Shelley McLendon

“I was listening to The Specials,” Shelley McLendon says over email. “And the song ‘Ghost Town’ came on.” That was all it took to set her and Michael Fetters on the path to a sketch comedy show set in an Old West town full of gold rushers, ghost hunters, and church kids.

Regular Mercury readers will know I love screaming about the Aces: the imaginative, reliably hilarious duo composed of McLendon and Fetters. Though they are most notably beloved for their animal impressions, the secret sauce that makes the Aces so outrageous is a hard recipe to reverse engineer.

McLendon’s nigh legendary deadpan humor figures heavily. There was a sketch in the Aces’ 2018 show, Hot Fruit, where everything she picked up was a banana (phone, cigarettes, baby, boat, etc.), and when the audience turned to see the Aces longtime helper Marshall Bradley standing stoically in a human-sized banana costume, Shelley said, “Oh, the moon is out.” I’m still laughing about it, two years later.

Fetters brings total devotion to the physicality of his characters, be they the angry gorilla dad from their sketch about gorilla parenting—which is what made people so obsessed with the Aces’ animal impressions in the first place—to his mysterious all-knowing buffalo chew at their 2019 show State Fair. “At this point,” McLendon says. “I don’t think we can ever NOT play animals in a show.”

So Ghost Town will have an animal or two. I’ve also heard tell of a strongman costume and a petting zoo. It seems impractical to imagine an evening of Aces comedy without a visit from Glenn and Peaches, Fetters and McLendon’s hip socialite swinger characters, but I’m not sure how they would get to the Old West. McLendon gave me a negative on Ghost Town featuring any giant mechanical spiders à la the 1999 film Wild Wild West. “But,” she said, “you’re making me think we should.”

A full show is my ideal way for people to see the Aces—as opposed to catching them at festivals or “Best Of” nights where they might only get to do one skit. There’s a building, rolling humor to their writing, which circles back and pumps up old jokes, adding layers and calling in old references. Ghost Town is set to dip back and forth between a small dusty town’s booming past and its abandoned present. I’m excited to see where the Aces will take us.