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2011-12-23 10:05:46

Still More Christmas (and Chanukah!)

Two songs I received on tape in the late 1970s heralded a new direction in holiday humor. "Open Me First" by Ogden Edsl (1978) was about a puppy wrapped in a Christmas gift package without the benefit of ventilation. "Santa Claus Is Dead" by Don Noon (1979) needs no explanation.

People who write funny songs often try to come up with something that will surprise as well as amuse listeners. The introduction of dark and gruesome images into the holiday song genre, always known for sweetness, light, comfort and joy, had considerable surprise value. Shock value, even. Both of these songs brought negative comments, along with a good many requests to hear them again.

That was also around the time when people started laughing at horror movies, especially the really gruesome parts. "I Found The Brains of Santa Claus" by Jason and the Straptones (1982), sung to an irrepressibly cheerful tune, has remained a favorite ever since.

In 1986, "Weird Al" Yankovic answered his record label's request for a holiday song with "Christmas At Ground Zero." Inspired not by B-movies but by daily news headlines, this rivaled "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" on our holiday request lines for the rest of the Eighties.

Horror movie imagery was front and center in Al's second holiday song, "The Night Santa Went Crazy" (1996). After writing it, Al had second thoughts about all the blood and gore, and the version on the Bad Hair Day CD was toned down somewhat. After he let the original lyrics escape as a CD single bonus track, our listeners were unanimous in preferring that "extra gory version," which reigned over our holiday festivities for the next decade.

Fart humor was huge in the late 1990s, and some of that gas escaped into the holiday season, as I received (and occasionally played) a half dozen CD's of fart sounds contorted into Christmas carols, sometimes using similar technology to the Jingle Cats and their fellow caroling critters.

When one considers mainstream success along with popularity on our show, the king of Christmas novelty music over the past quarter century has to be Bob Rivers. Twisted Christmas, released in 1987 by the veteran Seattle morning radio entertainer, has to be, cut for cut, the best holiday comedy music album ever. Twenty-four years after its release, the opening track "The Twelve Pains of Christmas" was still (as of 12-22-11) the top-ranked Christmas comedy single on iTunes. Rivers followed this up with four more holiday CD's, containing such perennial delights as "I Am Santa Claus" (a parody of "Iron Man"), "Walkin' Round In Women’s Underwear" and "Chipmunks Roasting On an Open Fire."

Actually, the #1 holiday comedy song these days is not a Christmas song, but "The Chanukah Song" by Adam Sandler. It is not, of course, all that new, having been introduced on Saturday Night Live in 1994. Sandler has since recorded two updates, but the original is still the funniest. As of 12-22-11 it tops the iTunes comedy singles list. Along with a cover by Neil Diamond, it has inspired several parodies, including one about how tired people are of "The Chanukah Song." Regardless, we still get requests for it every year.

Hanukkah songs had been around for centuries, of course, but few secular ones. My sidekick SuLu wrote and sang one that was heard on the show in 1977. The first Hanukkah novelty released on records, as far as I know, was "Hanukkah Rocks" by Gefilte Joe and the Fish, released in 1981. (The Hanukkah songs written by the great folksinger Woody Guthrie in the 1940s, after he married into a Jewish family, were only recently rediscovered and recorded). Now there are lots and lots of Hanukkah comedy songs, ranging from lighthearted musings on how to spell the name of the holiday and how to figure out when it occurs each year, to the edgy "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" from the South Park holiday album Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics. New this year is Latkes, Smatkes! Comedy songs for Chanukah by Lauren Mayer.

Do let me know what you thought of the holiday shows this year, and what you might like to see included (or not included) next time around!

Previous Replies:
2012-01-06 17:11:06
From: Dr. Al
Christmas Lineup
Doctor D - Instead of rehashing the same set of songs, you have again found a way to keep them fresh. The theme weeks ran a wide spectrum and should have given each listener something to cheer. My favorite Christmas album is Winter Wonderland by the Ray Charles Singers (which to my dismay has yet to be release on CD). Don't know if there'd be any leverage there but perhaps take offs or mashups of Ray Conniff or Percy Faith. I noticed several that came close to their styles.

Nice work and thanks,

Dr. Al
2012-01-01 01:41:33
From: chips moondogs

Breaking in 2012 with 2011's top 25 show. Thanks Dr Demento for your life spice we seem to forget to add our self!!

2011-12-24 20:31:45
From: Johnny
In some discographies, I have seen a listing for a song called "Please Don't Take Our Tree For Christmas" by The Nutty Squirrels. I don't think you've ever played it. Do you have a copy of it, and if so, is it any good?
2011-12-23 19:19:11
From: Dr. Demento
Christmas Balls
Gregg - that should have been mentioned. The reason it wasn't was that I was concentrating on Christmas songs in mainstream pop culture, and that was well outside the mainstream when it was released in 1936. Hope you heard it on the show this year.
Happy holidays!
2011-12-23 12:36:33
From: Gregg
How could you forget...
Ben Light's "Let Me Hang My Balls on Your Christmas Tree" That's my favorite demented Christmas song.