Spooky scares and uncontrollable laughter abound in LoveHard Comedy’s new show, The House on the Hill. I sat down with LoveHard’s founder, writers, and sole members Tyler and Jacob for a chat about horror, comedy, love, and comedy.
Tell me about LoveHard Comedy, how did you guys meet?
Tyler: We met at University of Birmingham, we met both doing the same course in English Literature and Drama, and we first bonded because we met and we shook hands, and he’s got the best handshake.
(Jacob and I shake hands)
Jacob: That’s a good handshake.
Tyler: Mine’s limp in comparison.
Jacob: You can tell a lot about the future comedy relationship with someone based solely on that first handshake, I find.
Tyler: And that was how we bonded, and then for a couple of years we were in the same improv troupe together. And then we kind of decided that we like improving together and we like the same comedy, so we decided, let’s write a two man thing. So we did.
And how long has this show been in development?
Jacob: This one that we’re doing now has been going since, I think about 9 months. We first did this one at the Birmingham Comedy Festival last October, and it was like an early form of what it is now. It’s developed quite a bit.
Tyler: It was a lot more sketchy before, lots of sketches piled together.
Jacob: And then we put more of a narrative into it, but we’ve been writing together in this kind of form, in the narrative sketch show form, for I guess two and a half years?
And that’s what you’d call this, a Narrative Sketch Show?
Jacob: Yeah, pretty much.
Tyler: Although I guess, looking back at it now, it’s just more like a play now. It was a narrative sketch show, and then the story took charge, and so it just became a play, it’s a funny play.
What would this show look like with an unlimited budget?
Tyler: We’d have more seats.
Jacob: And it would probably be a lot worse, I think. I kind of think that part of the joy of this show is kind of in it’s, “C’mon guys, let’s just bloody blast this one out,” and there are gonna be things that go wrong and bits that fall off the wall when you don’t expect them to work, and old women going to the loo and walking across the stage, and we built our working relationship on knowing that we wouldn’t have lighting changes or sound cues or props or costume or really much of anything like that, so we wanted to build that into our show as much as possible.
Tyler: Our producer Andy Wilson has helped a lot with the tech side of it, he’s been a fantastic producer on it. He came up with the idea of the lamps for the horror lighting and he does all of our tech and stuff like that. I think if we had more money, we still would have no props or costumes, because we think it would kind of slow things down, and it’s fun to just be two guys in white shirts doing it all. But I think maybe some cool lighting, we still like that idea of really cool lighting and cool sound.
Jacob: I think the other thing about it as well is, I mean, we went to see Max & Ivan’s new show about a week ago, we absolutely love them, they’re probably our biggest inspiration in terms of what we’re trying to do, they’ve got about 200 seats in their venue, and their show is really big, really high energy, all outwards, and we were saying if we did our show in that venue, our show would really appeal to those first fifty people, but beyond that they’d be going, “Oh it’s really just for those people down there,” whereas in our tiny little venue, because it’s hot and we’re literally spraying spit and sweat and tears and blood and everything all over the audience at points, it really kind’ve makes it that immersive feel that we wanted the show to be.
Tyler: And we like walking through the audience to do the camera bit, it feels cool.
This show plays off a lot of classic horror tropes, are you guys big horror movie fans?
Jacob: Oh absolutely, yeah.
Tyler: Yeah, well the improv troupe we used to be a part of used to pastiche different movie genres, so we became quite used to movie tropes, the things you’ll see in every horror movie. We did horror, fantasy movies, action movies, romance, and so we had to sit down and watch tons of films of every genre, to get used to how it works, and I think that’s why we got this from horror film, the first scene sets everything up, then you meet the family, then creepy things start happening, and of course it’s gotta end in a really cool way
Jacob: And within that, as well, we were quite careful that we weren’t going, “And this is what normally happens in a horror film,” we wanted it to just be aware of the tropes, and follow the tropes, and just be aware of why those tripes are there as well, and actually try and make it scary, and I think there are bits of it that are actually quite creepy.
So you’re going for at least a few moments that are sincerely scary?
Tyler: Absolutely, yeah, there are three key moments. We wanted them to be kind of scary, and the rest we wanted to be funny, hopefully we haven’t got them the wrong way round.
How different is the show each night? How much of it do you improv through?
Tyler: It’s [Jacob] doing improv, mostly him, I’m just trying to keep a straight face and get through the script, every now and again Jacob just goes, “Well I’m bored, let’s do something fun.”
Jacob: I’ve discovered that I get very bored with things. It’s amazing how these shows take a turn, the first three or four days I think, “Yeah I’m really enjoying the show, this is great to be at the Fringe Festival!” Day five: “Ah well I’m bored of this show, let’s start making shit a laugh,” and so we just started doing that. We really bonded initially over doing improv together, it just seems such a betrayal not to do that.
Who are you trying to make laugh harder, the audience or Tyler?
Jacob: Tyler, every single night. I’ve ceased to care about what the audience is even thinking. I think, hopefully, part of the charm is that we sort of just turned up, and we want to try something out, and we’re trying to figure out what the show is while the audience is trying to figure out what the show is, so they just kind of go along for the ride there.
So what’s next for LoveHard Comedy?
Jacob: Go home and sleep, I think, for like two weeks.
