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Theatre / Firebringer

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"Light that flame, get that, light that flame, get that, light that flame, get that power."

Team StarKid's tenth full-length stage musical, which was released online on January 1, 2017, having been performed in August of the previous year. This "Stone Age musical" is StarKid's first female-driven production; Meredith Stepien joins the usual writing team of the Lang Brothers and Brian Holden, and Julia Albain joins Nick Lang as director. The music was written by Meredith Stepien and Mark Swiderski.

Cast of characters:

  • Zazzalil (Lauren Lopez), a nut-gatherer and ambitious rebel, full of ideas which always seem to backfire.
  • Jemilla (Meredith Stepien), the tribe's level-headed leader, who values tradition and is shaken by the realization that everything the tribe knows is a lie.
  • Keeri (Denise Donovan), Zazzalil's ditzy best friend and fellow nut-gatherer, and the inventor of dance.
  • Molag (Lauren Walker), the former leader of the tribe who has passed on the role to Jemilla, and is now Walking the Earth while serving as our narrator.
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  • Emberly (Rachael Soglin), the tribe's geeky food specialist.
  • Grunt (Joey Richter), an outsider without a tribe of his own, who strikes up a romance with Emberly.
  • Schwoopsie (Jaime Lyn Beatty), the inventor of comedy.
  • Ducker (Joe Walker), the tribe's shaman.
  • Tiblyn (Tiffany Williams), a hopeless romantic who has been told all her life that she is the one who holds up the sky.
  • Smelly-Balls (Brian Holden), an aptly-named tribesman who's always ready to rush into danger.
  • Chorn (Jamie Burns), a less-evolved member of the tribe, who says nothing but "Chorn".
  • Clark (Clark Baxtresser), a super-sexy Neanderthal who appears out in the wild.


Provides examples of:

  • 1 Million B.C.: While the play has a Stone Age setting played for laughs, it mostly averts this. The narrator laughs off the notion that dinosaurs still exist, and humans and Neanderthals are correctly depicted as two separate types of people (if not necessarily different species) that existed at the same time.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: Invoked. Molag jokes that Snarl is "A huge fuckin' dinosaur." But of course, cavemen didn't cohabit with dinosaurs. He's actualy a sabre-toothed tiger.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Emberly keeps calling Grunt "Grant". He also misnames her, once as "Embly" and another time as "Emily".
  • Actor Allusion: When Zazzalil points out that Keeri has collected a beetle, not a nut, Keeri notices the beetle, and says "it's kinda cute", before kissing it.
  • Admiring the Abomination: When the tribe first sees Snarl up close while fast asleep, they realize he's actually just an oversized kitty and can't resist cuddling and scritching him (even though he's only sleeping because he just partially ate Grunt).
    • When the tribe realize Trunkell is both intelligent and vindictive enough to keep them trapped in a tree all day for trying to kill her, Keeri somehow finds this endearing.
    Keeri: She's a great elephant.
  • Aerith and Bob: The humans have names evocative of cavepeople. The two Neanderthals whose names we hear are Clark and Claire.
    • Grunt and Emberly mishear each other's names as "Grant" and "Emily".
  • Affably Evil: Molag was a brutal warmongering tyrant who lied to the tribe for years, but she's otherwise a pretty easy-going Cool Old Lady.
  • All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: Averted. Chorn is a total gonk and Smelly-Balls has a pretty primitive fashion sense, but most of the cavepeople are perfectly attractive humans. Ironically, a tribe of actual Neanderthals, led by Clark, plays a small role in the script, and their entire schtick is that they're incredibly attractive.
  • All-Knowing Singing Narrator: Molag, who directly addresses the audience ("You privileged fucks") from a present-day perspective ("Nowadays you can probably take an Uber to [the ends of the Earth] and stay in an AirBnB when you get there"). On multiple levels, since she's also narrating events she's explicitly absent for, having left the tribe at the beginning of the play to go Walking the Earth. Unexpectedly justified in-universe when she reappears at the end of the play and is immediately gifted with Chorn's Knowledge.
  • Altar Diplomacy: Played with. At first Zazzalil offers to marry Jemilla as a desperate attempt to get her to come back as leader, then Jemilla holds her to her offer — both because they're genuinely attracted to each other and because she sees this as the only way they can share power.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Trunkell only lets the tribe go after successfully treeing them because, as the song says, the night belongs to Snarl. Zazzalil willfully disregards this when she goes looking for a Heroic Rematch.
