11 January 2020
With Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker in theatres and Disney+’s hit show The Mandalorian finishing its first season, Star Wars is again firmly back in the contemporary zeitgeist. Critics and general viewers will have their differing reactions to the newest Star Wars stories, but there is only one Star Wars production that stands alone with the only truly unified Star Wars opinion: the infamously awful Star Wars Holiday Special.
I had never seen the Holiday Special, but as a Star Wars fan I had heard tell that it was legendarily bad. And yet, no words could have prepared me for the reality that it was—far and away–the worst commercially produced program I have ever seen. It revolves mostly around an incomprehensible plot (I fear I give it too much credit by referring to it as a plot) of Chewbacca’s domestic Wookie family speaking to each other in Wookie-speak without any subtitles. And yet, those moments of giant furry puppets speaking to each other in an unintelligible language aren’t half as bizarre and confusing as the intermittent skits seemingly born out of an alien circus leader’s acid-trip. It is jarring to see Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher appear onscreen in what is surely the lowest moment I’ve ever seen in the career of any actor of equivalent stardom. As much as they owe their careers to their involvement in Star Wars, I can’t help but wonder if they might need a moment to consider whether it would have been worth giving it all up if they could renege on their involvement in the Star Wars Holiday Special.
With the annual confluence of the Holidays and Star Wars’ resurgence, Chris Gersbeck wisely invited us to re-examine and appreciate the Holiday Special in the only way that could possibly make it bearable viewing: through a Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque lampooning. Gersbeck hosts a monthly event at QED Astoria, a comfortable and intimate venue, entitled “Movies R Dumb” which, appropriately, finds dumb movies and uses them as a catalyst for comedic commentary. The dumber the movie and the funnier the comedians, the better the event. The event was appropriately sponsored by Royal Collectibles, who gave away Star Wars goody-bags as a consolation prize for having to bear witness to their Star Wars nostalgia being murdered far worse than Jar Jar Binks could ever muster.
Fortunately, Gersbeck is as skilled at finding comedians as he is at finding embarrassingly bad movies. Frank Conniff, Rory Scholl, Kat Burdick, and Carolina Hidalgo made up the panel for the evening. It took some natural warming up for panel to find their rhythm: allowing them to riff off one another rather than compete for laughs to the degree that they step on each others toes, but they had more than enough source material to riff off of and they soon found their groove. Frank Conniff, of Mystery Science Theater 3000 held down the fort as a the most consistent anchor with his dry signature humor, but Rory Scholl and Kat Burdick traded a freshness in style that yielded perhaps the biggest laughs of the night.
I don’t think I ever would have had the stomach to watch more than 10 minutes of the Star Wars Holiday Special on my own, so it is a profound accomplishment that Gersbeck’s panel kept me laughing enough to willingly stay engaged for the duration of the event. Even now knowing what to expect from The Holiday Special would, I’d gladly come back again next year.
Gersbeck is hosting his next installment of “Movies R Dumb” at 8:30 on January 14th, screening The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.