On his big day, the King packs a punch
By Maura Judkis
Friday, January 4, 2013
Theaters are an unlucky place for Abraham Lincoln. So when “Honest Abe” enters the ring in “Elvis’ Birthday Fight Club” at the H Street Playhouse, you can assume that it’s not going to go well. Less predictable is the way the scene goes down: with naughty balloon animals, a killer clown and maybe even a bit of “Gangnam Style.”
“Every year, Lincoln gets shot,” says Jared Davis, who plays Elvis in the annual costume-party-meets-pro-wrestling show. But in the two previous years Davis has hosted “Fight Club,” Lincoln has looked like Lincoln. This year, he’s short and Hispanic. “We couldn’t afford white Lincoln,” Davis jokes.
This is a decidedly un-P.C. world, where absurd characters battle to the death and burlesque dancers entertain the audience between rounds. Davis and Jei Spatola, whose stage name is Kittie Glitter, preside over the matches, making sure the combatants, which previously have included Col. Sanders battling a chicken and Godzilla taking on Bridezilla, put up a fair fight. There’s a lot of boozing -- and with a fair amount of nudity, the show isn’t meant for kids.
“We drink during the entire show,” Spatola says.
“Yes, and the audience -- we encourage them to drink a lot,” Davis adds. “As the saying goes, the more you drink, the funnier we are.”
The pair got the idea for “Fight Club” from a friend’s chicken Halloween costume. They were knocking around the idea of a cockfight, and when they scheduled the first show for Jan. 8, 2011 -- on what would have been Elvis Presley’s 76th birthday -- the concept came together. Davis and Spatola write the show each year after brainstorming about 50 potential fights. “A lot of them” -- like FDR vs. polio -- “are rejected for a reason,” Davis says.
“The fun part is making it not look scripted,” Spatola says. “People ask me, ‘Do you just let them do whatever they want?’ And I’m like, ‘You have got to be kidding me.’ ”
Though they don’t watch boxing or professional wrestling for inspiration, Davis and Spatola stick to a few of the sports’ conventions. Before each performer comes out, Davis reads their tale of the tape as a carefully selected pump-up theme song plays. The hosts consider the music and sound effects crucial to the show.
“Without the noises, it’s like, ‘Ow, they’re hurting each other,’ ” Davis says. “And with the noises, it’s like, ‘Boink!’ ”
Each year, the show has grown more elaborate. This year, there will be three shows in Washington and one more at Baltimore’s Creative Alliance. Although the audiences are separated by about only 30 miles, there’s a big difference, Davis says.
“Last year we had the euro and the dollar . . . and they really hated the euro up there [in Baltimore],” he says. “They just wanted to kill him. Here in D.C., people were like, ‘Oh yeah, you know, we’ve been to France.’ ”
“You want [the audience] to actually establish a side,” says Spatola, who has no doubt about which character will be booed this year. “What is the enemy of all America? It’s Congress! Nobody loves Congress.”