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Uncensored ‘Hanging’ returns to Knott’s Scary Farm – ‘If you don’t like it, don’t watch’

Uncensored ‘Hanging’ returns to Knott’s Scary Farm – ‘If you don’t like it, don’t watch’

The politically correct culture that forced Knott’s Berry Farm to quietly kill off “The Hanging” finds itself in the crosshairs of a resurrected version of the pop culture skewering show that doubles down on all the tasteless comedy, pointless bloodletting and senseless killings.

“I’m not taking any prisoners with it,” said Jeff Tucker, Knott’s Berry Farm show writer and director of this year’s edition of “The Hanging.” “I’m not censoring myself in any way. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.”

“The Hanging: Uncancelled” triumphantly returns to the Buena Park theme park for the 50th anniversary of Knott’s Scary Farm running on select nights from Sept. 21 to Oct. 31.

Knott’s Berry Farm effectively retired “The Hanging” in 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the annual Halloween Haunt event in 2020 and the comedy stunt show failed to return in 2021 and 2022.

“The Hanging” ended its decades-long run amid increasingly intense negative feedback and the quickening pace of pop culture that made the comedy parody show tougher to pull off every Halloween.

“It’s been four years,” Tucker said during an interview at Knott’s. “We have gone through a lot as a world and as a people. It’s OK to be funny again. It’s OK to laugh again. It’s OK to have things that are not PC culture.”

Rather than shrink from the criticism and kowtow to upset PC sensibilities, Tucker is leaning into the disapproval and condemnation with the latest version of “The Hanging” that is even more offensive and over the top.

All the backstabbing, throat cutting and disemboweling stunts are back, along with the politically incorrect gallows humor that the show became known for.

“I’m going back to basics,” Tucker said. “I like things that are familiar. I’m not here to reinvent the wheel.”

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The new incarnation of “The Hanging” is moving into the Wagon Camp theater this year. In past years, the show was in Calico Square or on the Calico Mine Stage — out in the open where anyone could wander past and become offended.

The new show will come with an explicit warning.

“We’re going to tell you, ‘Don’t go into the Wagon Camp if you’re easily offended,’” Tucker said. “I’m going to have a sign on the gate that says, ‘Don’t come in here. This show is not for anyone. It’s filthy. Do not enter.’”

The Lawman addresses the good citizens of Calico in “The Hanging” at Knott’s Scary Farm. (Photo by Fielding Buck, Press-Enterprise/SCNG) 

The easily offended better watch out if they somehow manage to wander into “The Hanging” because they will become part of the evening’s entertainment.

“Within the context of the show, I make fun of the people who complain,” Tucker said. “There are no sacred cows.”

The Wagon Camp theater holds about 600 people per show with three performances of “The Hanging” planned per night. That means less than 10% of Scary Farmers will see the show on a typical night.

“If you want to see ‘The Hanging’ you better get in line early,” Tucker said. “You have to want it. Don’t make that effort if you’re just going to be upset the whole time.”

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“The Hanging” has a long history that stretches back to the early days of Knott’s Halloween Haunt in the 1970s.

The marquee show has evolved over the years from a Wild West reenactment to a supernatural story focused on the Green Witch to a bloody comedy revue that disemboweled celebrity pop culture. “The Hanging: Uncancelled” picks up where the old show left off in 2019.

“We’re going to poke fun at all the pop culture moments,” Tucker said. “Now we’ve got four years to pull from.”

“Uncancelled” will add a few new twists to the familiar mix of blood, stunts and comedy.

“This will be the first year that the characters in the show know that they’re in a show,” Tucker said. “They acknowledge that it’s a new venue. They acknowledge that they were canceled. Knott’s security plays a role in trying to shut the show down because it’s not PC. There’s a lot of meta stuff to it, which I’m really excited about.”

The Hangman and the Lawman will serve as the hosts of “Uncancelled” and appear on stage throughout the show.

“You’re anchored to them as characters the whole show,” Tucker said. “We’re really rooting for these guys. We want them to find a victim and find a way to kill them in the show.”

The fan-favorite Green Witch — who plays a driving force behind the central storyline of Scary Farm — makes a series of appearances to wreak havoc on the best laid plans of the Lawman and the Hangman.

“The Hanging” also acknowledges the marquee names that have headlined Knott’s Scary Farm during the past half decade — from Sinister Seymour to Wolfman Jack to Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

“Let’s give the fans all the Easter eggs and references that we can cram in there,” Tucker said. “I’m a Knott’s guy. I live and breathe Knott’s Berry Farm. Everything that I do here on the Farm has to have the Knott’s flavor.”

Over in the Walter Knott Theater, “Music, Monsters and Mayhem” will celebrate 50 years of Knott’s Scary Farm with tributes to retired haunted mazes and scare zones. The musical revue will also offer nods to former Haunt hosts Elvira, Wolfman Jack and Sinister Seymour.

“If you like Scary Farm, everything you love is going to be on that stage,” Tucker said.

In the Birdcage Theater, the audience participation “Dr. Cleaver” melodrama will feature raucous comedy and a magic illusion as the centerpiece.

Also returning for Scary Farm 2023: “Carnival du Grotesque” on the Calico Mine Stage.