  • Ambiguously Human: Chorn, who actually fits the "apelike caveman" stereotype the others do not (including the Neanderthals). It's an avatar created by an alien as a test.
  • Ancient Astronauts: Chorn is an Alien Among Us whose race infused Earth with life four billion years before the events of the play.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: A playful rather than villainous version. Zazzalil offers to marry Jemilla to convince her to return to the tribe, which Jemilla rejects. Once Jemilla is convinced to come help the tribe anyway, she reveals that she's still going to hold Zazz to that.
  • And Starring: "With Jamie Burns as Chorn and Clark Baxtresser As Himself." Even the first credit sort of uses this, as it reads "Starring Lauren Lopez and Meredith Stepien."
  • Animal Nemesis: Snarl for the whole tribe. Trunkell for Zazzalil personally. Amusingly, while Snarl is just a hungry carnivore and averts Super-Persistent Predator, Trunkell does hold a grudge against the tribe for Zazzalil trying to kill her.
    Throwing things at me... An elephant never forgets.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Grunt — specifically, his arm and both feet are eaten by Snarl, who has saved the rest for later. He seems otherwise perfectly healthy, only mourning the loss of his "drawing arm".
  • As Himself: Clark Baxtresser is credited as such.
  • Author Appeal: Meredith Stepien says the R&B style of this musical is closer to her personal tastes in music than Starkid's earlier efforts.
  • Baby Planet: Molag spends most of the play walking in a straight line, trying to reach the edge of the world. By the end of the play (which doesn't seem to be more than a few days or weeks) she's gone all the way around the world and come back to the tribe.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Jemilla.
  • Barrier Maiden: Tiblyn is led to believe she is one, having to hold an Atlas Pose for all twenty-seven years of her life to keep the sky from falling, but it was just another of Molag's bizarre Lies to Children. She doesn't take it well when she finds out.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: The rivalry between Jemilla and Zazzalil, as it turns out.
  • Beta Couple: Emberly and Grunt, although it's only slowly revealed that Jemilla and Zazzalil are the Alpha Couple.
  • Big Ol' Unibrow: Chorn.
  • Black Comedy Cannibalism: Baby eating and "Let's eat Jemilla!"
  • Blunt "Yes": A rather harsh Blunt "No" is given to Tiblyn:
    Tiblyn: So, I'm not special?
    Jemilla: [comfortingly] Aw, Tiblyn... no.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Lots of this throughout the show, especially in Molag's narration. But also a literal version, when Jemilla gestures around to all the incredibly attractive men and women in her new tribe — and she and Zazzalil turn outward and look at the audience.
    • This bit of Fan Flattering is then subverted when it turns out that she was actually looking at Clark, who is sitting behind and above the audience, playing the keyboard, in his capacity as the music director for the show. Jemilla also names her other spouses besides Clark and Claire as the other members of the band sitting around him, though this doesn't necessarily mean all the audience members aren't also her spouses.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Pretty much Zazzalil's whole shtick.
  • Broken Aesop: The play skewers religion, mostly via Ducker, gently implying it to be delusions of the simple-minded or lies to keep the people in line. At the end, Ducker is told there is no God... by Ancient Astronauts who gave humankind the spark of intelligence, which is generally regarded as a fringe belief, at best, by most scientists. This being Starkid, we assume they're not really trying to convince anyone to give up religion.
  • Butch Lesbian: Schwoopsie has a gravely voice and is decidedly unfeminine. She and Jemilla are married at the beginning of the show.
  • Butt-Monkey: Grunt/Grant. To a lesser extent, Schwoopsie, who is a Take That! toward stand-up comedians, and whose name ends up being a synonym for screwing up (a la "Whoopsie").
  • Chekhov's Skill: Played with. Zazzalil's flashes of scientific insight and Jemilla's gift for organization are both this. Grunt teaching Emberly the art of painting looks like it's going to be this for a minute, but then totally fails to make any difference in the final battle against Snarl. But then Chorn says that the lessons learned today will be forgotten unless Grunt uses his art to commemorate them, which makes him important enough for her to go out of her way to heal his arm. Possibly a bit of Self-Deprecation from Team Starkid, who themselves are not scientists or politicians but creative artists who make musicals about why those people are important.
  • Colorblind Casting: As is typical of theatre. A tight-knit tribe of cavepeople, who have presumably been isolated for generations, is 80% white and 20% black. Among the Neanderthals, Brian Holden (white) and Tiffany Williams (black) appear to be playing siblings, though given the way their tribe treats everyone as a single family they might not even be blood relatives.
