When I was a little boy, my dad used to read A Christmas Carol to me every Christmas Eve.  I remember asking what gruel was, being frightened by Jacob Marley’s clanking ghost, and wondering what all the fuss about goose was.  It was one of my favorite stories ever.

But then I got older and started watching a lot of television.  This meant being bombarded yearly by countless made for TV movies and holiday specials offering their own renditions of Dickens’ classic.  I watched Yosemite Sam, Kermit the Frog, Fred Flintstone, Mister Magoo, and even The Animaniacs reprise A Christmas Carol year after year until it felt stale.  I no longer wanted to revisit the story.  I know it by heart thanks to Bugs and the gang.

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The Comedy Roast of Mr. Scrooge, a refreshing approach to A Christmas Carol courtesy of Camp Bar’s in-house theater company Actors Theater of Minnesota, is the perfect remedy for that Dickens ennui.  The show, now celebrating its tenth year in production, in no way attempts to recount a story that is already burned into everyone’s memory.  Rather, it takes the form of a traditional celebrity roast with the cast of the story stepping up to do the honors. Jacob Marley is the roast master, Scrooge is the guest of honor, and the Cratchit family and the Ghosts of Christmas Present, Past, and Future team up to tear one another to shreds.

One by one, the characters take the podium to hurl insults at each other, mock current events, and even burn one hapless member of the audience.  Tiny Tim plays up his poverty: “One year I got a puppy for Christmas. It was delicious,” and “I can’t even read — my cue cards just have pictures of food on them.”  Emily Cratchit throws complimentary rolls of paper towels to the audience, explaining that she knows how much liberals like free handouts. The Ghost of Christmas Past informs Emily Cratchit that she would be considered “small town, dark bar pretty…in Wisconsin.”  The Ghost of Christmas Future accuses Scrooge of being so old that his social security number is written in hieroglyphics. It’s a relentless barrage of deprecating barbs and I love it.

Be certain: Those examples are among the only G rated jokes in the show.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Camp Bar has to repaint their theater’s walls after each performance of The Comedy Roast of Mr. Scrooge, it’s that dirty.  If you are easily offended, or for that matter offendable at all, then this play will offend you. That makes it great.

“I would argue that it’s the dirtiest show in Minnesota,” said Adam Fielitz, local comedian and Jacob Marley in the show.  “I recommend you put your concerns aside and laugh. The world is messed up enough as it is.”

“This time of year, we’re all giving things to others, we’re going to parties,” Adam continued.  “Your Christmas postcard photo encapsulates a great moment in the year, but I’d rather see a bad moment.  Show me a photo of your family fighting, of your car breaking down. That’s not true Christmas nature — it’s human, and that kind of tension is beautiful to me.”

If you would like a brief reprieve from this time of year’s omnipresent sense of good will, benefaction, and schmalz, The Comedy Roast of Mr. Scrooge is the perfect opportunity to go watch people acting perfectly horrible to each other.  Information about and tickets to all of The Cabaret @ Camp’s performances are available at camp-bar.net.

 

By David Scheller