In previous decades, American television found itself overtaken once a year by the annual airing of Christmas specials. Whether these were the numerous broadcasts hosted by Andy Williams and Bing Crosby, children’s programs like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas, or weird one-offs like the Star Wars Holiday Special, many of these cheerful productions became holiday traditions for networks and the families who watch them. Yet more recent iterations of this Christmas tradition have abandoned the variety show elements perfected by Williams, Crosby and their counterparts.
Hence why Andy Richter’s Home for the Holidays, out on Seeso today, feels like a breath of fresh air — even though it’s actually a ridiculous parody of the entire genre populated by the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre’s best and brightest. We spoke with the host — Conan‘s Andy Richter — about his decision to dive back into improv, whether or not Home for the Holidays is family appropriate, and his penchant for tweeting about politics.
What was the thinking behind doing a parody of the Christmas special?
Home for the Holidays was a designed as a Christmas special for Seeso, but it’s also a collection of UCB talent. UCB has a deal with Seeso, which serves as an outlet for their properties and people — different shows and characters they’ve done. So this was kind of like a review of UCB talent within the framework of being my holiday special. It was meant to be a kind of parody or play on the Andy Williams Christmas specials, but a really profane kind of twisted one of those.
You’ve got a long history with UCB. How did this particular project come about?
They came to me. I’ve been involved with UCB since pretty much their beginning, as sort of a friend of the theatre. I’ve done tons of improv shows with them, and I’ve appeared in a bunch of other stuff with them. I’m sort of an unofficial member, like a cousin or an uncle. So this was something Matt Besser approached me about. He’s one of the theatre’s co-founders, and he said they were going to do this sketch show to showcase UCB talent. Besser explained they were going to do it as a Christmas show, and wondered if if I’d play along with the conceit that it was my Christmas special. With my “family” and the like, so to speak.
Despite all this talk of “family,” I probably won’t show this to my parents on Christmas.
Or your kids, if you have kids.
Will you let your kids watch it?
Listen, my kids have heard it all. They’re just bored by me at this point, so they probably wouldn’t care because I’m in it. It’s definitely adult entertainment, but it’s also a very good indication of what seeing a live show at the UCB theatre in Los Angeles or New York is like. Pretty much everybody in that show was doing bits that they’d done before.
Like Seth Morris’ Bob Ducca character.
Exactly, or Sappity Tappity the drunken, alcoholic, British Christmas tree. You know, Jon Daly‘s done entire shows of that character. That’s also one of the reasons that it was done in front of a live audience. To provide anyone watching the special at home on Seeso with a similar experience to seeing it at the actual theatre. In that sense, it’s more of a standard UCB review show than any kind of actual Christmas special — it just happens to concern Christmas and have me in it.