  • Commander Contrarian: Smelly-Balls has a rather vitriolic personality. The play opens with the most serious conflict the tribe has ever faced: for reasons known only to himself, Smelly-Balls shouts Chorn down every time she speaks her Pokémon Speak.
  • Corrupt Church: Ducker is a one-man version of this, as well as being a one-man Brotherhood of Funny Hats.
  • Counterpoint Duet: An interesting mix of this and Triumphant Reprise in the ending of "Finale (Make the Most Of It)", with the brief Final Love Duet of Jemilla and Zazzalil's wedding vows. Jemilla sings new lyrics to the verse of "What If?", and Zazzalil replies with the ending verse of "We Got Work to Do" — both of these are originally songs associated with the other one, indicating they've come to see each other's point of view.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Emberly's idea to frighten Snarl away with an artistic representation of fire rather than the genuine article seems to be this at first. Indeed, Snarl seems intimidated by the "fire" despite its lack of heat and its two-dimensionality... until he smells it and realizes it's been painted using excrement.
  • Cross-Cast Role: Unusually for Starkid, there are only two examples, and those are the puppet characters; Trunkell is voiced by Joey Richter, Snarl by Lauren Walker.
  • Delayed Narrator Introduction: A bit of a trademark device for Starkid. Molag gives a fourth-wall-breaking opening narration and it's only after the first scene that she's established as a character in the story.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The tribe has no moral compunctions about cannibalism.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Jemilla's policy to rule over the tribe using honesty and reason rather than Molag ruling through lies and threats lasts for about a day before she's overthrown.
    • Zazzalil's policy to use fire to solve all the tribe's problems soon runs into predictable problems of its own (at least, from the point of view of us modern "privileged fucks").
  • The Discovery of Fire: It's The Discovery Of Fire: The Musical.
  • Distressed Dude: Grunt.
  • The Ditz: Keeri, as is Denise Donovan's stock in trade.
  • The Dreaded: Snarl.
    • Molag, in her day.
    Jemilla: They still tell tales of your reign to the little ones, just to scare the shit out of them.
    Molag: Good. Those privileged fucks.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Jemilla feels this way after the tribe makes Zazzalil their leader.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Robert Manion had already had his Starkid debut as an ensemble player in Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier, but had yet to really grab Starkid fans' attention as the Breakout Character Professor Hidgens in The Guy Who Didn't Like Musicals. Sharp-eyed fans went back to the filmed version of Firebringer and confirmed that you can see him helping out as a stagehand in this show, including briefly "playing" an uncredited role as one of Snarl's paws.
  • Eats Babies: Molag explains that this was standard practice in the tribe until they realized that if they eat all the babies, they're gonna run out of people. The tribe doesn't like to talk about those times... because it makes them hungry.
  • Energy Beings: Chorn's true species.
  • Everyone Is Bi: So it would appear:
    • Jemilla starts shacking up with Clark in Act 2, but the Neanderthals turn out to practice free love, and Jemilla is just as passionate with Claire as with Clark, also mentioning that she was already married to Schwoopsie.
    • Zazzalil offers to marry Jemilla. Though surprised when Jemilla actually takes her up on it, she's more than fine with it in the end. Earlier, she had also been quite blatantly attracted to Clark.
    • Tiblyn is attracted to both Chorn (who, granted, is seen as more of an "it" than a woman) and Smelly-Balls.
  • The Exile:
    • Grunt.
    • Jemilla in Act 2.
  • Final Love Duet: "Together" for Jemilla and Zazzalil.
  • The Federation: The alien government that seeded life on Earth was called the Federation of Chorn.
  • Feminist Fantasy: Starkid's first female-driven musical. As such, the writing and directing team, which normally consists only of the Lang brothers and Brian Holden, now includes Meredith Stepien (writer and songwriter) and Julia Albain (director), and 75% of the cast are women. This includes the two lead characters, tribal leaders and innovators who change the world for the better.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The two main characters and the Beta Couple form one:
    • Choleric: Zazzalil the Firebringer, appropriately enough
    • Phlegmatic: Jemilla the Peacemaker
    • Sanguine: Emberly
    • Melancholy: Grunt
  • Free-Love Future: The Neanderthals live this way, with every member of the tribe being every other member's husband and wife; Jemilla enjoys lingering kisses with both Clark and Claire. While explaining this, she also reveals offhand the previously unknown fact that she was married to Schwoopsie back in the original tribe, and in the end she marries Zazzalil as well.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Keeri loves animals. She requests Zazz give animals unsympathetic backstories before killing them, and develops motherly affection for a beetle she finds on her nut-gathering trip as well as for a sleeping Snarl.
