The crowd at Good Robot Brewing Company froze as Shawn Adderley reached into his bin. He pulled out a Chilean rose tarantula.
Adderley was at the brewery to “dispel popular myths and fears,” associated with “unusual” creatures, he said.
Adderley is the head zoo keeper with premier exotic animals at Little Rays Reptile Zoo in Halifax. Originating in Ontario, the zoo has expanded and opened a location in the Halifax Regional Municipality. They are the largest reptile rescue in Canada and often partner with SPCA in recovering and placing unwanted pets.
Adderley spent Tuesday participating in the “reptile takeover” comedy act with Good Robot’s head of social media, Dan Hendricken.
The Signal asked Hendricken why they decided to combine comedy with reptiles and he said, “the best late-nite talk shows are the ones with animals.”
He added that out of all of the performers hired for a previous Halloween event, Everything’s Fine, the reptiles were the most popular attraction — but they were “also the most feared.”
Hendricken has been performing stand-up comedy for five years, including a show at Imperial Theatre in New Brunswick. This, however, was his first routine with animals.
“I drunkenly said yes,” he said about agreeing to the act. Also, “for anxiety’s sake,” Hendricken said he didn’t want to be told which animals Adderley would be bringing, so he had no idea there would be a tarantula.
At the show, Adderley extended the spider out and asked his audience why they were afraid of her. The majority of responses fell under, “I don’t know,” or “she’s furry.” Adderley said that arachnophobia is the most irrational and common fear that people have.
“You wouldn’t be afraid of a furry puppy, right?” he said, still casually holding the spider, whom is named after the hairy Star Wars character, Chewbacca.
Hendricken said, after finally holding her, that Chewy was “light and surprisingly calm” — but as soon as she “hooked herself around my finger, I was done.”
The audience remained engaged as Adderley pulled out a Savannah monitor lizard, a small crocodile and leatherback sea turtle, but the most active reaction came from the python: Kessi.
One of 50 attendees, Jill Mancini, says she “touched the snake due to peer pressure,” and that Kessi was “smoother than expected.” Her friend was not as brave and slithered up the stairs as soon as the snake came out, she added.
On the other hand, fearless participant Meagan Leanna “wiggled” her way to the front for a better view.
“I really enjoyed Dan’s reactions to the critters,” Leanna said about the “informative” presentation. “I also just love me some snakes and lizards.” She’s added that she’s thinking of volunteering with Little Rays because she was so comfortable with the animals.
Hendricken couldn’t keep his eyes off of Adderley’s hands; they “both had to be on Kessi the whole time and they kept moving. Nope. No thank you.” He said “the muscle on that thing is bigger than your leg.”
This fear is why many of the alternative pets are given away or put into dangerous situations, said Shawn Adderley.
“These guys aren’t eligible to live in the wild anymore,” he said: they, like humans, are used to living in “captivity.”
The brewery used the event entry fee as a direct donation to Little Rays, which helps the company to house the animals comfortably. With the donations, Little Rays will also be able to host more events to further education about the “friendly but misunderstood” creatures.