New Year’s Eve -- with the kids?
Attention L.A. hipster-parents: New Year’s Eve isn’t just for grown-ups anymore. And apparently, neither is alternative comedy, that awkward, absurdist brand of humor so popular with the skinny jeans-and-cardigan crowd.
So take note of “The Not Inappropriate Show” on Thursday afternoon at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood. The show is curated by Bob Odenkirk, one of the alternative-comedy scene’s godfathers, and his talent-manager wife, Naomi, and features sketches written for adults but “not inappropriate” for kids. And tickets are just $5.
It’s an idea that will no doubt hit a sweet spot for a lot of Generation X parents who hushed their babies with Radiohead and now carpool kids who look like pint-sized emo rockers. The idea was actually borne out of the Odenkirks’ frustration as parents themselves. They raised their children, now 9 and 11, to be “comedy connoisseurs” and found quality live entertainment for their family hard to find. So much of it, they felt, was condescending.
“Kids can understand a kind of absurdist, smart, silly comedy that adults enjoy,” said Bob Odenkirk. “That’s the kind of comedy that’s smart-slash-silly that adults start to get when they’re in college. . . . They’re wrong to think that 11-year-olds can’t understand that too.”
Alternative comedy spans a wide range of material, but it’s almost always off-the-wall and ridiculous. The genre encompasses Tracy Morgan’s outrageous rants on NBC’s “30 Rock,” Zach Galifianakis’ weirdo persona in last summer’s blockbuster “The Hangover” and Paul Reubens’ witty and winsome “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” returning to the stage next month. It often appeals to the squirmy grade-schooler in everyone. Why wouldn’t real, live 12-year-olds appreciate it too?
At the Odenkirks’ house, the whole family takes comedy pretty seriously. The kids watch “The Simpsons,” NBC’s deadpan comedy “The Office,” the cult Fox hit “Arrested Development” on DVD, even the less offensive bits on “Saturday Night Live.”
“Every chance we could, we would bring them to the live theater in L.A.,” said Naomi Odenkirk of her son and daughter. “If I was at the Groundlings or UCB and I realized the show didn’t contain too much inappropriate material, I’d bring them.”
Last year, the couple realized that some of their favorite sketches were -- give or take a word or two -- kid-friendly. They envisioned an annual New Year’s Eve show for families and started cherry-picking sketches to include in the production, which is being pitched as OK for ages 6 and up.
Nick Wiger, a regular performer at UCB, impressed them with his “New Alphabet Song,” an earnest and complex rendition of the original. Another one of their favorites was “The 3-D Sketch” from the comedy troupe the Birthday Boys -- seven roommates from Ithaca, N.Y. That marathon bit involves the performers pelting the audience with Styrofoam packing peanuts.
The ukulele-strumming waif Kate Micucci (one-half of the comic duo Garfunkel and Oates) also makes the list and will sing hummable pop ditties about growing up without iTunes and e-mail (“When I Was Little”) and a moon who drinks Coors Light (“Mr. Moon”). Edi Patterson and Stephanie Courtney, regulars at the Groundlings, will perform a chirpy but nonsensical song as members of “The Women’s Concussion Support Group” who haven’t entirely recovered from their head injuries. They will also portray pen pals, for whom life is one bizarre event after another.
Bob Odenkirk is the lone parent among the performers. But the other comedians aren’t especially rattled by the prospect of an audience full of kids. After all, it still counts as stage time, a tough get in L.A. Besides, these sketches have been road-tested on the beer-soaked hordes of Hollywood.
“Even though they’re whacked, they’re sort of sweet at heart,” said Courtney of her own sketches. “I think there’s a sort of sweetness in the chaos. There is a sort of an optimism among the crazy. We’ll see how it goes on that day.”
Bob Odenkirk himself will don a beard and play Abraham Lincoln, sharing tidbits about the 16th president gleaned from the place mats of family restaurants.
“I was born in a log cabin,” Odenkirk will tell the crowd in an exaggerated baritone, “made of logs.” He’ll pull out an imaginary mirror, measure his reflection against a penny and muse: “It’s true. I’ve lost weight.”
It’s a bit he started performing years before he had children and one that holds up in large part because it is so ridiculous and accessible.
“I don’t like when people characterize what I do as edgy,” said Odenkirk, who co-wrote and co-starred in HBO’s 1990s cult-favorite sketch series “Mr. Show.” “I’ve always hated that. I just think it’s funny. I’m not trying to be irreverent. These are the subject matters I think about. That’s one of the things I like about this ‘Not Inappropriate’ show. It’s a bit of a statement.”
Note: All proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Sante D’Or Foundation, www.santedor.com, a nonprofit animal rescue and adoption group in Los Feliz.