This year for Halloween I created a concept costume that pays homage to one of my favorite cultural characters -- the stand-up comedian. Particularly the flavor of comedian from the late 1980's/early 1990's era. One common item that I found throughout most stand-up routines is the standard brick wall background that most clubs have their stages built against. For the gag to work though I needed to have a brick wall with me at all times. So rather than cart around a cardboard brick wall to set up every time someone asked me what I was supposed to be, I decided to attach the brick wall to myself so there would be no confusion.
Step 1: Supplies
Some of these you may have around the house. For the rest you can get them on the cheap at a thrift store or Target/Wal-Mart:
1. A tweed blazer -- This doesn't have to be tweed but for the 1980's feel I felt it was appropriate. Do not use a jacket that you plan to wear again as you will be cutting holes into the back of it.
2. Two nylon straps with hard plastic clips on each end -- The straps pictured, bought from Wal-Mart, are 6ft. long and were almost too short for my height, 5' 8". You should measure the length from the front of your waist, up over your torso and shoulders and then down your back to the middle of the back of your waist. Even then you should calculate some extra length for adjustment.
3. Three carabiners or "pear clips" -- These are optional but will come in handy when you clip the straps to your belt loops, especially if you have to put this costume on by yourself.
4. Wood glue and a box cutter -- Wood glue worked the best for me. I actually started with spray mount adhesive which did not work with the foam core very well at all.
5. Spray paint -- Any reddish-brown or rust color will work best for the bricks.
6. Two 4 x 4 sheets of white Foam Core -- This can be bought at most craft stores or if you look up a Grip and Electric supply house in your area you will most likely be able to take some scraps from them free of charge.
7. A shirt and tie -- Any color combination will do here but try and have some fun with it. Remember, this is a 1980's-era costume!
8. A pair of blue jeans (not pictured) -- I really hope that you know what blue jeans are and that you have a pair.
Step 2: Making the Brick Wall
First cut one of your 4x4 sheets of Foam Core into an approx. 35" x 25" rectangle. I decided on this height and width by having my wife measure a few inches wider than my shoulder width and about 6" longer than the distance from my waist to the top of my head. I wanted the wall to only stick out a few inches on either side of me so that it would be easy to move around at a party. The height above your head should take any low clearances into consideration.
Using your box cotter carefully cut anywhere from 25 to 35 brick shapes from the second 4x4 sheet of Foam Core. For the bricks I came up with an approx. 4" x 7" dimension. This can be larger or smaller depending on your preference but try to get as close to the size of actual bricks as possible.
I cut one brick shape first and then used it as a template for the others. You can also use this template to determine approximately how many bricks you are going to need for the entire wall.
You will also need to cut smaller pieces for the edges of the wall. Most importantly -- don't throw away any scraps! You never know when you might need one for an edge piece.
To paint the bricks I used a minimal amount of the spray paint and tried to vary the spray pattern as much as possible. For some bricks I tried to leave some of the white of the Foam Core showing through to give a sense of texture. If it helps you can Google a picture of a brick wall to get a sense for light and dark variation.
Step 3: Attaching the Bricks to the Wall
If you've ever seen a brick wall this step should be pretty simple. I spaced the bricks about an inch apart but you don't have to be so rigid if you want to present a "realistic" look. Also, for the same reason, keep in mind that you should randomly distribute the lighter and darker bricks.
Apply a liberal amount of the wood glue to the back of each brick but not so much that it oozes out from the sides as you lay it onto the foam core.
When laying down your second row be sure to stagger the bricks so that they don't line up in a grid. You then want to offset each subsequent row as shown in the picture.
Completing each row may require you to cut some of your brick pieces to adjust for the remaining width. This is where your shorter pieces or scrap pieces will be invaluable.
Step 4: Cutting Holes in the Wall for the Straps
Using your box cutter make three incisions in the mortar of the brick wall a little wider than your nylon strap.
To get the correct placement I held the wall behind me and had my wife mark on the mortar at each shoulder and then once in the middle of my lower back.
The holes will need to be adjusted to your own height and width.
Step 5: Cutting Holes in the Blazer for the Straps
Again using your box cutter cut holes that roughly line up with your shoulder blades and then one lower at the small of your back.
I had my wife help me with this step and the holes were cut with the blazer off of my body.
These holes don't have to line up with the holes in the wall exactly but you should attempt to get them as close as possible.
Step 6: Attaching the Straps
The nylon straps will now be fed from the back of the wall to the front.
You should remove the plastic clips to make it easier.
One strap each will feed through the two top holes and then both will be fed through the bottom.
After you have the straps through, reattach the plastic clips and then add the carabiners or pear clips to the plastic hooks. The straps will be clipped together where they come through the bottom of the wall. This is probably the best reason for using the carabiners.
The carabiners are optional but I found them to be easier to work with when attaching the rig to my belt loops.
Now feed the straps through the holes in the blazer.
Step 7: Putting the Rig On
Be sure that you already have your jeans and shirt and tie on before this last step. You could try to get dressed after the rig is attached but I would advise against it.
I found it easier to hold the top shoulder straps and sling the rig around to my back, kind of like putting on a back-pack.
With the rig behind you pull the straps down and clip the carabiners into two of your front belt loops. It's going to feel like the straps aren't long enough at first but you will be able to adjust them so don't worry.
Next, reach behind you and clip the two combined straps to the rear center belt loop of your jeans.
Once you're all clipped in, pull the jacket on as you normally would. You may need some help at first before you get the hang of it. I was able to do it twice by myself after having my wife help me with the initial fitting.
If you like you can button one or two buttons of the blazer for a more comfortable fit. This will also hide the straps, although they kind of look like suspenders so if you want to have it open, no worries.
For the hilarious icing on the hysterical cake, I pushed up the sleeves of my blazer as was the style at the time.
Step 8: Optional Items
These items are entirely optional but should be considered for rounding out the comedian look.
First of course, every comedian should have a microphone. I fashioned this one from a toilet paper tube, some black paper tape and some balled up aluminum foil. I also added a "button" that goes from "Off" to "Funny", but feel free to create it to your own specs. The mic will also come in handy for when someone inevitably asks you to tell some jokes. You can either decide to tell some or pass the mic to them. Surprisingly most people have quite a few jokes at the ready and in my experience were more than happy to share them.
Next are a pair of sunglasses. These really aren't necessary and I didn't end up wearing them that much since the parties that I went to this year were both at night. However, to further the 1980's look I felt they were appropriate.
A note regarding jokes: I Googled "Corny jokes from the 1980's" before going out in costume which didn't result in learning any jokes that I felt inclined to share with anyone. If you don't know any jokes please feel free to do some research on the topic but keep in mind that they should be short and sweet. The last thing you want to do is begin telling a joke to a group of party-goers only to forget how it goes halfway through. If you find some that you like you could write them down on index cards and keep them in the inner breast pocket of your blazer. Also consider if the joke will offend anyone as that could result in an even more awkward situation. If in doubt, practice telling the joke to someone that you know well. Happy Halloween!