Tracy Morgan & Scott Hallock – Scare Tactics (TV)

October 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Interviews

Whether it’s escaped mental patients, zombie outbreaks, or demonic dolls, host of the SyFy hidden camera reality show “Scare Tactics” Tracy Morgan finds it all hilarious. During my interview with him and executive producer Scott Hallock, we discussed why watching someone who is terrified out of their mind makes for good comedy. Season 5 of “Scare Tactics” began Oct. 10 and can be seen on SyFy Mondays at 8 p.m.

Tracy, out of all the episodes of “Scare Tactics” you’ve done in the past two seasons, which one do you think would have scared you the most and why?

Tracy Morgan: Oh, dude. I can’t think. I don’t want to single one out. They’re all hilarious. They’re all scary. It’s great shock value but I don’t think I could just pick one out and say this one scared me the most because they’re all great. But one comes to mind and that’s the devil baby. The first season I did when a baby comes out. It was just hilarious. And the one with the little rat boy and the guy just was so afraid. It was just funny. I just thought it was hilarious that people were so afraid of it.

Scott, I’m wondering in some of the pranks it seems like you could have pushed the envelope even more by allowing the prank to continue longer. Sometimes it seems like you stop it before things get out of hand. Is that a conscious decision producers make or is it because of time constraints?

Scott Hallock: It’s a little bit of both. All these bits are meant to play out. We have four bits in an episode and most of them are like 4½-minute vignettes, 4½-minute scenes. And we definitely want to make sure that it’s an enjoyable thrill ride for everybody. So, definitely, when we get to the point where someone’s at their most scared, we’re pretty much at the reveal. We don’t want to keep someone scared out of their mind for a long, long period of time. When we get someone at their most scared we call it inflating the balloon. You’ve inflated the balloon to its bursting point and that’s when you want to burst the balloon and say you’re on “Scare Tactics” because that’s when you’re going to get the big reaction of, “Oh my god, I can’t believe it!” So, that’s why we do that. You really want that person to have a good time in the end and so that’s the point when you want to reveal. I don’t know that you get anything more out of the bit by keeping it going when the person’s so scared. I think if you did keep it going when someone was truly scared people would start to turn off to it a little bit. It would start to seem a little bit too mean and not enjoyable. So I think it’s fun watching people get right up to that moment and then at that moment you tell them it’s all a joke. You’re OK! You’re on “Scare Tactics.” Then everyone can kind of enjoy [it]. Then you like to see that person bounce back and say, “Oh my god, that was so much fun! I can’t believe my friend set me up! Let’s do it again!” One of the biggest sources of new victims for the show is past victims. People, after they’ve been on the show, come to us and basically say, “I’ve got five friends I want to setup. Here are their names and phone numbers.” That’s how we get a lot of our new people on the show.

Tracy, what do you think the link is to comedy and fear? Why is it so funny to watch somebody get scared?

TM: I think it’s because it’s not happening to us. I think we laugh because it’s not happening to us. I mean, being frightened – when someone else is being frightened – it’s funny to us because we’re not the ones being frightened. [It’s] sort of like voyeurism. If you see someone slip on some ice, you will crack up because you’re not the one slipping on ice.

Scott, when you’re brainstorming for ideas, have there ever been pranks you would have liked to have done on the show but maybe for certain situations or reasons you didn’t do them; maybe because they were a little too mean-spirited or something like that?

SH: Oh yes, I mean, we always edit ourselves and certainly if something seems like, “Umm, no, that goes a little bit too far” or “that doesn’t seem like fun” or “that’s not in the spirit of the show,” we’ll certainly throw those out. Again, it’s supposed to be a thrill ride. It’s supposed to be a roller coaster. At the end people are supposed to get off and say that was a good time. All the writers and producers are pretty much on the same page of what makes a good scare bit. So, everyone knows what kinds of bits to pitch and what makes a good “Scare Tactics” bit. Everyone knows what kind of bits not to pitch and what kind of bits are too mean and what wouldn’t make a good scare bit.

