Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Story (not for the kiddies)

There are many tales told at this time of year; traditional ones around a fireplace or a tree and others new, intriguing and destined to become tomorrow's classics. I have ONE Christmas story I heard many years ago. It always makes me laugh and always will. It's not new so if you've heard it before, I apologize. But bear with me. Because I'm having enormous amounts of fun just telling it!!!

A long time ago at the North Pole...

It was Christmas Eve. And as you can imagine, an extremely busy time. For Santa, however, things weren't going so well. He managed to struggle into his pants, but he'd gained a few pounds and the rear seam split, revealing his cartoon underwear.

When asked to help, Mrs. Claus screeched like a banshee about his carelessness, his weight and the fact he kept her up with his snoring the night before. It was her time-of-the-month, and he swore if she'd had a gun, she'd have shot him dead for this minor little snag. Escaping with a safety-pinned ass and a (thankfully) whole skin, he hurried to his kitchen for a quick belt of courage. The bottle of courage was almost gone so he dispensed with a glass and raised it to his lips, only to have the window blow open at that very moment. He jumped, dropped the bottle, saw it shatter on the floor, then cut his foot as he rushed for the broom.

It just got better for Santa. An owl flew in through the open window with a note addressed to him. It was the renewal contract from the Elf Union (Local 001). Their terms had been renegotiated and where the hell he was supposed to get full health care benefits for so little, Santa didn't have a fucking clue. And if he didn't...they'd strike.

He limped to his boots, cursed his bleeding toe as he pulled them on and finally buttoned his jacket over his expanding tummy with difficulty. Making a note to cut down on the cookies this year, he stepped out to the stable, only to be greeted with sharp ugly snarls from Donner and Blitzen. Vixen had apparently chosen this of all nights to go into heat and the two males were about to butt antlers over the honor of doing her under the Christmas Eve stars.

Resisting the impulse to just call off the whole thing and have reindeer steaks for dinner, Santa managed to get his team under control and led them to the sleigh. Wisely, he put Vixen up front where the guys would scent her, thus ensuring record speeds as they traversed the globe. Unfortunately, his maintenance elf was out with the flu, so nobody had fixed the splinter on the seat of the sleigh, which promptly spiked Santa's ample butt next to the safety pins. A bit of the runner fell off and slithered through his open door into the hall, from whence a shrill scream emanated. Mrs. Claus peered out, face furious, waving a rolling pin and with the runner stuck up her skirt.

Santa sighed. He was about at the end of his tether.

At that moment, an adorable glowing angel trotted up to Santa's door, trailing a perfect fir tree behind her. "Hello Santa", said the lovely little thing. "I just knew you'd want to see this. Isn't it the most wonderful Christmas tree you've ever seen?" She waved her hand, scattering glowing particles over the tree and making Prancer sneeze. Santa gritted his teeth.

"Now," said the angel with a satisfied smile. "Where would you like me to put it?"

And that, my friends, is how the angel ended up on top of the Christmas Tree!

Wishing you all a wonderful Holiday with family and friends. May your days be a lot less stressful than this particular Santa, and may NOBODY tell you where to put your Christmas tree. LOLLOL

Cheers to all,


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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Have we forgotten what's funny?

A couple of nights ago, like so many of us after a long day, I plonked my butt down and grabbed the remote, hoping there was something entertaining on tv to help my mind relax. My current evening project involves beads, glue and a costume, so it's not so much that I need to actually watch something, it's more a desire to let my brain stand down.

Half an hour later, with a twitchy remote finger, I leaned back in frustration and realized that tv, mostly, sucks. There were "comedies" galore, and landing on any of them completely failed to produce more than a wince at the overloud sound track and the attempts at humor which would have embarrassed a sixth grader. In fact, I've heard better jokes FROM a sixth grader.

So I gave it one more shot, paying closer attention to the automated screen guide (whatever happened to that wonderful little magazine everyone threw across the living room at each other? The one that always had corners ripped off where someone had needed a toothpick in a hurry? Gone. Dead as a dodo I guess.) Sorry...I digress.

I finally ended up on a local public television station. No, it wasn't Masterpiece Theater, it was one of their fundraiser shows. This one caught my attention - it was featuring the work of a man who was a genius (IMHO) - Victor Borge. The Insane Dane. The Great Dane. Whatever you want to call him. For the next two hours, I howled with laughter.

And I wondered what was so funny about Mr. Borge's performances, why I was aching, bleary eyed and still giggling afterward. What had caught my funny bone and tickled the hell out of it, as opposed to the slick Hollywood sitcoms which left me stone faced and shrugging.

This man was technically brilliant, a pianist and maestro on a par with the best of the best. A musician who loved music and loved sharing it. Okay, all well and good. There are many who fit that description. But for some reason, his dramatic double take and stumble when his soprano launches into a High C that nearly shattered the chandelier...well, I cracked up along with his audience.

And there were so many more achingly funny moments. His way of talking to his audience, his use of the piano as a "straight man" or a sidekick in some way - it was amazingly funny, subtly brilliant and warmly affectionate, establishing a relationship between entertainer, instrument and audience. That takes talent. And it left me awed, even as I wiped away the lingering traces of tears of laughter.

Maybe, I thought later...maybe that's what it's all about. Talking TO an audience as if they are your friends. Not talking DOWN to them, trying to BE them, or telegraphing a joke five minutes before it's made. Not being silly, angsty, dirty or snarky. Not insulting your audience or treating them as if the only thing they have going for them is their desire to see YOU.

Sitcoms have their appeal, I'm sure. But if I had to choose between an hour of Ashton Kutcher and the MEN, or Victor Borge in black-and-white with greats like Perry Como and Dean Martin...I know which I would choose. I might just put his set of concert DVD's on my Christmas list for those times when I need a laugh to lift me back onto my feet after a long day. Because laughter does that. And sadly, today, it seems like a lot of tv producers have forgotten that making people laugh is a skill, and a gift. It doesn't come from a box or a piece of software that mixes up words and spits out "jokes". It comes from the heart and the brain of the performer.

Here's a vintage clip of Victor Borge and Dean Martin sharing that wonderful phenomenon "Phonetic Punctuation". In my mind, this is timeless, and still makes me laugh like hell. And there is some of the most subtle dirty joke insinuation in there that I've heard in a while. Take a few minutes, sit back and just relax into the moment. I hope you'll find it as delightful as I have.

Now go find some more Victor Borge clips. And spend the day with a smile on your face!!!

Sahara Kelly