The gift of laughter

With dozens of seasonal shows currently onstage, I ask a bunch of artists to share their holiday faves, survival tips and messages for a certain president elect


Gregory Prest

It’s A Wonderful Life, to December 24 at Bluma Appel Theatre, soulpepper.ca.

Can you describe your show – in 15 words or less?

About to jump off bridge, a man is saved by his guardian angel. Holiday classic. 

This adaptation reimagines the material as a 1940s live radio broadcast. What should we pay attention to?

Genius foley work by the entire ensemble. Crickets and celery. Also our stage manager, Rob Harding, is actually calling the show from onstage – in the “sound booth” of the radio studio. He may or may not be wearing pants.

Why has the story endured?

The message that no matter how small and unimportant you may feel or how much you have really messed things up or what a huge pickle you find yourself in, your life matters. You have value. Don’t throw it away. Also Jimmy Stewart’s brilliant performance in the movie.

Why is the term “Zuzu’s petals” so funny?

You’re right. Let’s change it to “Pupu’s zetals.”

Complete the following: “‘Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the city…”

Some jackass is riding around on my bike. I’m too mad to rhyme.

What do you hope for in 2017?

Health and love for my family and friends. Understanding and patience when people make mistakes. To defend those who need defending. More kindness. More responsibility. 

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Christy Bruce 

The Pageant, to December 23 at Bad Dog Theatre, baddogtheatre.com.

Can you describe your show – in 15 words or less?

Classic holiday sitcom special improvised onstage.

What’s the all-time worst improv suggestion you’ve ever heard? (Or are there no bad suggestions?) 

Please don’t yell out “proctologist” or “gynecologist” or “hooker.” It’s 2016. Thank you.

Complete the following: “‘Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the city…” 

“… people agreed 2016 was shitty.”

Favourite holiday song?

Sufjan Stevens has this fantastic set of Christmas songs that’s a staple in my house during the holidays. 

Least favourite?

If you play any version of Santa Baby, I have every right to punch you in the stomach and question everything about you. 

Holiday message for president-elect Donald Trump?

Happy holidays. You’ve gotten deep in over your head, but you really hit that racist, misogynistic, “death of the white American dream” nerve. Congrats on that. That said, it’s never too late to change. What a Christmas miracle it would be if you are actually a forward-thinking, environment-loving feminist! IT’S NOT TOO LATE. It’s time to stop applying self-tanner, take some meditation classes and be a force for good. No one wants WW III. Oh, and get off Twitter.

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Izad Etemadi 

A Very Leila Christmas, December 16 to 18 at the Storefront Theatre, thestorefronttheatre.com.

Can you describe your show – in 15 words or less?

[as Leila] I accidentally throw a Christmas party to impress my manager…. I am Muslim…. shit.

What is Leila’s favourite Christmas song?

Let It Go, from Frozen.

Least favourite song?

We Three Kings – I feel it is sexist. Where are the queens?

What would Leila think of the other shows in the Storefront’s Solo Sessions series?

They are very beautiful and very talented people, but they must remember that I am the Fresh Queen from Tehran and my hijab brings all the boys to the yard.

What makes you go “Bah, humbug!”?

People who tell me Santa Claus isn’t real. Why would you have an entire parade for someone who isn’t real!?

If Starbucks named a holiday-themed drink after you, what would it be called and what would be in it?

Ho-ho-ho-jab Latte. A dairy-free but very sweet (and spicy) latte covered in cardamom, cinnamon and pistachios. Instead of a sleeve, it comes wrapped in a mini-headscarf.

Holiday message for president-elect Donald Trump?

You better watch out. You better cry. You better pout. I’m telling you why. Leila is coming to town! Seriously, Trump – stay away from my brothers and sisters.

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Patrick McKenna

Twist Your Dickens, to December 30 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, tocentre.com.

Can you describe your show – in 15 words or less?

Our Twist Your Dickens production is like a crazy dream sequence from Family Guy.

You’re playing Jacob Marley. There are rumours that Marley and Scrooge were actually lovers. Thoughts? 

I like to think of Jacob Marley and Scrooge’s relationship as a Victorian love romp between Kevin O’Leary and Donald Trump.

Holiday message for president-elect Trump?

Please take Canada off your Christmas card list.

Holiday shopping tip? 

Don’t bathe. Lineups become instantly shorter.

What makes you go “Bah, humbug!”? 

Swiss Chalet switching out their Festive Special’s Toblerone bar for Lindor Chocolates.

If Starbucks named a holiday-themed drink after you, what would it be called and what would be in it? 

The “Jittery Reindeer”: one part bold coffee and two parts espresso vodka.

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Lisa Horner

Sleeping Beauty: The Deliriously Dreamy Family Musical, to January 7 at the Elgin, rosspetty.com.

Can you describe your show – in 15 words or less?

A reimagining of Sleeping Beauty in panto form all done on a gorgeous set with great tunes! That’s 17 words….

You were honoured last year as the first actor to perform in all four Mirvish theatres. Now you’re at the Elgin. What theatre haven’t you performed in?

I guess I would have to say the Winter Garden, though I’m pretty sure I worked as a caterer there once. 

Complete the following: “‘Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the city…”

I feel an undeniable urge to swear: “The temperature was high and the sidewalks gritty”?

Favourite holiday song?

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, the Judy Garland version.

Holiday shopping tips?

Second-hand shops, homemade, online artisanal. I like it personal, and hopefully not next year’s landfill.

What do you hope for in 2017?

Empathy, common sense and participation in the global community. We are all connected – all of us. 

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