In Season 2, episode 6, we got to chat with Brian Corbitt, the creative mind behind the raunchy and hilarious Miss Jezebel—an actor-driven experience that’s a mix between immersive theatre and an escape room. Two of Brian’s games have won Golden Lock Awards from Room Escape Artist, and Miss Jezebel was also voted in the top three best online escape rooms in the 2020 TERPECAs – the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Awards.
Brian’s games all have a quirky signature style to them, including the use of puppets, humor, interesting mechanics, and deeply immersive interactions. Brian worked in the haunt industry for over a decade as a scare actor and set designer, and it’s easy to see the influence the haunt industry has on his games.
One of the things that struck me was how so many of his ideas all started off as April Fool’s Day pranks. Many of Brian’s best games came about because he wanted to create something to entertain his friends, make ’em laugh, and maybe troll them a bit. Brian’s passion for creating something brilliant, funny, and a tad twisted is apparent in his games and this interview. It was a blast diving into his carnival funhouse brain.
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Topics Discussed in this Episode
- Peih-Gee notes that Brian is part of her regular escape room team, and David warns that this episode may be more explicit than usual. [0:51]
- David mentions that Brian’s games tend to lean into his strengths and quirks, creating a style that is unique. [ 1:32]
- We discuss the things that make Miss Jezebel unique, such as the fact that it’s an 18+ game, and that it’s an interactive, comedic, actor-driven game. [2:14]
- Brian says that he really wanted to bring humor to escape rooms. [2:59]
- Peih-Gee mentions that she tested his new game, Galaxy Quest, and that the videos were so entertaining that she abandoned the puzzles to go watch them (unheard of!). [3:26]
- Brian says he originally wanted an actor inside Galaxy Quest as well, but decided to hold off on that during quarantine. He also mentions the difficulty for the actor in having to don a full-face silicone mask for an hour. [3:59]
- Brian recounts how Miss Jezebel originally started as an April Fool’s joke for his friends and employees. [5:02]
- Brian talks about some of the difficulties in creating an adult-themed game, including dealing with his franchise partner. [6:22]
- Brian talks about joining the 60Out Franchise and how he’s managed to work with them while still maintaining some amount of creative control. [7:23]
- Brian gives an example where 60Out renamed one of his rooms and it immediately increased sales by 30%. [8:34]
- Peih-Gee talks about the benefits of how 60Out standardizes its rooms. She says that as a player, it’s good to know what level of quality and tech to expect. [9:56]
- Brian talks about a unique mechanic in his room Tiki Time where you earn time, and you’re rewarded with more time in the room when you solve a puzzle. [11:09]
- Brian talks about balancing passion for the industry and the business side of running an escape room. He says that he joined a franchise so they could handle operations and marketing, leaving him to focus on creating games. [14:10]
- David talks about what a sensation Miss Jezebel’s Tea Party made in the community when it first launched. He mentions that many creators have cited Miss Jezebel as a primary influence. [17:22]
- Brian talks about turning Miss Jezebel into a virtual game during quarantine. [17:54]
- Peih-Gee talks about the decision to have 2 people running the room: the actor playing Miss Jezebel, and a new character, The Detective, who acts as the straight man and eyes and ears for the players. [19:30]
- Brian talks about having a couple of different actors play Miss Jezebel and the variation in performance styles. [22:41]
- Brian talks about working as a scare actor for over a decade at various haunts. He says the most important things are innovation and creativity. [23:58]
- Brian talks about the time he hooked his body up to an electroshock device so he could give haunt guests a little electric shock when he touched them. [25:23]
- Brian discusses the difference between working inside the haunt mazes as opposed to roaming “the streets” and having guest interactions. [27:18]
- Brian talks about his philosophy when it comes to gamemastering, and how he always wants the gamemaster dialogue to be in character. [30:03]
- David recounts his first time playing Krampus (which no longer exists) and how terrified his teammate was. [31:44]
- Brian tells us about his plans to repurpose Miss Jezebel, essentially having two different games that can be played in the same space. [33:50]
- David notes that puppetry is a hallmark of Brian’s game design. Brian talks to us about why he likes using puppets in his rooms. [35:03]
- Brian says that the “Boglin” puppet he uses in Galaxy Quest is an audience favorite, and was his childhood toy from the eighties. [36:25]
- Brian tells us about the origins of Miss Jezebel’s puppet cat Orion. [37:08]
- We discuss the use of animatronics in escape rooms. [37:46]
- David talks about being inspired by Miss Jezebel to use puppets when he worked on the tv show Create the Escape. [40:46]
- Brian talks about creating the VIP maze, which was a secret maze that only happened for 15 minutes, one night per season at Knott’s Scary Farm. [41:42]
- Brian talks about his time in the military and the different immersive training techniques he experienced. [45:14]
- Brian tells a story about one of the immersive training encounters where he role-plays a drunken CIA spook and agents have to track him down and extract him from the scene. [46:28]
- Brian talks about his new game with a serial killer theme, and how he’s torn between the authenticity of using real serial killers and whether it’s appropriate to use these stories for entertainment. [48:39]
- For our bonus afterstory, Brian tells us about the best “distraction phone call” a player ever made in Miss Jezebel. [51:22]
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- 60Out website
- 2016 Golden Lock Award from REA for Krampus
- 2020 Golden Lock Award from REA Online Category for Miss Jezebel
- REA review for Miss Jezebel in person
- REA Hivemind review for Miss Jezebel online
- REA review of Krampus
- What is a “Boglin”?
- Original Boglin puppet commercial
- Create the Escape
- Knott’s Scary Farm
In his early years, Brian Corbitt spent four years in the airborne infantry, and three years as a military training actor. He then spent 10 years in the haunt industry as both a set designer and a scare actor. His haunt alter ego is a clown named Needle. He’s since been an owner/ operator/ designer in the escape room industry for 5 years in Los Angeles as part of the 60Out franchise. He is the creator of the world-famous Miss Jezebel, an immersive actor-driven escape room.
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