  • Gaia's Lament: An extremely early, low-tech version of this trope — Zazzalil's shortsightedness as tribe leader leads the tribe to indiscriminately set fires, wantonly drive the local mammoth population extinct, pollute the watering hole with rancid discarded mammoth meat, and stare at fire all day instead of going out and socializing.
    Molag: That's what this story's all about. How humanity discovered fire, and how it, for better or for worse, changed the world. Now short version, it was good for us — absolutely devastating for everything else on Earth.
  • Gainax Ending: The second to last song consists of the revelation that Chorn is an alien and the events of the musical were a test for humanity
  • Giant Animal Worship: Subverted: The tribe worships a duck, believing it to have created the universe, but it's not a particularly large one. It's not even the same duck, the things just keep flying off and or dying.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Happens briefly to the whole tribe after they're gifted Chorn's alien knowledge, although they recover fairly quickly.
  • Gonk: Chorn.
  • Good Stepmother: Jemilla. Vaguely Played for Laughs, given that in the short amount of time she's been part of Clark and Claire's Exotic Extended Marriage it seems unlikely any of "her kids" are biological, but her new tribe doesn't seem to make any distinction. Harsher in Hindsight when she leaves and her children cheerfully wave goodbye to her and immediately move on.
  • Guinea Pig Family: After inventing the first human weapon — a flint tipped spear — Zazzalil decides to test it on her best friend Keeri by stabbing her in the chest with it, For Science!... even though she just said the purpose of the spear is killing animals. Only Jemilla has the inductive reasoning skills to put a halt to "human testing" of the new prototype. (This does not, however, prevent Jemilla from repeatedly injuring herself grabbing the spearhead later on because she's "curious".)
  • Handy Feet: Chorn offers to do this instead when she reveals she can't heal Grunt's lower injuries because she "can't do feet". Emberly quickly vetoes this.
  • Hat of Authority
    Ducker: I also require a symbol of this privilege, and heavy responsibility. I require... a hat! A big, silly hat. So that all may know that I am the supreme flamehead wizard.
  • Healing Hands: Chorn was able to regrow Grunt's arm by touching him. She can't do feet but offered to give him hands where his feet used to be.
  • Hidden Depths: Smelly-Balls spends most of the story as Dumb Muscle with a poor name, but is a highly evocative storyteller in "The Night Belongs to Snarl", and is the one who gives the Rousing Speech to mount an expedition first to save Zazzalil, then Grunt.
  • Hide Your Children: It's mentioned the tribe has "little ones" (now that they've stopped eating them) but they're never seen onstage, since their presence would likely make the perils the tribe faces less funny. We do see children among the Neanderthals, but that's because the Neanderthal village is a bit of a Utopia.
  • High Priest: Ducker. He technically loses this job when the Almighty Duck is revealed to be one of Molag's lies, but keeps trying to reclaim it (with disastrous results). At the end, despite the tribe's atheism, he reclaims this social role by default, shoving Emberly aside so he can officiate Jemilla and Zazzalil's wedding.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": Ducker is the only tribe member to be named after his job, taking care of the duck they worship and interpreting its decrees. He thus takes it especially hard when the religion and his job turn out to be a lie.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: There are very few men in this setting so it's pretty much a given. The female members of the tribe regularly show affection by kissing each other's faces, even the ones who don't have confirmed lesbian relationships and attractions. Zazzali and Keeri have heaps of this before Zazzali is paired up with Jemilla.
  • Honest John's Dealership: In an interview, Lauren Lopez compared Zazzalil at her worst to this, with the high-pressure way she tries to sell the tribe on her new inventions.
  • Humanity on Trial: All of the events of the play are a test arranged by Chorn to see if humanity is fit to survive, morally and practically.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The general selfishness verging on Comedic Sociopathy of the tribe, the shortsighted ecological destruction they cause and the Values Dissonance what with the baby eating add up to this. But this is eventually subverted when the tribe's loyalty to each other as "family" causes them to risk their lives to save a stranger one of them randomly fell in love with. Unearthing this quality in the human species was the point of Chorn's manipulation.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Everyone treats the statement that they'll have to be more careful with new technology in the future or "get burned" as hilarious, even though it's completely literal.
