By the title, one wouldn't think of Trinidadian calypso singer Lord Executioner's song "How I Spent My Time in the Hospital," as a holiday tune, but Christmas is the subject.
"It's about how he was hospitalized on Christmas Day," says former Squirrel Nut Zipper and new New Orleanian Tom Maxwell. "He was shit-talking Christmas. He hated it."
Other Lord Executioner songs confirm his unvarnished view of the holiday, including "Christmas Is a Joyous Day," which is about the custom of giving rum to beggars. Those are some of the obscure and offbeat songs Maxwell and his all-star calypso band, Saga Boys' Social Union, perform in a variety show featuring the weird side of the Christmas. It's one of several events this week offering a break from more traditional holiday offerings.
• The Downside of Christmas. Music is the main draw of this variety show, and performers include Maxwell, Dave Rosser of the Afghan Whigs, Ben Schenck of the Panorama Jazz Band, Matt Rhody of the Cottonmouth Kings and others. There also is improv comedy by Mike Spara of The New Movement, cryptic holiday verse and some storytelling. At 9 p.m. Wednesday at Cafe Istanbul (New Orleans Healing Center, 2372 St. Claude Ave., 504-975-0286; www.cafeistanbulnola.com).
• A John Waters Christmas: Holier & Dirtier. One might not guess that cult filmmaker John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray) maintains many Christmas rituals. His annual Christmas cards are prized and have featured everything from him getting off New Orleans' bus named "Desire" to a Baltimore jail mug shot (not the result of an actual arrest) with him wearing a Santa cap. This show is his second holiday visit to New Orleans, and he has more stories about the holidays, most of them offbeat and tawdry. He also shares advice on good, bad and absolutely filthy gifts, and though he professes to enjoy the holiday, he's happy to help those who find it the most stressful time of year. At 8 p.m. Thursday at Civic Theatre (510 O'Keefe St., 504-272-0865; www.civicnola.com).
• The Nut-cracker. Several local troupes present traditional versions of the classic ballet (and the Moscow Ballet presents its production Dec. 26 at Saenger Theatre), but Fleur de Tease makes it naughty and nice. The burlesque version features host/comedian Chris Lane standing in for young Clara, Madame Mystere as the Nutcracker and aerialist Ooops the Clown as the Rat King. Even the snowflakes and candy canes peel off layers of holiday cheer, and Santa arrives for a big finale. There are two shows per night on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 19-20, at One Eyed Jacks (615 Toulouse St., 504-569-8361; www.oneeyedjacks.net).
• SantaLand Diaries/Season's Greetings. Humorist David Sedaris' (Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls) account of working as an elf at SantaLand at Macy's in New York City has become a holiday classic. It recounts everything from children crying in Santa's lap to dirty secrets from the North Pole character dressing rooms. Rockfire Productions presents the adapted one-man show along with Season's Greetings, a fictional Sedaris piece featuring a woman who spills out more dirty laundry than holiday cheer in a letter to her family. At 8 p.m. Dec. 17-19 at Old Marquer Theatre (2400 St. Claude Ave., 504-298-8676; www.oldmarquer.com).