By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Before their Thanksgiving show at Ozona, the guys are cutting up construction paper for costumes while Orvik's sons scamper onstage. Max, 6, shouts gibberish into one of the mics, then he and his older brother share a conspiratorial glance and begin talking about—what else?—farts.
"How 'bout a joke?" Orvik says. Then he adds, without irony, "A clean joke?"
Max looks at his father. "Stinky farts!" he says with glee.
A few minutes later, Orvik's mother arrives to take the boys to a Mavericks game. They give Martin high-fives before running out the door.
Orvik, Silva, Little and Martin begin to cut out feathers and pilgrim hats in earnest. This is Orvik's third month of performing after missing dozens of shows. (The troupe held a benefit over the summer to raise money for his medical bills, which he says amount to around half a million dollars, and while the troupe's ninth anniversary was in April, they waited until September to do their commemorative show so he could join them.) Though Orvik stopped smoking and drinking since he got sick, he's been allowing himself a couple of beers.
"So I've been doing this fake game show with Max and Mason," he tells his friends. "It's called, 'Eat Those Kids!'" He launches into a booming game-show host voice. "Here's the first contestant—he weighs in at 300 pounds. How long do you think it would take him to eat those kids?" He switches to a different voice. "I can eat those kids in a minute and a half!" He chuckles, revealing a crooked right eye tooth.
"Hey," Little interrupts. "Don't lose my tape. It's Christmas season, and my wife'll kill me."
Orvik takes the opportunity to parody Little's wife. "Where's my tape?" he shrieks, shrew-like.
"Hey," Silva says, "s`hould I be an Indian since I'm brown?"
"We already have Indians," Orvik says.
"But we should find more ways to make fun of you since you're brown," Little says.
"I didn't know what wetback meant for a long time," says Rager, never one to miss a chance to riff on race or the ignorance that drives discrimination. "I thought it was because their hair was all slicked back."
Silva stops cutting and rolls his eyes. "You know I'm in the same room, right?"
Rager laughs. "Hey, Greg," he says, "where do they keep the brooms 'round here?"
"You can make fun of me all you want," Silva replies. "Because at night I sleep in the warm glow of my college degree."
A few minutes later, before they run through an interpretive dance number to Jon Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," they debate the question of precisely how many testicles a man signs over to his wife when he gets married (Silva says it's just one, but Orvik insists the answer is both). Then, as they're reserving a table for a birthday party, someone starts the inevitable round of "pussy" jokes—who gets it, who doesn't, etcetera. Orvik, suddenly serious, makes a point to mention that they have an honor code along these lines. "No cheating," he says. "If they lie to their wives, they'll lie to you. You cheat, we tell."
The show begins with a sketch called "Experts," in which the audience suggests a topic—this time, gonorrhea—and Orvik and McFarland riff back and forth about it while every time Rager claps, whoever's talking stops in mid-sentence and the other takes over.
"I got gonorrhea in 1988 at the Galleria Mall," Orvik says with an effeminate lisp. "They were having a sale on capri pants, so naturally I went..." CLAP.
"We were there for an outing, if you will," McFarland says. "An outing."
After a few more back-and-forths, they move on to a game they call intervention, in which the group stages an intervention, and from their improvised clues, the "addict" has to guess his substance or activity of choice. Orvik's clues, "You know, the thing about Jane Fonda is she was great friends with Miles Davis," and "Miles Davis was the first guy on the moon to wear leg warmers," prompt Rager to correctly guess Jazzercise (the week before, Orvik claimed a high laughter ratio during this game when, as a clue for racquetball, he said, "Ever hit your balls so hard on a white wall it leaves skid marks?")
Next is the Third-Grade Thanksgiving play, which features Orvik as Sacagawea—or, as he says proudly, "Sack o' Fajitas!"—and quickly devolves into a chaos of nose-picking, line-forgetting and tear-filled brawls. They end the show dancing in tube tops to Bon Jovi, and though Orvik hasn't been cleared by his doctors to work, he twirls around onstage wearing a blond, curly wig.
By the time their first Christmas show begins in mid-December, he's impatient to have what he hopes will be his last surgery. Until his stomach is entirely healed, he has to contend with two fistulas, or tubular holes, that must be kept bandaged and that, if allowed to close improperly, cause him to grow ill. Tonight he plays a crass New Yorker with an obnoxious accent who, in an audition to work as a mall Santa Claus, says, "Ho, ho, ho, merry fuckin' Christmas, guys," then tells the imaginary kid in his lap that the Barbie Dream House, while a decent gift, "is gonna be hard to take with you when you have to go from your dad's house to your mom's house every fuckin' week."