[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts interview with Santasia – A Holiday Comedy, the hilarious musical sketch comedy spectacular that embraces the iconic moments of the Christmas season now in its 23rd year!
Oh how we love this time of year. The chilly air, the Christmas music and sparkly decorations, the present shopping, the music in the air, and of course the Christmas shows! And the pièce de résistance of all things Christmasy is the sublimely hilarious and heart-achingly poignant Santasia – A Holiday Comedy at the wonderful Whitefire Theatre.
I think I have seen this brilliant show for at least the last six years or more. Even through Covid and the shutdown, they produced an online version and it was a very welcome respite in the darkness. The boys are at it again this year and we are grateful once again for all the laughter and the madcap mayhem and deeply thoughtful sketches to carry us hopefully toward another new year.
Read the Santasia – A Holiday Comedy review!
We wondered what it was that kept them at it for all these years, and why, so we asked them!
What inspired us?
Wow..that’s a great question…It’s a strange answer for a comedy, but pain and sorrow inspired us originally to create Santasia.
Our dad passed away July 1st, 2000. My brother and I grieved seemingly okay..until October 2000…I think that’s when we both realized Christmas time would never be the same. (The absence of our Dad at Christmas was going to really mess us up.) So, I said in my infinite wisdom, “We could go to grief counseling or make fun of the Christmas season.” I thought producing Santasia would be cheaper than counseling. I was mistaken.
For the fun inspiring comedy stuff. Well, that’s easy…Buster Keaton, Rankin and Bass’ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Wonderful Life, The Kids Next Door and Monty Python.
Twenty-one years ago, Shaun and Brandon inspired me. I saw Santasia in a small black box theatre and it literally changed my life. I couldn’t stop thinking about the show, and how it made me laugh and cry.. I believed the next level for the show was to see these guys dance. I asked Brandon and Shaun to consider (ok, I insisted) dance. The first dance created for the show was a Magic Mike parody and elf-strip-number to, “You Can Leave Your Hat On”.. Turns out, it is a lot of fun to watch these guys dance.
Who is on the SANTASIA team?
That’s an easy answer too; we’re all friends! Many of us were already performing together from our time in Chicago back at the IO Chicago. And we moved out to Los Angeles at the same time. We reassembled and started performing at the IO West. We find new players from recommendations or working and performing together in other shows. But honestly, we always start off as friends first, then we say “Hey! You may be good in Santasia!”
I personally like to tell stories…true stories. I’m a firm believer in truth in comedy. What we try to do is to take a real moment and put it in an obscure situation. For instance, when I wrote “Sam” which is a take-off on Eminem’s “Stan.” In addition, I’m writing truthful letters to Santa…year after year do you really think a kid is happy that he never gets what he wants from Santa? So, I wrote real letters to Santa expressing Sam’s disappointment to the point it becomes ridiculous. But the letters were based in truth, so it makes the material real and funny and best relatable. You’ll find that relatable will become a common theme in Santasia.
Tell a story – even in dance. Be truthful, because life is funny.
I’ve learned a lot working on the show, Conan. Play the scene as truthful as you can; the comedy is in the writing so you don’t have to try to “be funny.” Trust the writing and you’ll be great.
How has Santasia changed over the years?
Originally, Santasia was a sketch comedy. Then Tania came into the mix. Tania and met the second year of Santasia; she already knew my brother because she had worked with him before. Tania said ”Your show is good and it could be great, but you need to add dance numbers!” (Off topic – subsequently, Tania and I dated and during this time she convinced me to add dance to Santasia.) Tania was correct and brought Santasia to the next level.
Then (Off topic again – Tania and I got married.) We started to add more Broadway parodies and the show took off.
To cover our costume changes we started writing short parody films which lampooned commercials or that year’s blockbuster movie hit. Then we added original Rankin and Bass Claymation-inspired movies. After a Santasia performance, Emmy Award-winning animator Michael Granberry offered to create our first Claymation short, “San Andreas Snowman,” a tale of a brother and sister desperately trying to build the most perfect snowman on the San Andreas fault. What started as a simple sketch comedy show with heart has snowballed into an immersive, multi-media event. Some have described Santasia as a new genre of live theatre.
The show has grown and changed with the love and inspiration that feeds it.
Santasia’s start was very minimal – – Black box and very few props. Tania took it to the next level by adding dance. Then when we started incorporating a movie parody and things just snowballed over the years.
More and more videos, lighting, and snow effects began to take over. The show is more technical now than I ever thought it would be when it started with just a CD player and a light board.
I want our audience to escape! I want them to forget about our modern-day problems and instead reflect upon simpler times. I want our audience members to remember their innocent childhoods and the excitement of Christmas time. I also want Santasia to inspire the audience to feel, remember and share their favorite holiday moments with one another.
Escape. Nostalgia. Heart.
From the moment you walk into the theatre, you’ll experience the smell of hot apple cider and Christmas music playing in the lobby to the holiday decoration hung about. We take you away from the everyday and try to immerse you into a different time and place. We try to make the audience have a rollercoaster of emotions from laughter to tears and reflect on their own childhoods and why this time of year is so important to us.
How does the audience inspire us…
Audiences keep us going…they motivate us. They tell us what they like and what they want to see more of. But honestly, the fact that our show touches so many people is incredibly humbling.
I have the privilege of standing house right and watching the audience take in the show. I am inspired by what evokes laughter and how audience members take in heartfelt moments.
Hearing how much our show affects people is truly a joy.
Why keep doing this?
I don’t know the honest answer, but I also don’t want to know. Maybe this is our way of celebrating and keeping the memories alive of Grandpa Bill, Grammie, Grandpa Granville and Grandma Bobbie. There’s a weird pressure to keep pushing forward year after year. In our opening number we sing Our Christmas Present for You! and we mean it! Santasia is truly our gift to you.
It’s the audience that keeps me coming back too.