by Gregory L. Hall
Ever since I was a little dude, I’ve had three great passions. Comedy, horror and my wife. I’m about ten years older than my wife so she wasn’t even on the earth yet, but she may read this interview and I want to stay in her good graces. In fact, I wanted to write this entire blog about you, sweetie-lumpkin, but the nice interviewer told me to focus only on comedy and horror.
I love comedy. I love laughing and hearing others laugh. Back in my wee days I absorbed Marx Brothers movies and Get Smart and anything with Jonathan Winters. On Monday nights I would sneak down the stairs and crouch down out of my parents’ view because I wasn’t allowed to watch a TV show called Laugh-In. (For you youngsters in the crowd, Laugh-In was like Saturday Night Live but at a faster 60’s-style pace. It had what my parents called ‘grown-up humor’. Translated, that means punchlines aimed at sex and drugs, slamming President Nixon and Goldie Hawn dancing in a bikini. Sock it to me!) When I was finally old enough to listen to George Carlin albums, I fell in love. I knew I wanted to be a comedian. (Carlin was a rebellious comic who was as brilliant as he was silly. And albums are big disks with a tiny hole in the middle that you put on a ‘record player’ to hear music or other sounds. Some of this you’re going to have to use the Google, kids, or I’ll be interrupting myself this entire blog!)
I first grabbed a microphone when I was fifteen. There was one comedy club in a bad part of the city and I would get a friend of mine to drive me down. I had to lie to the owner that I was eighteen to get on stage. But scarier was lying to my dad about where I’d go at night. I never made it back by curfew so my buddy would say we partied too hard at his house. Looking back, it’s funny that I’d rather get in trouble for maybe drinking underage and raising hell than to have Pop discover I was cracking jokes in front of an audience. He was an old school guy who believed you aimed your life at working for the biggest corporation. Financial security. Getting paid a handful of cash from random gigs wasn’t going to fly with my dad. So I lied, a lot, because I really really really loved making people laugh.
I wound up making it work. I was a professional standup and improv comic for twenty-five years. I wasn’t an HBO superstar but it filled my bank account. And I even got Pop to come see me on stage. Charged him full price, of course, because business is business.
My other passion was horror. Oh man, something about getting the bejesus scared out of me was the ultimate rush. I had posters and models of Godzilla and Dracula and the Invisible Man, which was actually a rather boring poster because like, you can’t see him. My office is still blanketed in monster posters and figurines. My favorite is the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I dig the Wolfman too because he’s such a bad mama jama. Although I never understood why in the classic movies instead of using his claws and fangs, he’d strangle his victims. Things that make ya go hmmmm.
Now here’s where comedy and horror first connected for me. I have a crazy aunt named Minta. And she lived to scare the hell out of me. Jumping out from around corners. Hiding in my closet. Grabbing my legs when I sat at a table. And the most frightening part is I’m 52 years old now… and she STILL does this. Minta has serious problems. But there she is, jumping out making me scream, then doubling over in laughter.
That’s where I discovered the connection. Comedy and horror are very close cousins. Both force the audience into an involuntary response. Laughing and screaming are as pure a human reaction as you’re going to get. How many times have you watched a horror movie and jumped out of your seat, only to wind up laughing at how foolish you looked? Ever see someone go through a haunted house? It’s hilarious. I also believe horror has the ultimate fall back. If it does its job, like a Stephen King novel or The Exorcist on film, then you can’t sleep for weeks. But even if it fails, many times it makes you laugh. Ever watch any Sy Fy movie? Sharknado? A show like Ash vs. the Evil Dead is built for both. I think the original American Werewolf in London was the cruelest movie ever made. In the theatres, I was laughing one minute and then someone’s head would fly off and I’d scream like a girl scout at a Justin Bieber concert. Both emotions, back to back, rapid fire.
Moving from comedy to horror was as natural as eating a box of moon pies to me. (Again, do the Google, kids. Moon pies. You’ll thank me later.) My comedy career was coming to an end. After twenty-five years of traveling to gigs and dealing with club owners named Chuckles and losing every weekend, I was burned out. Our two boys were growing up fast and I didn’t want to miss one minute with them. And truth be known, I lost my mojo. All the butterflies were gone. That’s never a good sign. You should always be nervous before you hit the stage. It’s healthy and energy you need. But I’d just walk out there. It was like a curse. I couldn’t ‘feel’ the laughter anymore. I knew it was there, but other than using it for my timing, it was hollow noise. Comedy became a job. The only part I looked forward to was the ride home.
