Sidesplitters: “HAROLD AND KUMAR” actor James Adomian on Vincent Price and His Most Embarrassing Horror Story
Horror and Comedy go together like masks and murderers, as both set out to evoke reactions from even the most immovable of audiences. Therefore, it’s no surprise that so many funnymen are ardent fright fans. In our new column, Sidesplitters, FANGORIA chats with comedians who love horror as much as they love humor.
Off-beat, chaotic and unpredictable; these words perfectly describe comedian/actor James Adomian’s approach. While Adomian has made a name for himself with his unique brand of improvisational comedy as well as appearances in films like HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY, those words also apply to his love for the horror genre. FANGORIA spoke with Adomian about his appreciation for campy horror and what horror moment he finds to unfortunately be the most memorable…
FANGORIA: As a comedian, how would you define your relationship to the horror genre?
JAMES ADOMIAN: Well, I’m not a great student of horror, but I know most horror that is campy. That’s generally been my interest: horror that’s really, really funny. It goes back to things like old Vincent Price movies all the way to recent things like CABIN IN THE WOODS, which is absolutely hilarious from start to finish. I really love funny horror movies and that’s been my main incentive to getting into the genre.
FANG: Since you watched horror that was so infused with comedy, did that ever influence your tastes in comedy as well?
ADOMIAN: Yes! As far as writing or art goes, I think a comedy that’s also really dangerous and scary works better, whether it be a painting, movie, tv show or whatever. I also think that something that’s meant to be scary or trashy gains something more if it also tries being funny. Some of the best dramatic, horror or thriller books and movies are also really funny in parts or have comic relief. I think it’s really good if you’re aiming to be funny but also dark, and that works vice versa as well.
FANG: What is it about campy horror that you love the most?
ADOMIAN: I like good, old-fashioned plot holes. I like both moments of comedic timing and things that are funny accidentally. But I’ve always loved Vincent Price, even from when I was a kid, and there’s a large part of his career where he was making fun of himself. You can see it almost through the whole last half of his career.
I remember seeing Vincent Price doing commercials for mildew spray. [Feigning Vincent Price accent] “Mildew stains! Horrible, terrible Mildew! Use Tilex Mildew Spray! Drop Mildew Dead!” But no matter what, I loved his movies and I thought he was awesome, even as young as, like, 8 years old.
I like anything that’ll make me laugh, but I don’t have a strong stomach for a lot of gore. But I do like going to a horror movie to both laugh and be scared. So, yeah, horror is awesome [laughs].
FANG: Do you have a particular favorite Vincent Price performance?
ADOMIAN: Price? Oh yeah. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES comes to mind. He went that whole movie without opening his mouth! That’s utterly terrifying and weird. Why did he have to be that way?!
FANG: Do you have any favorite horror franchise?
ADOMIAN: No! I don’t see horror sequels because the first ones are so scary. The first HALLOWEEN was so scary, I didn’t even finish it. I generally don’t see a lot of sequels, but I have seen a lot of horror movies at people’s houses when I’m stoned. That’s usually how I see a lot of the horror franchises, you know?
FANG: Do you have any really memorable experience with horror?
ADOMIAN: You know, I’ll tell you this story, and it’s really embarrassing that it involves those haunted house attractions. I went to a haunted corn maze with my friends a few years ago up in suburban L.A. county, near the valley. At the time, there were a lot of haunted houses around but the one that stuck out was this haunted corn maze where you’d walk around and spooky people dressed up would jump out to scare you.
Now, we were all grown-ups; I think I was 27 or around there and was a definitely a full-grown adult. I was in a group of people all in their late-20s or early-30s, and we were like, “Let’s get stoned and go to this stupid haunted maze place.” So we were going through the maze and, because everyone else there was high school age or younger, we were laughing when they got scared and thought it was the dumbest thing in the world.
So, we get to the end of the maze after pretending to be scared and I started goofing off with my friend. Suddenly, a guy comes out with a chainsaw right next to my ear and I get fucking terrified. I legitimately screamed, after the whole time of going, “Oh, ha ha, look at me in the scary place!” I bolted and I was sprinting the last hundred yards of the corn maze.
As soon as I ran right out of the exit of the maze, I slammed into a fence, knocking it and myself over; that’s how terrified I was. It all happened right in front of a group of kids who started laughing at me, because the exit is right by the line to get in. So I got up to a bunch of kids pointing and laughing at me, and it was incredibly embarrassing. But that’s what I get for thinking that I was “over” horror.
FANG: Considering your fandom of campy horror, do you go to specialty screenings or midnight movies?
ADOMIAN: You know, I used to when I first moved to L.A. I’d go to midnight movies all of the time with a bunch of friends at the Nuart Theatre or Cinefamily. I loved doing it but I don’t do it much anymore because I’m always doing shows. But I went to a lot of good shows back in the day, like double features from the ’70s or whatever where you’d be drinking in the back of the theater. If you haven’t gone drinking at the movies, I’d highly recommend it.
FANG: Is there a horror movie that, for whatever reason, you dislike or can’t stand?
ADOMIAN: Well, if there’s a horror movie I don’t like, I usually just turn it off. But with horror, because everyone is really putting themselves out there, if it sucks, it’s still funny. It’s hard for me to look at horror and go, “Oh, God, this guy doesn’t deserve it.” If you do a horror movie and it doesn’t work, it ends up being hilarious.
FANG: Is there anything about horror that has left the genre that you’d like to see return?
ADOMIAN: Oooooh. Yeah, you know what? Ugly people. I miss horror movies with ugly people, and you never see them anymore. In all of the horror movies in the last 15 years, people have gotten hotter and hotter and hotter until they don’t even resemble real people. So now, it’s just like, “Oh, here’s another movie about models dealing with monsters.” How about they throw in a fat guy every once in a while? How about throw in someone who’s disabled?
FANG: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from a horror film?
ADOMIAN: Never, ever, ever, ever fucking split up. Never split up. Don’t fucking split up! Look, if I was in a scenario where people are getting sliced up and I’m in a group, I wouldn’t go, “Don’t worry, let’s try to cover more ground,” because that would be helping the murderer!
FANG: Do you have any upcoming projects or shows in the near future?
ADOMIAN: This summer, I’ll be traveling to Montreal, Hawaii and all over the United States doing shows, and you’ll also be able to see me on IFC and Comedy Central in the coming months as well. I also have a brief appearance in a horror movie that’s going to come out at some point, and I don’t know when. It’s called TRUNK’D, and we shot it a couple of years ago but I think they’re finally getting ready to release it now.
For more on James Adomian, including where to see his work and his stand-up dates, you can check out his official website here. You can also hear him frequently on the Earwolf Podcast Network on shows like COMEDY BANG! BANG!: THE PODCAST and SKLARBRO COUNTRY, and you can see Adomian in select episodes on the upcoming season of COMEDY BANG! BANG! on Thursday Nights, 10:30 p.m. EST, on IFC.