Hallo, Weirdos: Adam Larter opens up about The Envelopes

Adam Larter

Halloween often gets a bit of a bad press from people who aren't super keen on the occult, or the undead, or umpteen youths in scary costumes banging on their doors demanding free stuff. Weird, that.

True, this spooky season can feel like a shameless cash-grab, all trick or treaters and Hollywood slasher sequels, but one bunch definitely not using witches for riches are Weirdos. Their annual bash is basically the best thing about Halloween, and we'll curse anyone who says otherwise.

This year's event - The Envelopes - is particularly ludicrous, logistically. The shows happen from Friday 28th to Sunday 30th at London's Museum of Comedy, but the hassle begins way beforehand, for control freak Adam Larter. His cast are weird, unwieldy, and wonderful: viral sensations Sooz Kempner, Matthew Highton and Eleanor Morton, multi-talents Sam Nicoresti, Lulu Popplewell and Ben Alborough, crowd favourites Helen Duff, Ali Brice and Michael Brunström, and many more besides.

Of course, Larter is keeping some Envelopes surprises under wraps. But then Halloween answers probably should be cryptic.

Weirdos Comedy Presents The Envelopes

Weirdos' Halloween bash is now a proper institution - when, why and where did it begin?

I can't remember when we exactly did the first Halloween show. Weirdos were becoming known for our Christmas shows and I do remember thinking 'this can't be it' - we need to do fun things throughout the year or we're not experimenting, we're not trying stuff out.

A Halloween show works like Christmas though because everyone is on the same page at the beginning, and the audience and the acts are in the same 'world' - so it is a good place to explore artistically.

I've (personally) always loved Halloween, I love costumes, and I love bad horror films. Do you know what I hate? Ready-made fancy-dress costumes. There is no fun in just ordering a Frankenstein costume off Amazon. It needs to look slightly shit, right?

How would you describe this year's event, The Envelopes?

It's sort of like a puzzle room but in reverse.

50 people enter as an audience, but I've sent them something in the post weeks before, bits of art, instructions etc. It has the right ingredients for fun - surprises, tension, and the possibility for so much stuff to go wrong.

Weirdos present The Envelopes: Post ready to go

It sounds a logistical headache - has it been? Do you revel in the sheer masochism of these things?

No. I hate it. I've got spreadsheets on the go - 300 bits of art down, many more to go.

I need to sell the tickets far enough in advance that I can send people all this stuff. I have to pay for all that postage too and that is a fortune, I didn't quite think that through. Then I have the acts to arrange and they are a great bunch of people - but admin isn't their strong suit.

And this isn't my job, this is just what I do in my evenings, plus I've recently got a small cat and it turns out he loves attacking paintbrushes/pens/cardboard. I revel in the show itself, making a giant Jenga tower that could fall over, the longer it stays up the more exciting it is.

To stress though: no one is making me do this.

Any particularly fond memories of previous Halloween moments - anyone ever go way off script?

Adam Larter

Many fond memories of past Halloween shows. I met my girlfriend at a Weirdos Halloween show many years back at the Camden Comedy Club (I was dressed as Harry Potter, and she was dressed as a witch). That night I remember singing all of Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell and Mario D'Agostino singing a song with a lantern made from butternut squash.

My leg was bleeding that night, the audience chanted for me to lick the blood. I guess if you meet someone who can accept you at your most shambolic then that is probably a good sign.

Harry Potter was a recurring theme and we did a few big unofficial Harry Potter Halloween shows - unofficial because we thought they would be small affairs and one-offs but they were great fun and not a penny went to JK Rowling. I've always enjoyed the books and it was a silly piece of fan service.

What were the most ludicrously tricky tasks you've taken on, for Weirdos events generally?

Tony Law and Friends in the Battle for Icetopia. Image shows left to right: Adam Larter, Tony Law

I guess most people think that the show on the Ice Rink (Tony Law and Friends in the Battle for Icetopia) was probably the most ludicrous, but honestly, this show is wayyyyyyyyyyy more logistically complicated.

Another comes to mind where I thought it would be funny to do a play and give each one of the cast members a different script (the script was 80% the same but had many different surprises per different cast member - I had to give them all the script on the night so they didn't discover beforehand). I thought that was a funny gag, but it meant I had to write loads of different scripts.

You certainly don't make it easy for yourself.

The pantos are tricky from a sheer admin point of view - writing any show which has over 20+ cast members and they all need to have a moment to shine/fun characters and lines. That isn't easy + making all the props for it + doing it all with no actual budget.

Weirdos at Museum Of Comedy

It is sort of a nightmare, there are many great people who have helped - shout out in particular to long-standing Weirdos Matthew Highton and Alex Hardy - but I do find it difficult to relinquish too much control. I guess Weirdos is built on collaboration and group effort - but I know that I need to give everyone a clear vision and direction so there is a balance between chaos and craft.

How do you divvy up the roles for these shows? Do particular acts fit certain characters - and do they get a say?

Oh yeah, I have a good idea but part of the experiment is about keeping it fresh so I do like to mix things up. Sometimes that is a new concept, sometimes that is bringing new people into the group. The cast always chip in with good ideas - last year's Halloween show, Lulu Popplewell gave me a character idea she had in a dream... I ran with it.

No Edinburgh for you personally this year - any particular reason? Will you be back?

I'm going on holiday to Iceland this September, a charity trek for Marie Curie. I might do another solo show if I can get a venue. I will be doing a solo show at Leicester Comedy Festival, which is currently about the wilderness.

Finally, what's your favourite homemade prop, for Weirdos/Mark Watson's Marathons/your solo shows...?

Adam Larter

I remember once making a giant Millennium Falcon for a Weirdos show in Stoke Newington. I made a functioning CCTV screen for my supermarket show Good Morning Croissant, that I genuinely considered a good bit of art.

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