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HALLOWEEN IN ORANGE COUNTY : ‘SOOPER’ SHOW EXORCISES A HAUNT WITH HUMOR

At sunset, specters will rise. Chains will rattle. Eerie howls will echo in the night. And the weird and wicked will bedevil you with bewitching events.

The major entertainment attraction at this year’s Halloween Haunt at Knott’s Berry Farm is more likely to elicit big laughs than big screams.

That’s because the 13th annual event, which opened last weekend and continues tonight through Saturday, features a decidedly non-spooky production called “The Sooper Bowl of Comedy.”

Why would the park, which this time of year bills itself as Knott’s Scary Farm, book a comedy show to round out its Halloween entertainment?

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“I get asked that question all the time,” said Gary Salisbury, who books entertainment at Knott’s.

“As far as a tie-in to the Halloween Haunt, ‘The Sooper Bowl of Comedy’ doesn’t tie in at all,” he said, laughing. Salisbury said the main reason for the Sooper Bowl booking is a response to the shortage of Halloween-themed acts.

“Yeah, it’s really hard--show me a list of Halloween shows that are available and boy, I’d book ‘em. There just aren’t any,” he said.

Salisbury also pointed out that there is some precedent for presenting comedy during the Halloween Haunt, which has been headlined in recent years by ghoulish vamp Elvira. When it turned out that Elvira had another commitment on the final night of last year’s Haunt, Salisbury decided to bring in the Unknown Comic.

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“The Unknown Comic went over very well here,” Salisbury said, adding that he’s considering offering more comedy acts at Knott’s. “Comedy is something I’d like to pursue more. It gives us an avenue toward drawing a lot bigger mixture of ages to the park. But I’ll know more after Nov. 2. First I have to see how the Sooper Bowl goes.”

According to Marc Weingarten of Dolphin West Entertainment, the firm that created the Bowl and produces each show, “The Sooper Bowl of Comedy” is “a comedy-variety show that integrates elements of football and comedy.”

“We conceived the idea for the Sooper Bowl about a year and a half ago, after realizing that no one was doing anything creative with comedy shows on a large scale . . . ,” he said. “People told us we’d never be able to do big shows without big names, but we felt that if we combined four or five names with some value, it would more than equal one big name.”

Weingarten said the Sooper Bowl lineup changes from show to show. Appearing at Knott’s are:

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- Byron Allen: Best known as co-host of television’s “Real People,” he’s also worked for years as a stand-up comedian in clubs and arenas, opening for such musical acts as Lionel Richie and the Pointer Sisters.

- Bruce Baum: Also a veteran stand-up performer, he’s played all the key comedy clubs and appeared on such television shows as “Make Me Laugh,” “Hollywood Squares” and various cable TV specials.

- The Funny Boys (Jonathon Schmock and James Valley): Actors who’ve appeared in various New York theater productions and whose television experiences includes co-hosting KNBC’s “Hot Sundae” program.

- Charlye Wright: A longtime radio personality who portrays “The Coach” on the Rick Dees show.

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- Dodger second baseman Steve Sax.

Steve Sax?

“That’s part of the intrigue of the Sooper Bowl, that we can integrate a sports celebrity live on stage and have something for him to do when he normally would be like a chicken without a head,” Weingarten said.

“When you do a show like this, you’re not going to have an athlete come out and do 40 minutes of singing or 30 minutes of comedy or 20 minutes of sliding into second base. But (having worked with him before) we knew Steve could handle the stage for a limited amount of time.”

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Sax and his Sooper Bowl cohorts will perform in Knott’s Good Time Theatre at 8:30 and 10 p.m. and midnight tonight. Show times shift to 9 and 10:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Admission is included in the price of Halloween Haunt tickets. For more information, call Knott’s at (714) 220-5005.


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