Comedy is made to look easy when it's not perfect; when not every joke lands and not every gag gets guffaws. But as long as a majority of it produces chuckles, consider it a success. That describes the Reduced Shakespeare Company and its eighth "abridged" work, The Ultimate Holiday Show (abridged), having its North Texas premiere at McDavid Studio and being presented by Performing Arts Fort Worth.
The RSC guys have written funnier shows, notably their first one, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), but it is about time they got in on the holiday game. Everyone else is doing it, after all. And few do it in a manner as funny as this.
Performed by the show's writers and directors, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, along with RSC member Matt Rippy, Ultimate Holiday Show works in loads of holiday references.
Some of them are yuk-yuk groaners, such as the early Christmas "rapping" scene, and when Tichenor "dons his gay apparel" -- the show is filled with more puns than you can pull with a mistletoe truck. One of the more clever bits has Rippy calling the Santa hotline only to find that that job has been outsourced, so he speaks to "Sanjay Claus."
The conceit here is that RSC is one of the groups performing in the "Multicultural Interfaith Holiday Variety Show and Christmas Pageant," but when none of the other acts can make it due to bad weather, the RSC trio has to perform in their stead.
As the Confederate Christmas Carolers, they sing White Christmas. As the Buffalo Bells, they do a fun version of Jingle Bells with found objects, including a toy xylophone, pot lids and a whoopee cushion. And at the end, there's a funny take on The Nutcracker with the Billy Barty Ballet Company's "Little Nutzy." Thankfully, they don't attempt to do the acts of Cirque du Sleigh or the Muslim-American Ramadancers.
The longest, funniest and riskiest section is when they perform a traditional British panto, and choose as their fairy tale the traditional Christmas story, with Martin as a pregnant virgin and the wise men as Bee Gees wannabes. In a panto, the audience boos and hisses at the bad guy, in this case, King Herod. Aside from that, thankfully, Ultimate Holiday Show has few reasons for booing and hissing.