Steve Copeland is a comic, clown and circus host, working with fellow performer Ryan Combs for almost 15 years. The pair are touring with Paranormal Cirque, an unusual big top spectacle in that its purpose is—in part—to startle audiences, or as he says, “to scare the pants off you.”
“Humor and horror have a lot in common,” Copeland explains. “In both there is a build up of tension and a release.”
With comedy, that release comes in the form of laughter. Fright sets off a rush of adrenaline and unplanned outbursts. Paranormal Cirque brings both forms together in a show that wraps world class circus feats, theatrics, illusion and R-rated cabaret into one package.
That means roller skating vampires and acrobatic zombies, references to vile characters like Hannibal Lecter or to Hollywood's terrifying The Exorcist—comedy gold. Yet the program retains traditional death-defying stunts like a high wire act, ramped up for the occasion. The Wheel of Death, Copeland says, is “a show stopper.”
“It’s unlike anything your readers have seen before,” Copeland adds.
The R rating is due to a dose of adult humor throughout. After more than a decade clowning for family audiences at typical circuses, Copeland and Ryan find themselves tossing f-bombs, which requires a deft approach. Copeland observes that swearing by itself is not a form of humor. Like anything else in comedy—and in horror, for that matter—timing is critical.
“We picked it up pretty quick,” he says. “We’re the connection with the audience.”
Copeland and Ryan are the only Americans in this performance. Many of the acrobats and illusionists made their U.S. debut when the tour—part of the Cirque Italia umbrella—arrived in this country.
They are all adept at causing almost simultaneous alarm and laughter—even before the show, be forewarned.
“I’d say it’s unique,” Copeland says of the experience. “It’s a fun night out.”
Paranormal Cirque performs Thursday, Nov. 3 and Friday, Nov. 4 at 7:30pm; Saturday, Nov. 5 at 6:30 and 9:30pm. Sunday, Nov. 6 at 5:30 and 8:30pm. Monterey County Fair and Event Center, 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey. $20-$60. (941) 704-8572, paranormalcirque.com. Box office opens on site on Tuesday-Wednesday 10am-6pm, Thursday-Sunday 10am-10pm.
Note: Children under 17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. No one under the age of 13 is allowed.