In the 1960s, there were no holiday specials. There was L.B.J., a war in Southeast Asia, riots in the streets of Detroit and Newark, campus protests, and Christmas specials. America had new color TVs using a technology called “Solid State” and it had “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” And, Rudolph was not going to save holidays, by golly, he was going to save Christmas. It was a sacred part of my youth that I waited every year to see this Claymation special without DVR, Blu-ray, DVD or even VHS. The folks at CINEPROV were able to tarnish that memory completely, and I loved every minute of it.
CINEPROV is a hilarious troupe of “riffers” at the Relapse Theater who spend every Friday doing MST3K-style attacks on old movies. Riffing is a unique comedy skill that involves ridiculing a movie or television program while watching it. Once a year they turn their attention to Christmas specials and for two Fridays in row make sport with childhood favorites from decades past. The event is called the Annual Ruining Childhood Memories Holiday Show. Last week’s assault on “Elmo Saves Christmas” (1996) and “Rudolph, the Red Nosed-Reindeer” (Dawn of Time) was the first wave of CINEPROV’s War on Christmas.
Kathryn Claypool, Lowrie Scott Taylor and Larry Johnson are the three improvisation artists who make up CINEPROV’s Ruining Childhood Memories Holiday Show cast. Larry Johnson created CINEPROV six years ago. For the past four years they have been doing CINEPROV at the Relapse Theater. This is the fourth Christmas show. One of the most popular shows at the Relapse every year, Ruining Childhood Memories Holiday Show has expanded to two shows a year. Do not let the titles of the shows or the cartoon nature of the programs mislead you. This is an adult show with foul language and absolutely is geared for the cynic and absurdist in all of us.
It was very difficult for the group to actually make fun of “Elmo Saves Christmas” because the show itself was so authentically awful that the audience was laughing too hard to hear many of the jokes. There was a technical difficulty also with the audio, but that didn’t stop the jokes from coming or the audience from doubling over in fits of giggles. There were no childhood memories to be ruined with Elmo’s holiday special because it seemed as if no one had ever seen it.
Rudolph was a different story. Arguably one of the most popular holiday classics to come out of Rankin-Bass Studios, “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” was an unexpected target. The riffers found obvious jokes in comparison to Penn State’s recent scandal and the behavior of the reindeer coach, but also more obscure commentary. My companion for the evening, for instance, was laughing hours later about the observation that all the toys were gray. It’s true. All the toys are gray in the workshop except the one that Herbie is painting. It might be an artistic decision, but it just looks like lazy Claymation. Gray toys. Check it out yourself this year when you watch Rudolph.
Next week the war continues with a triad of classic Christmas specials. You will probably want to make reservations if you are going to see:
- · HeMan and SheRa Christmas Special
- · Frosty The Snowman
- · Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
The Backstage Beat recommends that you make some time to laugh this holiday season…get yourself down to Cineprov so your cherished childhood memories can be ruined. Now…can they do something about Viet Nam flashbacks?
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