So I retired. At first it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. So much stress melted away and I found myself dancing around the house more. Enough to make me think I should perhaps pursue a new career in pole dancing. But sometimes it’s good to keep one dream that won’t come true. What I did discover is after a couple months, I started to twitch. Scribble and doodle on every piece of paper I saw. Grocery lists, the kids’ homework, birth certificates. A few times I even hid in Minta’s closet, just to get the adrenaline rush of hearing her scream for once.
It was my angel of a wife, who I love more than life itself, and I’m not just saying this because she’s currently reading over my shoulder, but it was this amazing woman who figured out my problem. Without comedy, my creativity had no outlet. I was like a constipated mime a mile away from the nearest Taco Bell. But I couldn’t go back to comedy. No way.
That’s when my wife suggested I write a book. And since my comedy mojo was still on empty, maybe I should go with my other passion. Why not write a horror novel?
I loved the challenge of entering new territory, a new topic and a new business, and I could do it at home from my desk. I knew I didn’t want to write just another monster story. Unfortunately, it seemed every book I grabbed was a zombie apocalypse or some weak spin on vampires. ‘But in this one, my vampire looks like Brad Pitt and is the female main character’s mysterious detective partner! Oh, my vampires glitter!’ These weren’t the vampires I grew up with, but all of those stories were told too. I told my wife the only way to write something new would be to do a vampire book with no vampires in it. Again, being so damn intelligent as well as my sun and my stars and still standing behind me, she asked “Can’t you do that?”
And that’s how I came up with At the End of Church Street. I worked at a haunted house attraction when we lived in Orlando. I worked outside as a barker to bring people in so I spent most my nights out in the streets. There was a group of Goth kids who worshipped the place. They lived the vampire lifestyle with the make-up, dark clothing and fake fangs. They’d do the spooky act and chase people. Tourists would laugh and I’d tell them “Yeah, they don’t work here. I’d run.”
I got to know them pretty well. Some were homeless, living in an abandoned theatre down the road. They shared a lot of deep, sad stories with me about abusive parents or various addictions. But underneath all the vampire hoodoo voodoo, they were good kids. All they really wanted was respect and they thought acting like legendary monsters who ruled the night would get people to take them seriously. But the next day I’d see them in Burger King chomping on a Whopper Jr. for lunch and I’d let them know they were kinda blowing the whole illusion. You got a pickle hanging off your fang, Lestat.
The more I remembered these Goth kids, the more I realized they were my story. I could write a book about vampires who weren’t vampires. The extra twist I threw in was what if someone did believe they were real? And what if that person was crazy and thought he/she was a vampire hunter? Things took off after spinning the Goths as the victims and Church Street kicked off my new career as a horror writer.
Over the years I moved more comedy back into my work. I knew the divorce would never be permanent. I love combining the two now. I have a character, Johnny Midnight, who brings me much joy. He’s a self-absorbed ‘hero’ who is considered the Elvis of the paranormal world. He’s more interested in TV ratings and dating Hollywood stars than in solving any mysteries. Yet somehow he always does the right thing. His first novel is out and I’m working on the next two. I also created a video series based off a flood of short stories called Dracula’s Winkee. With all the paranormal romance out there I thought how Dracula would react in today’s world? He’s thousands of years old and he’s tired. Blood is polluted with corn syrup and regret nowadays. He has blood flow problems and no little blue pill is going to help him. So he searches the planet to find that one woman who can bring his poor winkee back to life.
Comedy and horror, skipping hand in hand. On that note, I’d like to say –DAMMIT, MINTA! HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN UNDER MY DESK? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU??? I am so sorry. It’s been a pleasure sharing a blog with your readers and I thank you so much for giving little ole me a spotlight. Any time you’re bored, feel free to swing by Facebook @greglovesu with ‘Greg Hall- The Man Behind the FB Page’. Thanks again!
Minta. I swear we’re putting you in a home.
As a writer his work has appeared over the decade in various publications, anthologies and a short story collection. His novels rarely stick to one genre, ranging from comedy and romance to intense thrillers and horror. His biggest claim to fame is he was once hugged by Pat Morita, Mr. Miyagi of The Karate Kid. We should pause an extra moment to realize how awesome that is.
Connect with Gregory: Facebook
Gregory's Totally Horror-able Tale: At the End of Church Street
Until the first murder.
Someone else lurks in the shadows. Goths are found beheaded, with wooden stakes pounded into their chests. The hunters have become the hunted. As the bodies pile up, Rebecca and the Family are forced to ask who can you trust when the only person who believes you're an actual vampire is a vampire killer?
Available Here: Amazon