Annoyance holiday play adds extra shows after success


Courtesy The Annoyance Theatre & Bar

The Annoyance’s show “It’s Christmas, Goddamnit!” plays with the theme of holiday family snipefests in violent fashion. 

By Jonathon Sadowski

Everyone has awkward family holiday party experiences, but not every dinner table disagreement ends in a murder.

“It’s Christmas, Goddamnit!,” the long-running Christmas comedy play from the Annoyance Theatre, 851 W. Belmont Ave., has had continued success since its 2012 debut. This year, Annoyance will add one more performance per week on Friday nights starting Dec. 9.

The current run of the show began Nov. 19 on Saturday nights and will run on both nights through Dec. 17.

Director Charley Carroll said the show’s enduring, persistent success prompted the additional performances. The play’s attendance has varied since partway through its first run in 2012, but this year the show’s popularity skyrocketed, with waiting lists for tickets, Carroll said.

“This year and last year, we started noticing people [in the audience] who knew lines we were going to say,” Carroll said. “People are coming every year now, and people are starting to bring friends to see it because it’s this wacky family tale that people get into.”

The show is modeled after Carroll’s own family gatherings—with some violence added for good measure, and a murder capping the first act.

Billed as a Christmas celebration with a macabre twist, “It’s Christmas, Goddamnit!” uses the tried-and-true Annoyance Theatre brand of offbeat humor, said Zach Freeman, a freelance comedy reviewer for the Chicago Tribune, in a Nov. 30 interview with The Chronicle. Freeman reviewed the show in 2014 for Newcity, a local culture magazine. 

“A Christmas show seems like something that anyone, whether they are familiar with the Annoyance’s style or not, might be interested and go check it out,” Freeman said. “I could see why [it] would be especially popular.”

However, Freeman noted in his review that none of the characters resemble real people and instead act as caricatures to set up jokes. But that is not an inherent downside, he said.

“[Characterization is] secondary because it was so over-the-top in terms of how far they’re willing to go,” Freeman said.

Because the show is now on its fifth annual run, it has gone through some minor alterations over the years as the cast got a better idea of their characters, Carroll said.

Some jokes and themes have been toned down or altered to fit the times better; Carroll said the racist uncle character had to change to accommodate shifts in cultural sensitivity.

“Over the last five years, a lot has changed around how people are talking about race in theater,” Carroll said. “We’ve looked at it and said, ‘What are we still comfortable with putting onstage?’”

Despite its controversial themes, “It’s Christmas, Goddamnit!” continues to grow its audience. It is among the Annoyance’s most successful shows, said Jennifer Estlin, the theater’s executive producer.

“[The show] a bit of a breakout,” Estlin said. “This is one we can count on [selling out]. People appreciate a show that’s not … like the saccharine stuff that you get at Christmastime.”

Estlin said it is a good bet the show will continue to be a holiday staple for the theater.

“It works really well for us at Christmastime,” Estlin said. “We really like the show and think it’s worthy of being brought back.”