Ghosts aren’t necessarily a joke. But it always helps to have a punchline anyway.
Comedian Sarah Hillier mixes her sense of humour with tales of the unknown on her new podcast The Funny Thing About Ghosts. She provides the playful banter with members of the Canadian comedy scene, along with her husband and “What We Do in the Shadows” actor Andy Hull, who plays Paul Shaffer to her David Letterman.
“I’ve always loved paranormal stuff ever since I was a kid,” she said, adding that she would listen to Art Bell on Coast to Coast with her family. “If we were driving home (to Ottawa) from somewhere, my mom (Debbie) would put it on.”
That inspired her in adulthood to start her paranormal-themed podcast, which first came to her in the late spring while on a road trip. She reached out to the Sonar Network.
“I had a couple of podcast ideas, but this one was the one that for all of us stood out. It felt like the one you could have the most fun with being a comedian.”
It also helps to offset the fear of the unknown or the glut of unsubstantiated claims within the paranormal field.
“I just found that with this kind of stuff, there are a lot of unknowns,” she added, during a mid-October phone conversation. “We don’t know if people are making it up, so I thought comedy would be a way to tell these stories, but also have fun with it at the same time.”
The levity — akin to Bud Abbott and Lou Costello running into the monster-du-jour — along with the subject material was something the Second City alumna noticed was lacking from both the comedy and paranormal communities.
Hillier’s first guests, in separate episodes, include the iconic “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” member Colin Mochrie, as well as “The Great Canadian Baking Show” co-host Ann Pornel.
And both of them believe in ghosts; although Pornel is quite adamant about not wanting to run into one.
“People are definitely reaching out,” the 38-year-old said. “And when I ask and they say yes, usually it’s because they’re interested in it or they have a story. So, you get in deep with people you haven’t gotten in deep with before.”
Every comedian has a shtick, and for Hillier, it’s both attempting to scare her fellow guests — full disclosure included at the beginning of the podcast — and doing a Tarot reading at the end.
And they even pulled the Hermit during the Mochrie episode. It was apropos of everything pandemic-related.
“That really opens people up,” she admitted. “It always hits, and it always is something that’s like, ‘Yep, that’s me right now’.”
Comedy is all about being real, Hillier added, and emerging from the pandemic has connected people.
“Whenever you are doing a show, and whenever you add a real moment in there, people connect because it’s a shared experience,” she said. “That’s also coming up in this; the shared experience of the pandemic. We’ve all had this big world moment.”