Bob’s Holiday Office Party is back for its fourteenth year, wilder and crazier than ever!

Bob is, of course, Bob Finhead of Neuterburg, Iowa’s E-Z Insurance Agency, just the kind of insurance agent who’s happy to backdate your policy in exchange for apple butter, especially if you’re his mom. He’s also the inventor of a remote control toilet flusher, a whistling meat thermometer, and other contraptions that, he hopes, will allow him to sell his business and attend Inventors’ School. Every year, Bob (co-writer Rob Elk) invites a bunch of his friends over to his office for a drink or two or three or four, and some of the most out-of-control fun and frolic you or I have ever witnessed.

First to arrive is (as always) Sheriff Joe Walker (co-writer Joe Keyes), who proceeds immediately to visit the office bathroom. No matter that the door is still off its hinges this year so that anyone can see Sheriff Joe doing his business. He’s like family to Bob so he just sits himself down and takes a dump (his word, not mine). This is where Bob’s remote control toilet flusher comes in handy.

Sheriff Joe has some big news for Bob. “I finally joined AA,” he announces proudly, “so I’m off the beer.” He then adds, “But if you’ve got some whiskey, that’d be okay.” Fortunately Bob does, and Joe takes his first (but not last) swig of the evening.

Next comes Mayor Roy Mincer (David Bauman), a vision in a camel’s hair jacket and pale knit scarf, pastel plaid slacks, white gloves, and light beige cowboy hat.  Roy is still innocently unaware that his wife Margie is carrying on a weekly affair with Bob at the local no-tell motel. Then again, Roy may be pining for Timmy Schmidt, whom he experimented with at the age of eight. (“You knew when I married you that I was … set in my ways,” Roy later tells his wife.)

An unexpected guest is Elwin Beewee (David Anthony Higgins), back in town “to spend the holidays with mother and then put her in a home.” Elwin, a former resident of Neuterburg, has overcome a litany of woes in the years since he left town including, among others, stuttering, acne, and a spastic colon, which led everyone in town to call him “Stinky” and make his life a living hell. Lately Elwin’s been making TV commercials for his Pig Containment System and has become a bit of a local celeb for his catchline, “Pork built quick in a black plastic bubble.”

La Voris and La Donna, aka The Johnson Twins (Linda Miller and Melissa Denton), are next to arrive. The twins, who are still completing each other’s sentences when not speaking in unison, have brought along that same typical Iowa “appetizer tree,” an inverted cone wrapped in foil, adorned with olives and cheese cubes on toothpicks, and garnished before our very eyes with Cheez Whiz. Last year, they complained about having to deal with that “Oh-bamma” (“an Arab and a terrorist”).  This year they’re worried about those Death Panels and golly do they miss George W. Bush.  At least he didn’t try to act smart. “Keep the government’s hands off of my health care,” they opine. “We’re fine with the vet.” Coming up on the twin’s calendar:  a clothing optional tour of the Holy Land, i.e. Hamburg, Germany.

La Voris and La Donna’ nephew Marty (Cody Chappel) then shows up on Bob’s doorstep to file yet another insurance claim. “Is it considered a moving violation if the car I hit wasn’t moving?” wonders My-Other-Car-Is-A-Bong Marty, who has arrived sans morbidly obese wife. “She’s up to 807,” he reveals, “but the good thing is she’s been bigger.” At this year’s Office Party, the Neuterburg Community theater star treats us to song snippets from 1776 and Godspell!  And as for the Cub Scout Oath, Marty has found out from life that it doesn’t much matter if you’re prepared or not.

Margie Mincer (Jeanette Schwaba Vigne), Bob’s middle-aged paramour,  arrives with news: “Guess what? Someone hit my car!  I had to walk all the way over here and now my liners are moist.”  At least there’s her new face cream to be happy about. “I put it on and my skin is tight as a drum,” she exults.  She and hubby Roy just got back from an African vacation and guess what?  With all the poverty and starvation over there, it’s a buyer’s market!

Recent State Mental Hospital patient Carol (Johanna McKay) then drops by, autoharp in hand, alternately backhanding Bob for no apparent reason and pulling up her skirt to show off her pantyhose just cause she feels like it. Carol sings a song she wrote for her husband which begins “There once was a girl from Paliner.  Who prayed that Jesus would find her.”  If only Carol didn’t keep forgetting the next line…

A very tipsy Santa (Tom Carey) is the last to arrive, accompanied by Carol’s bruised-all-over twin sister Brandy (McKay again, Carol having made a quick departure), wearing a ripped-up leopard-print dress and kneeless pantyhose.  (Wonder what she’s been doing down on her knees.)  Not unexpectedly, Brandy attacks Elwin and Joe with her love, and turns into a human wheelbarrow for Joe.

What would an Office Party chez Bob be without drinking games, including one involving three (count’em) funnels?  What would an Office Party be without dancing, first to “Do The Jerk” and later to “The Christmas Song,” with Sheriff Joe joining the twins for a three-way slow dance, which ends with each grabbing and fondling his or her neighbors’ posteriors until they collapse in a heap on the floor?  What would an Office Party be without stolen kisses between Bob and his secret paramour, the very married (but clearly unsatisfied by mincing Roy) Margie Mincer? What would an Office Party be without Elwin’s attempt to get revenge for all the wrongs done to him as a child? What would an Office Party be without Bob’s threatening to close his business and leave town, and Margie, behind? And finally, what would an Office Party be without a cheese puff fight?

This year’s Office Party is once again helmed by director (and comic master Matt Roth) and features a detailed Midwest office set (created by returning set/lighting designer Gary Guidinger) designed specially for this year’s party at its latest venue, Theatre Asylum.

Each year’s cast varies ever so slightly from the previous year’s, making each Office Party unique. Elk, Keys, Bauman, Miller, Denton, Vigne, and Carey are back this year for more over-the-top shenanigans, and they are as outrageously brilliant as ever.  Iowa native Higgins (of Ellen and Malcolm In The Middle fame) is a brand new Elwin and does a hilarious slow burn in the role.  Chappel and McKay step in at selected performances, making the parts  they play their own. McKay especially deserves kudos for daring to undertake the roles that Ann Randolph is synonymous with, though anyone familiar with McKay’s work won’t be surprised that she matches Randolph in unrestrained comedic brilliance!

If you’re a stickler for decency, you’re probably not a member of Bob’s Holiday Office Party’s target audience.  If, however, you enjoy an occasional walk on the wild and raunchy side, you’ll most definitely laugh, chuckle, guffaw, and occasionally gasp at the antics of this wild and crazy bunch of partygoers.  Last  night’s audience certainly did, and doubtless many among them have been seeing the show year after year, as I have been since 2006. After four in a row, I can hardly wait for 2010 and Bob’s Holiday Office Party # 5. Which number will it be for you?

Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
December 11, 2009
Photos: Michelle Pederson, Ed Krieger

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