The Final Bad Xmas Pageant

Sure, sure, everybody's been to the holiday pageants with the recreation of the nativity scene and the singing of the Christmas carols and the warm, fuzzy feelings that Christmas brings with it.

But for those ready to hang themselves with a string of Christmas lights at the thought of being forced to endure the injustices that come with a visit to the mall in December, the organizers of the Bad Xmas Pageant have felt your pain for the past 23 years in the form of cross-dressing elves, full-frontal nudity and reindeers with Tourettes Syndrome.

This past Saturday's show was full of all the bawdiness and bad taste of years past with one exception--it was the last pageant. Organizers Jeff Falk and Ralph Cordova are tired of fighting the power.

"I'm 55," said Falk, who emceed the show in a Winnie the Pooh costume. "I've been doing this since my early 30s. It's getting harder."

Comprised mostly of local performance artists, visual artists and musicians, Bad Xmas Pageant pokes fun at Christmas icons (witness the 1989 wrestling match between Santa and Jesus), the over commercialization of the holiday (Seasonal Products, a yearly segment allowing audience members to partake of regular items tweaked for the holiday, such as red-and-green Capn Crunch and Oreos with red filling, which Falk refers to as "menstruating cookies), and beloved children's Christmas classics (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer reimagined as porno flick "Rudolph With Your Ass So Tight.")

Despite claims of fatigue, Falk & Co. brought mad energy to their sold-out last show at the Deus Ex Machina space in downtown Phoenix. Falk started out the night on a note of self-deprecation.

"If you're watching something and you're thinking, 'Wow, this really sucks,' don't worry, something else will be along soon," Falk said.

In addition to the porno flick titles and seasonal products, this year's show, which was punctuated by random bursts of fake snow thrown from backstage, also included appearances by a horny Virgin Mary cursing God for not giving her an orgasm for 2008 years and proceeding to hump audience members and plastic Wise Men figurines; the annual reading of the Lawrence Ferlinghetti anti-commercialism poem "Christ Climbed Down" by local poet Jack Evans; and several Christmas-themed one-liners, with one about Mrs. Claus being able to see Russia from her front porch.

And we would be remiss if we did not mention the candy cane rod that had the good fortune of being deep-throated by performance artist Leslie Barton. As Falk puts it, the Bad Xmas Pageant "is not for the squeamish."

He left the audience with the show's overreaching message for the past 23 years, a rail against commercialism while still giving a nod to the underlying purpose of the holidays.

"Go in peace out into the world," Falk said. "And buy, you fuckers, buy." --Yvonne Zusel

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Jonathan McNamara