  • Informed Attribute: Enforced. The characters often say things to remind you that they are savages who until recently ate babies and were ruled by "Molag, the War-Master", however the tribe shows little capacity for actual violence, having only just invented weapons. This allows the show to have Comedic Sociopathy without actually having the characters be sociopaths.
  • Intelligible Unintelligible: Chorn singing her name to Zazzazil is apparently a devastating "The Reason You Suck" Speech judging by her reaction.
  • Interspecies Romance: A minor one between Jemilla and an entire tribe of Neanderthals.
    • Keeri apparently has considered it for less-closely-related species.
    Did I just hear you say something about fucking a duck? I'm not judging, we've all thought about it.
  • Improbably Female Cast: The cast is 75% female, and most of the women outrank the men.
  • Impossible Shadow Puppets: Assuming the shadow puppets in "The Night Belongs to Snarl" are diegetic and being made by Smelly-Balls with his fingers.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Averted, with Chorn referred to with "it" pronouns at least once, but never as an insult.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • Fire
    Emberly: It's called fire, makes things hot, you can look at it. Probably not going to catch on.
    • Jemilla is also certain that her kind will never out-perform the Neanderthals.
  • Ironic Echo: In order to prove his status as the Chosen One and High Priest of Fire, Ducker arrogantly demands the tribe set his head on fire... only to begin rolling around and screaming in agony because, well, the tribe set his head on fire.
  • "I Want" Song: Zazzalil's "What If?"
  • Job Title: Zazzalil is the eponymous Firebringer.
  • Kick the Dog: During "Jemilla's Lament", she ends up running into none other than the Almighty Duck... who doesn't want anything to do with her either.
  • Kill It with Fire: The tribe's preferred method of hunting.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When "We Got Work To Do" starts up, and Zazzalil and the others launch into the choreography, a very confused Jemilla asks how they all know the same dance.
  • Left the Background Music On: A humorous Mood Whiplash when after "The Night Belongs to Snarl" Tiblyn suddenly reveals Smelly-Balls was performing the song in-universe as part of a sort of nightly talent show the tribe does whenever they're hiding from Snarl.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Lampshaded by Molag when she tells the story of how a fortuitous lightning strike turns Zazzalil's spear into a torch (without otherwise harming her in any way).
    And if you're thinking to yourselves, "Molag, you don't know what you're talking about, lightning doesn't work like that!"... then fuck you. You don't know what you're talking about. We were there and we saw the whole thing.
    • Surprisingly, justified by the ending — it wasn't real lightning, but a photon beam from Chorn's ship.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Emberly and Grunt, because he isn't from their tribe.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "Finale (Make the Most of It)", where the tribe takes turns announcing what they've learned from their experiences — Zazzalil and Jemilla learned to understand each other's philosophies, Emberly and Grunt found love, even Ducker found a true higher calling beyond the duck (and Tiblyn finds value in holding up her hands to the sky for her own reasons). Molag even makes a surprise reappearance, having discovered the true shape of the world. Also a Reprise Medley.
  • Meat Versus Veggies: One of many debates Zazzalil and Jemilla end up on opposite sides of. Not for moral reasons — they all remember and miss the days they ate delicious human babies — but because they don't know how to hunt prey animals and Jemilla considers trying a dangerous waste of resources.
  • Mega Neko: The saber tooth tiger puppet is about the same size as the mammoth.
  • Minimalist Cast: While twelve characters is more than this trope usually accounts for, it's unusual for Starkid, whose plays would usually have those twelve actors weaving in and out of small bit parts. Instead, there are only six small roles in addition to those listed at the top of the page: three Neanderthals who appear in a single scene, and three puppet characters: Trunkell the mammoth, Snarl the saber-toothed cat, and the duck.
  • Minor Character, Major Song: Chorn's namesake song, "Chorn". Serves as an over-the-top lampshaded example of both this and The Eleven O'Clock Number, with just one song taking the whole show into an Unexpected Genre Change into science fiction with aliens.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, giant sloths and neanderthals all occupying the same general area. Though in a story where someone can walk around the planet in one lifetime, this is hardly an issue.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Clark Baxtresser. Definitely applies in-universe; Jemilla rushes off with him, seemingly to have sex, moments after meeting him, and Zazzalil, though initially alarmed at being held comfortingly by a stranger, doesn't want him to stop.