Tracy, how do you think Tracy Jordan (Morgan’s character on “30 Rock”) would react if Jack (Alec Baldwin’s character on “30 Rock”) set him up on “Scare Tactics?”

TM: Oh, I have no idea what Tracy Jordan would do. I mean, that’s a character. That’s an image on TV. I could tell you what Tracy Morgan would do but I don’t know what Tracy Jordan would do.

Death at a Funeral

April 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan
Directed by: Neil LaBute (“Lakeview Terrace”)
Written by: Dean Craig (“Death at a Funeral,” 2007 version)

If there was even one ounce of cleverness in “Death at a Funeral,” the remake of the 2007 British comedy of the same name and penned by the same screenwriter, there might have been a reason to retell the story for a different demographic that probably missed the original when it hit theaters three years ago. What’s the point, however, when the new version practically matches its predecessor character for character, shot for shot, and line for line? What’s worse than a tiresome re-creation is one with nothing unique to say.

Replacing dry and subtle British humor with broad, overdone jokes, the modernized “Funeral” hopes to rely on its popular cast to shake things up a bit. Chris Rock (“The Longest Yard”) takes the lead as Aaron, the oldest son of the recently deceased Edward (Bob Minor), who is trying to keep his dad’s funeral from falling apart once the oddball mourners start showing up at his mother’s house to pay their respects. This includes his well-known novelist brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence), who walks in unwilling to pitch in for the funeral costs but ready to chase skirt, and other family and friends (Zoe Saldana, James Marsden, Tracy Morgan, Columbus Short, Danny Glover, Luke Wilson) who are able to disrupt the service in their own peculiar way.

Big trouble comes in a small package when a mysterious dwarf named Frank (Peter Dinklage, who reprises the exact role he had in the 2007 film), shows up to the funeral ready to reveal a secret that could cause a lot of pain on an already sorrowful day. To keep the funeral from becoming uncontrollable, the family must find a way to keep Frank quiet just long enough to survive a few prayers and a eulogy.

But with characters running around hopped up on hallucinogens, a mother complaining that she doesn’t have any grandchildren, and an irate uncle with some bowel issues, it won’t be easy for Aaron to keep everything moving smoothly. Director Neil LaBute (“Lakeview Terrace”) has the same problem as his actors seem to be reading their dialogue off a teleprompt and lazily going through the motions of a mediocre slapstick comedy.

With “Funeral” coming as close as possible to plagiarizing itself, there is one distinct difference between the two films other than the characters’ skin color. This new version is much more exhausting to sit through. Sure, funerals aren’t supposed to be much fun, but “Death at a Funeral” gives new meaning to dead on arrival.

Cop Out

February 26, 2010 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Ana de la Reguera
Directed by: Kevin Smith (“Zack and Miri Make a Porno”)
Written by: Robb Cullen (debut) and Mark Cullen (debut)

Even director Kevin Smith has to know what he’s created here. In the lame buddy cop flick “Cop Out,” which stars Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, Smith seems to just be passing the time with nothing better to do. Here, he allows Morgan to deliver his usual improvised shtick while Willis sits back looking older than ever. If you can get past the terribly unfunny scenes at the beginning where Morgan speeds through movie impersonations, you might be one of the very few who are able to stomach the entire movie even after the “Die Hard” reference.

G-Force

July 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bill Nighy, Will Arnet, Zach Galifianakis
Directed by: Hoyt Yeatman (debut)
Written by: Cormac Wibberley (“National Treasure”), Marianne Wibberley (“Bad Boys II”), Ted Elliott (“The Legend of Zorro”), Terry Rossio (“Déjà Vu”), Tim Firth (“Confessions of a Shopaholic”)

Hear that laughter? There might be a few children in the audience who are easily-entertained by the antics of the fluffy computer-generated guinea pigs that star in the new family adventure “G-Force,” but most of the giggling is coming from producer Jerry Bruckheimer as he strolls all the way to the bank.

As unbelievable as it is, the producer, who is known mostly for mindless action flicks like “Armageddon” and “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” has found another way to fill his pockets all while releasing projects with the entertainment value of a rusty jack in the box. Earlier this year, Bruckheimer jumped genres and released the subpar romantic comedy “Confessions of a Shopaholic.” Now, it’s on to live-action/animation with “G-Force.”