Tyler: We’re writing another show, it’s gonna be a Christmas Special, we’re gonna write another one for the Fringe, we want to keep moving to the slightly bigger venues each time, hopefully.
Jacob: And each show is hopefully more ambitious than the previous. The one we’re writing at the moment is like a 1930’s murder mystery, like a sort of Agatha Christie style thing, and whereas in this one there are two central characters, I’d say in the murder mystery there are what, like, eight? And then all the periphery as well. So that’s gonna be quite ambitious.
Tyler: We wanna keep writing, and we’d love for people to keep coming to see it, and enjoying it. That’s our dream, if we could do it full time then we would. And we will, one day, I think.
Who are some of your great comedy inspirations?
Tyler: Our biggest inspiration is Max and Ivan, their two man narrative sketch show is amazing, but I also love the really old comedy double acts, they’re my favorite ones. I’ll sit and watch The Two Ronnies all day, I just love the fact that they were writing for years and they never ran out of ideas.
Jacob: And another one is obviously Monty Python, they’re absolutely amazing, and what is so good is, in some of the really wacky Python stuff, those sketches are kind of perfect examples of what comedy should be. They’re kind of going, “Guys, we’re gonna try this, I don’t know what it is, but we’ve got the freedom to do whatever the heck we want, we kind of trust that it’s gonna be funny and let’s just throw it at the wall and see if it sticks,” and that’s what I think we’re trying to do.
What is your process like when you write together?
Tyler: So this show firstly came about from the song, the “Beside the Sea-side” song, cause I didn’t realize there was more than just a chorus, and my partner played it to me, she played me this version of the song and I said, “That is the scariest thing I have ever heard,” so I called Jacob and I said “Jacob, get over here, you have to hear this song,” and so we listened to the song, and then that night we put it on an infinite repeat, we turned all the lights off in the house, lit a load of candles, and we wrote all of the ideas for a show on a mirror, and that was it for the whole night.
Jacob: And we really scared ourselves. It wasn’t funny. It’s like we were possessed, I don’t remember anything about that evening, it’s just all darkness for me now.
Tyler: And that’s where the idea for this show came, is from this song, and then we spent the next two weeks writing it, and then we spent the next eight months re-writing it and changing it. We wrote the whole thing in two weeks, and then performed it a week later, and then we went, “Right, that’s good, but this needs to change and that needs to change,” and then we did it again at the Brighton Fringe Festival, and we thought, “It’s good again, but this needs to change and that needs to change,” and so after writing the full script, we just kind’ve took it straight to an audience and saw their response and we’ve changed it from there. We’re still doing it.
Jacob: Yeah, we’re still rewriting that thing, and what’s nice as well is, I don’t know much about the writing process of other double acts or sketch acts, but my impression is quite a lot of them, there’s the “writer” of the two and the “performer” of the two, one who’s stronger at writing or performing, but I think actually with us we do pretty much all of our writing together. I don’t think there’s any part of this show that just one of us went away and wrote.
Tyler: No, we don’t write separately. We tried it once, and we wrote separate sketches and emailed them to each other, and they just didn’t work the same
Jacob: What’s nice as well, having the improv background, is we get that element of one of us going, “Oh here’s an idea,” and chucking that up in the air, and then us going, “Oh right yeah,” and then running with that, running with that, let’s see that, do that, and then we go, “right maybe would should write that down,” and see if we can actually remember what’s just happened. It’s kind of like John Cleese, he did this quite famous video, it’s on Youtube I think called “On Creativity,” and he basically talks about how he’s done most of his writing, and what he says to do is just to take an idea, this little nugget of an idea, this little heart of something vague, and say, okay, here’s one branch, that’s where it could go, or here’s another branch, that’s where it could go, and here’s another and another, and then from each of those branches there’s that and that and that, and then you work your way through this gigantic tree of weird ideas, probably there’s only two good ideas out of the forty on there, but you just find those two good ideas, and I think we’re extremely good at finding those weird little branches off each others’ minds.
Tyler: I think so. I think that’s why we work. That, and I hate you.
Jacob: Yeah we just hate being in each others’ company and the faster we write, the faster we can get out of there.
Do you guys have a go-to test audience?
Tyler: Um, no, we kind’ve just put it up.
Jacob: Our poor unfortunate girlfriends.
Tyler: Yeah, they hear a lot of it, and what’s lovely about our girlfriends as well is we’ll be like, “Guys, we’re really proud of this, listen to this,” and we’ll do a bit and they’ll go, “ehhh.”
Jacob: They’re great, they’re much funnier than either of us are.
Tyler: We always put it on in Birmingham, and we let everybody know, there’s quite a lot of people that have stayed in Birmingham after graduation, and they are so nice, and they’ll come to every show that we put on. And they’re the kind of friends as well that you can trust their feedback, cause they’ll tell you when they didn’t like it, and that’s really nice. Massive thank you to them.
You guys have anything left you want to say about the show?
Tyler: Please come and see it?
Jacob: Yeah, basically. It’s quite late at night, but I really genuinely do believe in this show, which I guess is possibly rare for a Fringe performer? I genuinely do think this is the best thing we’ve done.
Tyler: I love this show, yeah.
Jacob: It’s so fun, and I think if people just take a chance on it and trust that if you walk through those doors on that time of day that you’ll enjoy it.
LoveHard: The House on the Hill closes August 20th at Laughing Horse @ 48 Below