  • Mythology Gag: Grunt is defined by being the omega wolf of his tribe. Millions of years in the future, The Bully Book by Team StarKid's Eric Kahn Gale will use the term "Grunt" for someone who plays the same role in the context of schoolyard bullying.
  • New Technology is Evil: Jemilla's opinion of Zazzalil's discovery. Turns out to be accurate, when used carelessly as Zazzalil prefers. Parodied, with people's fascination with staring into the flames constantly referencing common complaints about young people glued to their smartphones.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Turns out Snarl found partially consuming Grunt so satisfying he was fast asleep when the tribe came to rescue him, and the rescue had actually already succeeded when Zazzalil and Jemilla's Big Damn Heroes moment wakes Snarl up. That said, the two of them manage to kill Snarl and end him as a threat permanently, while passing Chorn's test in the process, so it wasn't All for Nothing.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Poop is an important ingredient in Grunt's paint.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Emberly is not the Firebringer, though she does try to take her place.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Zazzalil and Jemilla, who end up admitting they've both been selfish and prideful but both ultimately have the good of their people at heart in their song "Together".
  • Noun Verber: The title of the show, of course; Ducker gives Zaz this title after she verbs the noun. Also Molag the Warmaster, Jemilla the Peacemaker, and, briefly, Emberley the Fireshitter.
  • Nubile Savage: With the notable exception of Chorn, the overwhelming majority of this primitive tribe consists of attractive women, with clean hair and flattering outfits.
  • Orphaned Etymology: Subverted for laughs. A character will begin to say an expression involving a non-yet invented object, but will hesitate when they come to the problematic word.
    Molag: I don't wanna be around when the shit hits the...
    Molag: I don't even know what.
  • Overused Running Gag: Schwoopsie has only invented one joke that she keeps telling over and over, which everyone only laughs at because it's their first exposure to the concept.
  • Pacifist: Jemilla's initial title is "Peacemaker", in contrast to the previous leader Molag, known as a great warrior. Jemilla's mission is to transition the tribe away from violence toward seeking knowledge, which is why she disapproves so strongly of Zazzalil's invention of weapons. She comes around to a more moderate policy by the end.
  • Panspermia: Chorn's race seeded Earth billions of years ago.
  • Parody Religion: The cult of the Almighty Duck founded by Molag. There doesn't seem to be any particular reason she chose a duck to be the tribe's deity — or told Tiblyn she had to hold her arms over her head for her entire life — other than to keep people busy.
  • Pastiche: Per Word of God, the soundtrack is in the style of Kimbra.
  • Planet of Steves: Chorn's species are apparently also known only as "the Chorn".
  • Playing with Fire: Becomes the tribe's hat after Zazzalil's discovery; in Ducker's case, their obsession with fire leads to him founding a new religion around it. Sadly, they aren't actually the Chosen Ones of Fire and don't actually have supernatural control over it, as they painfully discover.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Jemilla may not be this to the whole tribe, but she definitely is this to Zazzalil and Keeri at first — interpreting Zazzalil's dissatisfaction with her tedious job as an invitation to condescendingly explain to her how to do it and tell her how simple it is.
  • Pokémon Speak: Chorn, with a few exceptions. She coins the word "fire", mutters a complete sentence in irritation when distracted from playing with the fire, sings a few lines (though never solo; her solo singing also consists entirely of "Chorn"), and speaks quite loquaciously when she reveals herself to be an extraterrestrial.
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses: Emberly's "glasses", seemingly being just frames made out of twigs, considering glass hasn't been invented yet, are presumably decorative.
  • Raised by Humans: According to Jamie Burns, Chorn was found alone and starving in a cave by the tribe and adopted by them out of pity, despite not being able to communicate with her and unsure if she's human. This was a ruse and a test.
  • Raised by Orcs: A rare Played for Laughs example. Jemilla is apparently, by birth, the last survivor of a foreign tribe ravaged by Molag the Warmaster back in her prime.
    Molag: I have loved you from the moment I clobbered your mother to death and took you as my own.
  • Real Men Cook: Clark is not only much hotter but much handier than the somewhat useless men in Jemilla's original tribe, preparing lunch every day and otherwise being "so good with the kids".
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Snarl.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Molag reveals that the duck the tribe worships as a god hasn't even been the same duck this whole time — it "miraculously" changes color because it keeps escaping and she has to catch new ones.
  • Running Gag
    • Calling anyone more advanced than the cavepeople "privileged fucks". Mostly this comes from Molag and is directed at the audience.
