STUDIO: A&E Home Video
MSRP: $19.95
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes

  • Additional Footage

The Pitch

Comedian Lewis Black and friends provide help to the viewer on how to get through the holiday season.

The Humans

Lewis Black, Larry Miller, Bob Saget, Craig Ferguson, Joy Behar, David Alan Grier, Franklyn Ajaye

The Nutshell

The holiday season can be a rough time for some people. With all the shopping and crowds and sales and traffic, not to mention food preparation, house cleaning, interior and exterior decorating, adding to that the excessive drinking and eating everyone in this Christmas crazed season has to deal with can lead one to suicide. And as we know, the holiday season has the highest rate of suicides than any other time of year. Leave it to our friends Lewis Black and The History Channel to instruct us, with comedy, on how to make it through this season alive. Unfortunately, watching this dreary compilation of various comedians attempting to help us survive is enough to cause exactly the opposite.

An example of the Shit-Eating Laugh.

The Lowdown

I call this review my Surviving the Surviving the Holidays DVD. This History Channel special is a combination of monologues and interviews which take us through the holidays, with each chapter focusing on a different part of the holiday season. It starts with Thanksgiving and proceeds through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Black Friday, Chanukah, etcetera through New Years Day.  

Surviving the Holidays is hosted by Lewis Black. You probably know everyone’s favorite curmudgeon Mr. Black from his various gigs; his time on the Daily Show and his series of stand-up routines as taped for HBO and Comedy Central. He is an intelligent comic, and his delivery style itself is unique and enjoyable. I really like Lewis Black, his restrained aggression and imperative tone bring many funny and pseudo rage-filled diatribes.

Another example of the Shit-Eating Laugh, but this one actually smells, too.

And that’s why this show was so completely disappointing. Black introduces each segment with a little history or a joke, and then the rest of the chapter is relegated to relatively unknown comedians who tell very familiar stories. They may talk about something in their lives that they dealt with during the holidays, or try to relate a joke. For the majority of the program, the stories told are boring, or most likely been told a thousand times by our own family members or other comedians, and most definitely they were funnier the first time. For example, one comedian told about his first visit to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, where all he remembers seeing was the people’s butts in front of him. Wow, how original.

I found the real star of this special to be Larry Miller. He actually gets to instruct the viewer on some of the more historical aspects of some of the traditions and spectacles of the holiday season, most notably Chanukah. He has a good delivery, and manages to add some interest to the stories he tells. I found my eyelids getting surprisingly lighter as he spoke, only to feel the weight of boredom come back as some other has-been or unknown delivered the next tryptophan or a Santa’s lap joke.

“So I say Knock knock, and you say…. Uh, no, Lewis, I haven’t gotten to the funny part yet!”

Interspersed through the show, Lewis Black interviews a different comedian about a funny incident of theirs. You can sense the awkward and labored attempts by Lewis Black as he listens to this horribly uninteresting story and then tries to force air out of his lungs while smiling to produce the phoniest laugh I’ve ever heard. Because of course, if another comedian laughs, then it MUST be hilarious. There are other segments with various talking heads who speak about aspects of the holidays in a historical sense, but most of the time they are reiterating commonly known information.

Surviving the Holidays is just a bunch of talking heads telling different stories about their experiences with the holidays. Most of them are unfunny, and the subjects of the stories are old and tired and rarely interesting. This was very hard to finish watching, with my proof being the 7 different days I had to spend trying to get through it.

The Package

Unfortunately, you will find additional footage as an extra in this package. It’s only about 3 minutes long and consists of more talk about holiday bullshit, more reaction shots of unfunny comedians, and none of it is entertaining. 

2 out of 10

“If you found any of this show funny, you’ll need more help than I can provide.”