Hard Knock Laughs

Comedy Troupe Puts New Spin On Comedic Content

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The spin-off Half-Minute Comedy (HMC) was indisputable for the producers of Half-Minute Horror (HMH). Producer Keith Sims said that when humorist, film student and friend, Austin Parsons introduced the idea of HMC, he was intrigued, and, after a short but deliberate discussion with his partner Tashina Southard, they approved Parsons’ idea. Sims and Southard had to consider the possible advantages and disadvantages of a spin-off. Horror and comedy are similar. They’re both subjective, and like everyone has a fear, everyone has a funny bone. This was an ace proposal.

Parsons has been a fan of Half-Minute Horror since its debut in October 2014. Two years later, with the help of his friend and fellow filmmaker Javarice Moody, he came up with the idea for HMC. And Oct. 13, Half-Minute Comedy was born with its debut episode “Toothpaste,” starring local actor and comedian Cody Hopper. The 30-second episode is a dark comedy that uses the five stages of grief to provide a humorous perspective on a horrifying but undeniable tragedy—running out of toothpaste.

Half-Minute Comedy will release a new episode every Thursday and have plans for multiple seasons. They believe, being able to deploy the seemingly unlimited number of horror sub-genres, they won’t run out of ideas anytime soon.

HMC’s second episode, “Smauto Porrect” was released Oct. 20. In 30 seconds, its characters showcase a common inconvenience—autocorrect fails—hyperbolized to craft an impressive installment. The short film stars Parsons and local actor, producer and UNA graduate Phoebe Jones.

Most of the crew members of HMC and HMH live in the Shoals area, so all of the scenes so far have been shot in Northwest Alabama. To the producers, finding that perfect location is one of the most difficult parts of production. Parsons needs “that certain aesthetic that gives the vibe of what [the scene] is trying to accomplish.” But even if that perfect environment is found, it may not be accessible; sometimes, they just have to settle for what’s available.

For “Toothpaste,” all they needed was a bathroom. They used the bathroom at a local photography studio because it was available and fulfilled every flexible ambition. “Smauto Correct” was shot by Sims in his own home. It doesn’t get more accessible than that.

Sims and Southard got the idea to create 30-second videos by practicing fast-paced writing exercises; they knew it would translate well to film. The viewer of a HMH or HMC production experiences an entire story with an unabridged dramatic curve in 30 seconds, and, in today’s fast-paced society of short attention spans, brevity in media has never been more important. But reaching a punchline in half of a minute is a troublesome charge. Many professional writers agree that humor is the most difficult form of writing, and creating an absolute story with believable characters and a successful punchline in 30 minutes seems akin to painting detailed art on a grain of rice.

Parsons’ goal is to employ all different types of humor to make anyone laugh in just 30 seconds every week, and he’s one in a diverse group of talented friends working together, writing, directing, acting, producing, editing and operating cameras and sound equipment to donate joy every Thursday.