    • Another one that's mostly Molag: using a common phrase such as "by the seat of their pants" or "two sides of the same coin", but not being able to finish the aphorism due to it containing an object that hasn't been invented, finishing off with, "...I don't know what."
    • Grunt and Emberly mishearing each other. They can never get each other's names right (Grant and Emily), and it's this tendency that coins the term "painting", as Grunt had called it "pinting" before meeting her.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Molag, played by Lauren Walker, infused with Cool Old Lady. Trunkell the mammoth is also portrayed this way (amusingly, even though she's performed by Lauren Walker and Joey Richter, it's Joey who provides her voice).
  • Scientist vs. Soldier: An unusually low-tech version of this, related to Zazzalil and Jemilla's Technician vs. Performer conflict. Zazzalil and Jemilla both believe in the importance of seeking new knowledge, but Jemilla wants to accumulate knowledge for its own sake while Zazzalil is mostly interested in power — specifically the power to create weapons to hunt prey and eliminate predators, which Jemilla is very cautious about.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • Molag at the very beginning of the play.
    • Jemilla after Zazzalil gets fire.
  • Secret Test of Character: By the end of the play, it is revealed that Chorn was a space-alien that manipulated events so that the tribe would discover fire to see how they would handle evolution. Safe to the say they pass, gifting them with knowledge of the universe as a reward.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Chorn, once she reveals her true alien form.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Lilo & Stitch, with Smelly-Balls' somewhat arbitrary epiphany that "'Chorn' means family".
    • To Gremlins — Molag reminds Jemilla not to feed Chorn after midnight.
  • Shown Their Work: As silly as this show is, it's a surprisingly accurate portrayal of Paleolithic. Early humans really did live in egalitarian polygamous societies, interspecies sex between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals was widespread and cannibalism was fairly common. The costuming, though stylized and simplified, is also more-or-less accurate to the period, right down to Jemilla's intricate shell jewelry
    • The key conceit of this musical is, in fact, surprisingly accurate — early humans did burn down whole forests as a way to kill off both predators and prey, which may have contributed to our taste for cooked meat and to driving megafauna to extinction. And, as this musical implies, the knowledge necessary to start and control fires led to the development of a social hierarchy where firemakers became leaders and/or priests.
    • Grunt/Grant's first painting being a kindergarten-style "handprint turkey" actually reflects how some of the earliest cave paintings are handprint stencils.
    • Nick Lang said that trying to make a 1 Million B.C. show that was at all historically accurate and still be funny would be impossible, but they still insisted on certain details for the sake of internal consistency. One big one was establishing the tribe has not yet begun hunting animals or even invented knives, which means any fur pieces in the costumes had to be scavenged animal parts (or whole animals) rather than dressed skins.
  • Silly Reason for War: The "Great Debate" dividing the tribe is this up to eleven, consisting of Chorn repeatedly saying the word "Chorn" and Smelly-Balls angrily replying "No!" Jemilla earns the title "Peacemaker" by gently suggesting that Smelly-Balls instead reply to the word "Chorn" with "Yes".
  • Speak in Unison: The entire tribe occasionally speaks lengthy sentences in perfect unison.
  • Spontaneous Choreography: Lampshaded. Keeri is the inventor of dance and spends all her free time teaching the tribe new dances. Jemilla becomes mildly annoyed at her for teaching everyone to dance along to "I don't wanna do the work today".
    • Doubles as Hypocritical Humor since, as Jemilla points out, coming up with the "I don't wanna do the work today" dance, teaching it to everyone, and everyone practicing enough to become good at it must've taken a great deal of time and effort, that could've been used to do the work.
  • The Starscream: Zazzalil
  • Stop Worshipping Me: Jemilla says this verbatim near the beginning.
  • Stylistic Suck: Grunt's paintings, especially the one of Emberly, which is both sloppy and incredibly complex.
    • Also Schwoopsie's stand-up comedy — ironically, she seems to have invented deadpan Anti-Humor.
  • Talking Animal: Trunkell and Snarl both speak a few lines, although it's ambiguous if this is diegetic or we're just hearing their thoughts.
  • Tastes Like Friendship: Emberly befriends Grunt by showing him the tasty berries she's found for the tribe. The basis for their love song, "Just a Taste".
  • Technician vs. Performer: Jemilla and Zazzalil's leadership styles — Jemilla is all about discipline, hard work and carefully considering consequences before acting, whereas Zazzalil is a wild dreamer who believes in creating paradise through dramatic social change. In the end they learn both approaches are needed to ensure humanity's future.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jemilla delivers a brutal one to Zazzalil after Zazzalil's failed attack on Trunkell with her spear. Zazzalil gives a far worse one to Jemilla after she first defeats Snarl with her new discovery of fire.
