Q & A: Christian Lawrence, Creator of 'History Shmistory'

July 05, 2016

Q & A: Christian Lawrence, Creator of 'History Shmistory'

[Pictured: Christian Lawrence at Helium Comedy Club on 1.18.17]
Q: You've been putting on variety shows in St. Louis under the name Bare Knuckle Comedy for years now. What inspired you to take the next step and create "History Shmistory?"
A: I tried to do everything I was putting up under the name “Bare Knuckle Comedy”, but I realized that this name best fit for just the one show.  
To give you an idea of where I’m coming from: when I was growing up in St. Louis, after the Saturday morning cartoons were over there was a telecourse on the local PBS affiliate (KETC) called “The Western Tradition”. It was  hosted by UCLA professor Eugen Weber, and it gave a visually rich introduction to the history of Western art, politics, industry, demography, government, etc.  
THERE IS NO REASON WHY AN 8-YEAR-OLD SHOULD ENJOY THIS, AND THE FACT THAT I DID IS UPSETTING.  
It was much more interesting than GI Joe or Transformers, and Professor Weber (who passed in 2007) was hypnotic when delivering his lectures.  My love of history has continued ever since.
I knew that I had to find a way to combine my obsession with history with my love of comedy, and this show is just dumb enough to do that.
Q: How historically accurate is the show? Is the audience learning anything?
A: If your definition of “accurate” includes depicting Henry Ford as a beer-swilling redneck, Jack The Ripper as a Woody Allen-inspired character, Archduke Franz Ferdinand as an insult comic or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a Def Comedy Jam-style comedian, then this show is EXCEPTIONALLY accurate. 
To be honest, I have learned about a few people: I was unfamiliar with serial killer Countess Elizabeth Báthory or the feuding co-founders of Milwaukee Solomon Juneau & Byron Kilbourn. You’ll get a deep cut even so often.
Q: You've had comics impersonating John Wilkes Booth, Helen Keller, Stanley Kubrick and more. What's your favorite moment of the show so far?
A: Watching comedians put their own spin on the idea has been awesome.  There are a ton of stand-outs from recent shows, but I’m going to have to go with the improv team called “Who Are We?” that performs at the St. Louis shows. The team consists of four improvisors: Bryan Fornachon, Analicia Kocher, Panagiotis Papavlasopoulos & Scott Gresham.  They commit 100% to incredible costumes and absolutely ridiculous ideas. At our Christmas show they performed as The Three Wise Men & The Star, and more recently they performed as a group of blind historical figures (Homer, Jose Feliciano & Helen Keller) who, while COMPLETELY BLINDFOLDED and unable to see, started cutting a birthday cake with a sharp knife, lit the candles and fed it to each other while unable to see anything.  It was incredible.
A few other stand-outs of of the top of my head: Zack Stovall as John Wilkes Booth, JC Sibala as a “2000 Year Old Man”-inspired Confucius, Tim Barnes who MIRACULOUSLY did 20 minutes as Frederik Douglass, Stryker Spurlock as illusive musician Jandek, Sid Singh as an arrogant King Leonidas, Erik Koconis as a bumbling Nicola Tesla & Kevin Whittinghill as Susan B. Anthony WITH THE HIGHEST VOICE POSSIBLE all jump out.
Q: Any plans to take History Shmistory on the road soon?
A: Yes! The show has already been put up in San Fransisco, Chicago & Milwaukee.  As of this writing: the show will be produced later this month in Chicago (and the Chicago Reader is doing a write-up about it!), and in March it will be back in San Fransisco and Los Angeles.
Q: Now for the most important question of all: will you be submitting History Shmistory to Flyover Comedy Festival as a show idea?
A: You better believe it! I am eager to make sure that festival-goers are both MORE and LESS informed about the history of our world after attending the show.



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