Andy Livengood, like many performers, is no stranger to being a bit of a contradiction.
Inside of the Theatre 99 lobby, he might be confused for a patron, unassumingly standing next to the ticket station—but that is only because he is comfortable. On stage, he explodes (for that same reason). He is sensitive to others’ opinions (he’s keeping his No Shave November beard after receiving compliments), but doesn’t come off as self-conscious. If his high school had an accolade for “Least Likely To Rap On Stage,” he probably would have won, but yet, that is just one of the many funny stunts you can expect when the unassuming man in the lobby takes the stage in his one-man show The Christmas Will Be Televised on December 18 at Theatre 99.
HG: How did the show come about?
AL: A friend of mine was doing a sketch show that was Christmas themed, but the only gig they could get booked was the week after Christmas, so we came up with this bit where [from the tech booth] I would be making fun of them the whole time about how it wasn’t even Christmas. At the end of the show he says, “You think this is easy? Get up here and do something.” And I did a one-man version of A Christmas Story. I do the whole movie in a minute and a half, and it kills. After that show, [Theatre 99 co-founder] Greg Tavares came up to me and said I should expand on it as a show, that he would direct it.
HG: What was the writing process like?
AL: [Tavares and I] started in January, and all year we were writing the show. After that first year, by the time Christmas rolled around I was so tired of Christmas! I was a little more familiar with the movies, so I would write out some ideas, then he would take it and polish it—and then back and forth. It was great. Really fun.
HG: This is the fifth year of the show. How has it changed?
AL: The first we did it we had an idea for Christmas Carol that was better as a concept than what we could actually pull off. We did a roast of Scrooge, so Frosty, Santa, Rudolph all roasting Scrooge—and it’s a really great idea, but I don’t write jokes real well. But it made it into that the first show—and I think I still have video of this—at one point I forgot how one character exited and was just like, “Okay, bye!” But that’s when we came up with the Stars Wars Christmas Carol. Other than that, after five years, I’ve improvised a lot of lines that have made it in.
HG: I think one thing, at least culturally interesting, about Christmas is that everyone seems to have some kind of response to it.
AL: Everyone has a response. That’s what we work on in the show. Yes, we have funny takes on the movies, but there is a narrative, which is that my family is very religious, I’m not very religious. I still want to feel Christmas-y, but I don’t want to get into the religion, so how do you balance those two things? The frame of the show is a Christmas party that my parents throw every year which has no alcohol, no music—all of that is true.
HG: Has your family seen the show?
AL: Oh, yeah. And people that I reference in the show have come to the show—and love it! Which is something I’m kind of proud of. I have religious friends who come to the show and say, “It’s got a really good religious message” and then I have friends who are atheists who come to the show and say, “Oh, you’re doing that atheist show again?” I don’t have to make a stand. The audience gets to make the decision.
HG: As long as there’s that little bit of truth in there.
AL: Everybody can relate to feeling like an outsider in your own family, and everyone can relate to having an idea of what they hope the holidays are about.
HG: Do you actually like Christmas movies?
AL: Oh, yeah! I remember it being a big deal when Rudolph came on because you couldn’t DVR it, you had to watch. It’s a Wonderful Life, I think is a fantastic movie. But if you go back now and watch some of those movies as an adult there are things that are equal parts nostalgia and cynicism. They make you feel like a kid, but there are actually a lot of things in those movies that are kind of messed up!
He’s right. There’s plenty of duality in Christmas movies—dark but joyful, outdated but timeless, some times even downright absurdist. But I think Andy’s show might be described with those exact words, nostalgic and cynical. It will just be up to you to decide what the composition of that contradiction is.
The Christmas Will Be Televised will be on stage one night only at Theatre 99, December 18. 8pm. $8.