Christmas is holy, a time for beloved families and friends to gather in front of the yule log and reminisce about holidays past as they sip eggnog and—stop! When you get through choking on that nog, why don’t you take that crackling log and shove it where the sun don’t shine, because Christmas is nothing if not a Norman Rockwell treacle-fest ready to be defiled and violated. Or so say the young comedians of Jet City Improv, whose current midnight show, Uncle Mike Ruins Christmas, takes all that’s warm and fuzzy about the season and turns it into a foul, perverted, and often funny satire of family dysfunction not for those who hold the holidays overly sacred. Imagine the suburban skewerings of John Waters and the taboo transgressions of Lenny Bruce crossed with the spontaneous shtick of Second City Improv, and you begin to get an idea of what Jet City’s up to. The skits are hit or miss, but the troupe’s spirit and energy are undeniable, making this midnight show a good diversion for Scrooges and Grinches alike.
As audience members enter the theater, they’re asked to scrawl their favorite holiday memories on scraps of paper. An emcee reads them out loud, and the cast (Keli Carender, Nick Edwards, Mike Murphy, Geoff Nunn, Ian Schempp, and Stephani Thompson) re-creates the reminiscences on the spot. At some point during the sketch, the titular Uncle Mike, played by the hirsute, lumberjack-resembling Murphy, intrudes like a bad dream, not only ruining Christmas but savaging everything in sight. Typically, Uncle Mike’s shenanigans involve lots of drinking and yelling and the assertion of deeply disturbing and dark-tinged sexuality.
The real pleasure of this show, directed by Douglas Willott, is in seeing exactly how Murphy will wreak havoc on this delicate nostalgia; he’s quick on his feet, with a wicked glint in his eye and a mischievous smile that draws you in despite his character’s broad and destructive vulgarity. Even those of strong constitution may find the show’s overload of bad faith a little hard to take, though at just an hour it’s all over rather quickly. As an antidote to the prefab Hallmark sentiments omnipresent this time of year, Uncle Mike Ruins Christmas provides the necessary short, sharp shock, with a few guilty laughs thrown in for good measure. ‘Tis the season.