Sketch comedian and improviser David Massingham is back at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and this year he’s prepared a night of spooks, scares and laughter in his Little Sketch Book of Horrors. We caught up with Massingham and chatted about his use of (gentle) audience participation, the similarities between horror and comedy and his new characters.
So! Your second solo sketch show. What have you learnt since doing your first (last year’s Sketch Me Like One of Your French Girls)?
I’d put on plenty of sketch shows with other groups before last year, but Sketch Me Like One of Your French Girls was the first where I was the only performer. It’s about pacing yourself, not just across one show, but across the whole show run. That’s definitely informed this brand new show Little Sketch Book of Horrors.
Is there much audience participation (or improv) in this year’s show?
There is a bit, but it is so very gentle and loving that I hardly think anyone will mind. During last year’s season I was told that the audience participation was very warm and friendly, so I’ve aimed for that again, even when dealing with a theme like horror.
What’s it like performing at Tasma Terrace?
It is such a beautiful venue. And with the ornate ceilings, the old portraits on the wall and the antique fireplaces, it’s the perfect backdrop to a spooky night of sketchy scenes.
Tell us a bit about your newest character.
The storyteller that features on the show poster welcomes the audience into the space and is such a fun Vincent Price-y sort of character to play. He’s set on telling the audience his favourite ghost story, but there’s a few hoops he and the audience have to jump through until we get there. And of course, there’s a lot of other sketch characters we meet along the way, including an expert on collective nouns, a religious zealot from the 41st century and the famous Professor Van Helsing.
What led to the horror theme of Little Sketch Book of Horrors?
I’ve always enjoyed spooky stories. Just like comedy, horror relies on surprise and familiarity to make its impact, so they’re kind of related anyway.
What’s the most horrifying thing that you’ve had happen while performing sketches?
Probably the time that the theatre complex’s fire alarm went off 20 seconds into my sketch monologue, before I got to the first joke, and I had to improvise for five minutes until it was turned off.
Or last year during Sketch Me Like One of Your French Girls, when during the final show and just before my best sketch, the lights stopped working.
What’s your favourite horror movie?
I think we’re in a real purple patch of late with an excellent run of modern horror films – like It Follows, The Babadook, A Quiet Place, IT, Get Out. When I was younger I loved Scream and 28 Days Later. And the stuff from before my time, like Alien and The-not-Nicholas-Cage-Wicker Man are also faves.
What about your favourite horror comedy?
What We Do in the Shadows maybe? Shaun of the Dead? Could be Cabin in the Woods perhaps? But if you’re looking for an indication of the tone of my show, we probably should be talking about something more like Beetlejuice.
You’ve performed with sketch troupes and improv groups before. Who would be in your dream sketch group and why?
Oooh… I’d be pulling some of my favourites from history. Rowan Atkinson. Shaun Micallef. Emma Thompson. Stephen Fry. Peter Cooke. I’d throw John Cleese in there, but I always hear that he’s a bit difficult, so let’s resurrect Graham Chapman instead.
Little Sketch Book of Horrors is on at 8:45pm at Tasma Terrace from 26 March to 7 April as part of the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets can be bought via the comedy festival website.