Justin Bieber’s days are numbered — at least, at National Comedy Theatre.
The teen pop singer has inspired a lot of jokes in 2011, says Krissy Lenz, owner, with her husband, Dorian, of the Mesa comedy spot.
“There are some suggestions that just get really popular during the year and keep coming up over and over again. This year, it was Justin Bieber. Last year, it was Lady Gaga. So this (coming) year, we’re going to have to make a no-Justin-Bieber rule or do our best to cut back on the Justin Bieber material.”
Lenz and a cast of about 30 other “players” put on spontaneous comedy shows, using suggestions from the audience and on-stage volunteers to create unpredictable routines. Most shows are appropriate for all ages.
Here, Lenz visits about the theater’s lineup of holiday shows, starting with this weekend’s ode to Hanukkah.
Q: Give us an idea of what we’re in for at the ‘Ha Ha Hanukkah’ Comedy Show.
A: It’s competitive comedy, so everything’s based on audience participation. Two teams compete for points and the audience’s laughs. What makes it the Hanukkah show are the ‘8 Crazy Tickets’ we give out throughout the show. We put them on stage in the shape of a menorah, one for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. We also spin the dreidel at the end of each round, to see if the teams get to keep any of their points or not, and we play the latke game. It’s a ridiculous game that involves our players eating lots of potato pancakes — only we use tater tots, and they have to eat them at the audience’s command.
Q: What if I’m not familiar with Jewish holiday traditions?
A: It’s not unapproachable for someone who doesn’t know Hanukkah. We explain everything we do and why we’re doing it, so you might actually learn a little something about Hanukkah. But the content of the show is all based on audience suggestions and participation, so it’s not all about just Hanukkah or even the just the holidays.
Q: You also have a New Year’s Eve show, and it’s sold out every year since 2008 — the year the theater opened. How does NCT ring in the new year?
A: It’s a big, big party. We have a fancy, catered dinner. The cast dresses up and mingles with the guests. Then we do the full-scale competitive show, with a couple of fun extras thrown in because it’s New Year’s. After the show, we do dessert and party favors and a champagne and cider toast, and the big balloon drop. It’s kind of nice to have a New Year that’s not the typical bar scene, but is still fun. And you still get a countdown to midnight.
Q: Do a lot of people go to comedy shows over the holidays?
A: The holiday shows are always really popular. I think the family friendly shows are more so, because you have family coming to town or the family is just getting together more to spend time. And it’s something where you can bring grandma, the kids and the aunts and uncles, and you don’t have to worry that anyone’s going to be offended. Everyone likes to laugh.
Q: You’ve mentioned audience participation a couple of times. How afraid should people be that they’ll be singled out at a show?
A: There are enough people who want to go on stage that we don’t have to go digging for someone who’s really not comfortable with it. The only exception we have is when people volunteer their friends — you know, grabbing their friend’s hand and holding it up in the air and saying ‘Pick this guy! Pick this guy!’ When that happens, we pick the friend who’s doing the volunteering.