It's curtains for the
covert demon who
haunts the Playground.
“You tiny humans shall feel the wrath of the demon Andromelias. Your fragile meat-bag bodies shall pop open; your bones shall shatter, launching shards through your torn organs; your eyes will wither like grapes becoming raisins, later to be placed in tiny boxes and sent off to Montessori schools…where hippie children will…eat them.”
Ouch: Them’s fighting words. Coming from anyone (or anything) else, we’d instantly soil ourselves…most likely. Thankfully for us and our lack of bladder control, the hell-raiser who issues that threat in A Demon Who Never Appeared never, uh, appears.
Part spooky sketch show, part alt-comedy showcase, all BYOB, Demon occupies the Playground’s midnight slot on the first Saturday of every month (though the December show was switched to Friday 1). Its story follows Dr. Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) as he attempts to put on a variety show with the help of musician Maestro Hannah (Hannah Gansen), announcer Colonel Wigsplitter (Josh Cheney) and three guest performers. Each month, a demon (Jared Logan) who allegedly haunts the theater tries his darndest to ruin the show. Only problem is, as the title hints at, he’s nothing more than a booming voice—which makes for some pretty futile attempts and hilarious banter.
“Both [Logan] and I are huge fans of the old Vincent Price movies,” says Nanjiani, a local stand-up comedian seen all over town. “If you take his characters and exaggerate them—though they’re pretty exaggerated to begin with—you get the demon.”
Last month, the unseen villain mailed the cast a wish-granting monkey’s paw. He then antagonized Maestro Hannah and Colonel Wigsplitter until they made wishes, each carrying a slight, quasi-anticipated consequence. This, of course, gave the demon more fodder—like when Wigsplitter wished for a seashell only to find one growing out of his stomach. “This is the most hideous thing I’ve ever seen,” the demon said, “and I’ve lived in Hell.”
Demon conjures these types of surreal images while keeping the writing squeaky-clean—the result of a drawn-out editing process. The show’s writing team (Logan, Nanjiani and occasionally Andy Ross) crafts a new show each month. The 30-or-so minutes need to be solid, as the cast is operating without the traditional sketch safety net. “Normally, you write a show, see what works and redo it,” Nanjiani says. “In Demon, we perform a sketch once and never use it again.”
Overall, Nanjiani is pleased with the way things are going (Friday 1’s show will be his tenth). Because of its alternative nature and need for a consistent writing schedule, Demon has also pushed him to improve his own stand-up material. “It’s easy to get lazy with stand-up when there’s no deadline for new jokes. Demon lights a fire under my ass to keep writing, and it draws a different audience than a normal stand-up crowd,” he explains.
Nick Vatterott, one of the show’s guest artists, echoes Nanjiani’s appreciation for the alternative audience that Demon brings out. A regular stand-up performer himself, Vatterott uses his stints on the show to embrace large comedic risks. “The audience has no idea what they are about to see,” he says. “And it’s conducive to doing stuff that’s more theatrical, more outside the lines of conventional stand-up.”
Ironically, Vatterott’s material was all about conventions: A ten-minute routine with things like, “Crowd work. Crowd work. Setup, setup, punch line!” Still, it was a huge departure from his typical joke stock, and the audience, at this point fairly inebriated, laughed just the same. Guess the demon’s earlier threats— “I’ll destroy this show like a cement mixer crashing through a greenhouse. I’ll savage this show like a grizzly bear raping a box turtle”—were pretty empty.
Demon appears (!) Friday 1 at midnight.