  • Those Two Guys: Zazzalil and Keeri. Keeri tells Zazzalil that they can't be this anymore after Zazzalil assumes command of the tribe. (According to Denise Donovan, this was based on how she and Lauren Lopez interact in real life.)
  • Token Evil Teammate: Ducker is extremely selfish and power-hungry.
  • Toilet Humour: A lot of poop jokes naturally arise during Grunt and Emberly's artistic process, most notably when Emberly defecates in front of the whole tribe so she can paint a picture of fire. The tribe misinterprets her painting as real fire and dubs her "Fire-shitter".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Most of the characters at some point, but notably Zazzalil when she begins experimenting with her new discovery of fire — touching it, getting burned, touching it again, then trying to eat it.
    Molag: Humans are slow learners.
  • Triumphant Reprise: Many partial examples, but the clearest one is "The Night Belongs to Snarl" followed by "The Night Belongs to Us".
  • Troll: Molag likes to screw with the audience while she's narrating. Though she's mostly ashamed, she also seems to take a bit of glee at the lies she's told to keep the tribe under control.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Gender-flipped; there are two men in the tribe. By the same token, this makes Grunt a gender-flipped Affirmative Action Girl.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Multiply subverted. Emberly's idea to draw a picture of a flame on a rock with poop to frighten Snarl seems obviously doomed to fail... until it turns out it's not needed at all because Snarl is asleep. Only for Zazzalil and Jemilla to show up and awaken Snarl, only for Snarl to actually be intimidated by the picture, only for him to suddenly realize the fire is fake because he can smell the poop. Then the unspoken plan Jemilla came up with just turns out to be to try to stab Snarl through the eyesockets with spears, which turns out to be harder than it sounds. Then, finally, Zazzalil resolves the plot by suddenly realizing how to create new fire on her own, as the name of the show would imply.
  • The Vamp: Zazzalil tries to invoke this to seduce Jemilla back to their tribe. Jemilla turns her down... at first.
  • Vicariously Ambitious: Keeri's relationship to Zazzalil. She tells Zazzalil she enjoyed egging her on when they were both rebels against Jemilla, but once Zazzalil actually becomes the new leader she loses interest in supporting her.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: In a very Hilarious in Hindsight bit of misguided judgment, the Langs were so immersed in genre tropes that they thought everyone in the audience would predict their use of the Ancient Astronauts trope, and that they gave so many hints that Chorn was one that The Reveal was almost anticlimactic and they didn't want to waste too much time on it. (The biggest such hint being that Chorn breaks her Pokémon Speak to tell everyone what the name of fire is.) To the contrary, nobody figured this out ahead of time and most audience members deemed the song "Chorn" to be a nonsensical Big-Lipped Alligator Moment. It was bad enough that the Langs ended up violating standard procedure for a currently running show and rewriting the script in the last week of the run to give Chorn a much more comprehensive Infodump when she appears, which is the version of the scene in the YouTube recording.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: There's a very spooky one about Snarl.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: All of the men. Smelly-Balls wears a toga, Grunt and Clark wear only loincloths, and Ducker is shirtless under his shaman's robes.
  • Walking the Earth: Molag. She's looking for the edge of the world and doesn't expect it will take her longer than a day. In the play's timespan, she manages to circumnavigate the world instead, only to find that the rest of the tribe had just discovered the world was round as well.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never specifically hear about the resolution of Zazzalil's feud with Trunkell, although we can assume she was killed offstage once we hear the whole mammoth species was hunted to extinction.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The subject of this play is a broad reference to the myth of Prometheus. Zazzalil is a rebel against tradition seeking to advance humanity through inventions like fire. As, it turns out, is Chorn.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: The basis for much of the humor. The tribe has to actively expend effort on research to "discover" ideas like not eating their own young, or that they can, in lieu of eating their own young, eat other animals.
    • More directly matching the video game version of this trope is the fact that under Molag the Warmaster the tribe has a long history of attacking and conquering other tribes, and yet at no point "discovered" the concept of killing other animals for their meat — nor, indeed, the concept of a "weapon".
  • You Killed My Father: Trunkell killed Zazzalil's father. Though it's implied she's only saying that because Keeri doesn't want to kill animals with sympathetic backstories.