The holiday season is all about tradition. For many, that means getting together with family and friends, exchanging gifts, and watching the same, tired Christmas movies. But for Josh Carson, it means explosions, gun fights, and celebrating a person who truly embodies the spirit of the season: John McClane.
Back for its fourth year, A Very Die Hard Christmas is set to take over Bryant-Lake Bowl this December. Creator Josh Carson will once again sport the iconic tank top and kick serious terrorist ass with extreme yuletide prejudice. Before he saves Christmas, we talked with Carson about how the show has evolved through the years, and what local celebrity might just be making a surprise appearance this year.
Do you always use the same script? Or do you find ways to change it up at all?
We've been using the same script since year one, but as with any production stacked with comedians and improvisers, it's never the same show twice. Whether it's the audience interaction, or the current pop-culture climate, new one-liners and bits manage to find their way into the play. Last year, we got a lot of mileage out of the KSTP/Mayor Hodges pointer gate scandal. It took us a full two years before it occurred to us that a Frozen joke could work, as we also have a walking, talking snowman. We tried it on the final show last year, and it did indeed work. We're geniuses, but it was also the last show, so we're idiots.
What is it about Die Hard that makes it a good fit for the holidays?
I have considered Die Hard to be the greatest Christmas movie ever made long before the internet did (only it was being ironic). As much as Die Hard employs and invents action-movie tropes, it also contains just as many Christmas tropes: There's a guy just trying to get home, an evil, possibly British man exploiting the holiday for his own personal gain, shocking miracles, and Run DMC’s "Christmastime in Hollis."
The basis of A Very Die Hard Christmas was born out of an argument I inevitably have every year about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. For as many people who were wrong about that particular issue, I happened across more people who not only agreed with me, but made that movie an annual tradition. Those are the people I want to go to a Christmas party with. And A Very Die Hard Christmas is that Christmas party.
For those who have never seen the show before, what should they expect?
A faithful, if extremely tongue-in-cheek retelling of Die Hard, with a sizable dash of iconic Christmas specials mixed in. I've always considered it a Muppet version of the show, with McClane's character serving as the Kermit, being the straight man to all the chaos surrounding him.
In recent years, I've heard that this show is the first exposure many people have had to Die Hard, and they've enjoyed themselves so much that they've watched the movie and come back the next weekend to see what they missed. Seeing the movie isn't necessarily a requirement, but it doesn't hurt.
The first year, people would recite the memorable lines from the movie with us. Last year, they started reciting our jokes along with us. It's become a seasonal outing for some groups, which was always our secret hope when we started it.
How many more years do you plan to perform this show?
I do my own stunts in the show, so it will keep going as long as my knees do. Bruce Willis is 60 and he's still doing it, kinda.
This year, there's two versions of the show, as a group in L.A. is also mounting a production. They had seen it last year, and asked to perform the script. So, who knows. If this version is successful, there could be many productions that don't even need us.
Who is more important to Christmas: Santa Claus or John McClane?
As impressive as John McClane is, even he is star-struck when Santa Claus makes a cameo at the end of the show. And you never know who'll be playing Santa that night. Past Santa's have included Mayor Betsy Hodges, Go 96's Barb Abney, and Mr. Dewey from Saved by the Bell. We call that our "Secret Santa," and if the L.A. cast gets any actual cast member from Die Hard, I'm just gonna be pissed.
IF YOU GO:
A Very Die Hard Christmas
Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater
December 4-5; 10-12; 17-19