Well, not literally. I guess I'm just kinda' creepy.


Eugene said...

Is the DVD of your floating disembodied head available for sale? And does it come with directory commentary?

Anonymous said...

Awesome stuff Tom! Seriously, dig the pictures and one of these Halloweens I'm gonna haveta get down there and check it out. I love floating Tom head -- totally Haunted Mansion style. How do you deal with the drunks? If only there was more shot by shot description of the whole thing, like of a hockey game... (Jes kiddin' Eug, but seriously you haven't seen SPARTACUS? man... This is a test of the cross-blog comment system. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!)

Tom said...

I hope to have the DVD out in time for Christmas, so look for a mid-November release. The extras are going to be a little sparse though. July '08 is when the extended "Director's Cut" will be available and that will have all the extras you're looking for.

You've NEVER SEEN SPARTACUS?! Eugene, get up to date on your Kubrick man!

Anon, glad you liked the pics. I actually video taped the whole process of me decorating the theatre and getting ready for the shows, just for my own geeky fun. I might post it on YouTube when once I've got it all cut together.

Charlotte said...

Post the 45 min. reel of your disembodied floating head on the Tube o' You.

Anonymous said...


actually, anon was Hen-raaaaay! I forgot to sign it. How's everything? Did you see South Park last week? Where the boys go to imaginationland -- with all beloved characters? And terrorists attack... And Cheer is shot in the head execution style. Then the terrorists are carrying her decapitated head around. Pretty funny.

Brian said...


Tom said...

So that was you Dr. Gilroy, sneakin' around my blog!

I missed that South Park, I'll have to check online to find it. Nothin's more fun that seeing decapitated Care Bears running around.

Mike said...

Spooktacular would be horrible nothingness without Tom Hart. Thank you, sir. Thank you.

Tom said...

I do what I can with cheap decorations and cheap jokes.

Steve said...

The "zombie walkoff" pales in comparison to earlier Spooktactuclars, when we'd all just stay dead on the floor until the audience awkwardly filed out of the room (Hey, Tom--Steve J. from CsZ Santa Barbara).