Live theater, unsolicited commentary. From Detroit to Lansing.


The second Go Comedy! original holiday sketch show, Best Damn Holiday Show, is largely grounded in the here and now. Current events figure prominently in the production's few dozen sketches; add to that the severity of Michigan's particular hardships, and this is one holiday offering that looks for its humor in dark, bleak places.

Framing the nearly 90-minute production is a pair of sketches in which the cast's attempts to sing an original Christmas tune are repeatedly shut down by imperious killjoys — as the Go Comedy! space used to be a Secretary of State office, bureaucratic equal-opportunity political correctness still applies. The song's repeatedly amended, increasingly vague lyrics are quite sharp, pushing the absurd concept to its limit; it's an effective mechanism to set up a show that strives to be about more than just Christmas. Between these bookends lie much more diverse characters and places, but the topical feel largely remains. Rumination on the lousy presents of a down economy, a visit with the rescued Chilean miners, and a sketch pitching hot new toys to kids of various stereotyped Michigan cities deny escapism, priming the viewer for a scathing closing medley that skewers everything in sight.

Even with its thorough (and thoroughly humorous) examination of why things kind of suck right now, some of the best scenes of the production are free of such context. The female half of the cast (Christa Coulter, Anne Faba, and Suzie Jacokes) shows off splendid characters in an anachronistic take on the virgin Mary's baby shower. In a series of perfectly executed reveals, the women gossip about Mary and her unbelievable situation, complain about off-registry gifts, and slowly build to a knockout punchline. A softer scene between Chris DiAngelo and Pj Jacokes about a single father, a naive son, and a live turkey whom the son has befriended gets big laughs from the actors' reactions, but also harbors appreciative tenderness. Bryan Lark revives his memorable Baby New Year 2010 character, here stuck in a disinterested mentor role with his successor; the guy is wizened but no wiser, far too strung out and bitter to take responsibility for all the crap his year has wrought. An unexpected scene played straight between DiAngelo and Faba as New Year's Eve partiers on their second date takes its time establishing their hesitant but optimistic rapport, and even the hiccup of its ending redeems itself by returning as a recurring bit.

Best Damn Holiday Show is not intended as an extension of or sequel to last year's Miracle on Nine Mile Street; new viewers shouldn't feel lost or miss much in some light callbacks to its predecessor. Still, the notable return of directing team Michelle and Tommy LeRoy, most of the same cast, and some recycled material (in particular, the aforementioned Baby New Year and a zipper Christmas carol) do tenuously link the two. Both are extremely trim, no-filler sketch shows drawing from the Second City model, and the LeRoys clearly have a fine sense of phrasing and flow. Where they differ somewhat is in their tone; this year, the fantastical and playful elements have been diminished in favor of a grittier, crummier holiday. The production's many laughs borne out of seasonal malaise in concert with ripped-from-the-headlines dismay suggest that holiday humor can be just as effective when the subject is scorned as when it's revered.


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