It’s true, Bruckheimer has been down this avenue before, but a computer-generated kangaroo really didn’t do well for him in 2003’s box office and critical bomb “Kangaroo Jack.” In “G-Force,” he and first-time director and visual effects icon Hoyt Yeatman (he won an Oscar for “The Abyss”) shrink the heroes into cuddly rodents with “Mission Impossible” tendencies. Did we mention it’s in 3-D?

The story follows a group of secret agent guinea pigs – voiced by Sam Rockwell, Tracy Morgan, and Penelope Cruz – who try to stop an evil home appliance industrialist (Bill Nighy) from taking over the world. Zach Galifianakis plays the FBI agent who trains the furball trio and the rest of the team, which includes Speckles the Mole (Nicolas Cage, who does some nice voice work) and a housefly named Mooch. Galifianakis, the star of the surprise summer hit “The Hangover,” however, is wasted as is the rest of the human cast. All are lost in a pointless script that relies on stale pop-culture references most kids won’t understand. And don’t say those references are there so parents in the audience don’t go crazy from boredom. If the mental well-being of moms and dads was really a concern, the rest of the movie would’ve at least tried to be entertaining for someone above the age of five.

While the guinea pigs themselves are impressive in terms of quality of graphics, the five screenwriters who churned out “G-Force” don’t give them much to do or say other than the basic action-star drills, stereotypical dialogue, and more than occasional act of flatulence. Guinea pigs were just so much cuter when they were voiceless pets who slept most of the day.

First Sunday

January 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Katt Williams
Directed by: David E. Talbert (debut)
Written by: David E. Talbert (debut)

Someone save Ice Cube from the embarrassment. While your at it, tell Tracy Morgan he’s as funny as “The Tracy Morgan Show,” which, of course, was cancelled after one dismal season. Oh, also, let Katt Williams know he isn’t Dave Chappelle, just in case he wasn’t aware. With the combination of these three comedic weaklings in the new film “First Sunday,” it’s safe to say we haven’t seen this pathetic of a performance from a trio since last year’s “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” movie. And at least they had a snarky wad of meat on their team.

In “First Sunday,” a film which is obviously trying to ride the coattails of Terry Perry’s over-appreciated Madea comedies, friends Durell (Ice Cube) and LeeJohn (Morgan) need money and need it fast. Both have to pay back a dangerous gang of Jamaicans for losing a shipment of custom wheelchairs they were supposed to sell (huh?). Durell needs even more money because his ex has decided to move with their son to another city because she doesn’t have enough money to keep her hairstyle business open (Tiffany Polland of “I Love New York” and “Flavor of Love” reality fame makes her screen debut in a cameo).

What it all comes down to is that Durell is a deadbeat father, who can’t hold down a job or stay out of trouble long enough to help out with his son. Director/writer David E. Talbert, however, wants us to believe that somewhere in Durell there is heart. Not much evidence of this is show in the film’s 98 minute runtime.

When a judge sentences Durell and LeeJohn to 5,000 hours of community service for their latest fiasco in the streets (although he could have thrown them in jail because of their rap sheet), the duo simply doesn’t have time to get a full time job to pay the debts they owe.

During a community service outing, Durell and LeeJohn decide to chase some skirt into a church and stay for the service. While listening to the word of the Lord, they find out the church is raising money to move out of the ghetto and have already collected thousand of dollars for the relocation.

For whatever reason (probably the idiocy of Talbert), the two believe the money they need is inside the church (churches can’t get bank accounts apparently). They decide, of course, to rob the church but are surprised when they are caught by the Deacon and must take everyone who is having a late-night meeting hostage until they find out where the money is.

Humorless, witless and poorly written (there’s a scene where Durell sends his son off to school and then goes to Sunday mass. School on Sunday?), Talbert starts his career off with a major bomb. It took until at least February of last year to find a film that was worthless from start to finish (“Because I Said So”). This year, the belittling comes a bit early because of “First Sunday.”