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Hosts of true crime/comedy podcast Sinisterhood bring live show to Tampa Improv

Christie Wallace and Heather McKinney will discuss the St. Pete urban legend Mini Lights at their Tampa show.
From left, Heather McKinney and Christie Wallace, hosts of the podcast Sinisterhood, are bringing their live show to the Tampa Improv on July 13.
From left, Heather McKinney and Christie Wallace, hosts of the podcast Sinisterhood, are bringing their live show to the Tampa Improv on July 13. [ Courtesy of Sinisterhood. ]
Published Jul. 11

They cover “cults, crimes, creeps and things” and they’re having the time of their lives doing it. Dallas-based friends and comedians Christie Wallace and Heather McKinney are hosts of the popular podcast Sinisterhood.

The duo are bringing their live show on the Keeping It Creepy tour to the Tampa Improv on July 13. And most exciting of all: They have chosen a St. Petersburg urban legend to discuss — the Mini Lights.

In 2016, I wrote in the Tampa Bay Times about the lesser-known urban legend in which little green or blue men would chase people, especially kids, if they were out in the streets after the streetlights came on. They could be summoned by repeating “Mini lights, mini lights, come out tonight” three times.

Related: Have you seen the Mini Lights haunting St. Pete? These people have.

My husband, Michael Alexis, believed in the Mini Lights as a child, but not really as an adult. Still, he won’t push his luck by repeating the phrase, even now.

That’s exactly the kind of story Wallace and McKinney look for when they’re researching urban legends to dissect in their live shows.

“The idea that this urban legend has such holding power that, you’re a rational adult, you definitely know it’s not real but you’re not about to take a chance on it is exactly the kind of story where it’s like local silly, really niche, like nobody else really knows about it, where we can bring our outsider perspective,” McKinney said.

The show is structured to use as many firsthand accounts as possible. McKinney does different accents and voices for the characters, which she says can get pretty silly. They find a common thread in all of the theories and close it out with their opinions of what the explanation could be. Improvised banter between the two can take the show in any direction.

They close the show with a special segment with the audience called Judge Christie, where people bring their petty grievances against each other and Wallace rules on them.

“My rulings are final,” Wallace said. ”My jurisdiction is global. I’m the highest court in the land.”

For their show in Orlando, they are focusing on the town of Cassadaga in Volusia County, which is known as the psychic capital of the world. The town’s slogan — “where Mayberry meets the Twilight Zone” — is a definite allure. Wallace and McKinney visit the places they feature, and the experience becomes fodder for what they talk about on stage.

While the live shows are lighthearted and fun, showcasing their decades of comedy training, Wallace and McKinney have a serious side when it comes to true crime cases. McKinney is an attorney who worked pro bono for the Innocence Project. She and Wallace do extensive research that includes studying state laws in the pursuit of justice and presenting different narratives.

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“It helps us think about these people whose stories may not have been told in the kindest manner,“ McKinney said. “So we appreciate the opportunity to do true crime when we do it in the studio episodes in a way that is trauma-informed, victim-centric in a kind way. And of course, those are the episodes that we always say, ‘This isn’t going to be a funny one.’ "

“We always say, that person, the victim’s worst day of their life doesn’t define them,” Wallace said. “So we like to give their backstory and lead up to whatever happened so they’re more humanized.”

They’ve yet to solve a cold case, but that is the goal. They have several cases on their radar that could lead to a later show down the road. The recent phenomenon of podcasts solving cases is encouraging.

“If we could do something like that and help bring closure to a family and a cold case, that’s the ultimate dream,” Wallace said.

If you go

Sinisterhood. 7:30 p.m. July 13. $32 and up. Ages 21 and older. Tampa Improv, 1600 E Eighth Ave. 813-864-4000. improvtampa.com.

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