Naughty By Nature

Santa's little hellion: Brian Baumgartner as Crumpet the Elf in Eye of the Storm's SantaLand Diaries

Dear Santa,

Thank you for the No Questions Asked G.I. Joe you left in my fishnet stocking last Christmas. I also appreciated the Online Venture Capitalist Barbie, Emasculated Ken, and the Feng Shui accessory kit for the Barbie Dream Condo. I often enjoy re-creating my favorite scenes from Ally McBeal (my Mommy says I'm a regular little David E. Kelly with my plastic dolls and overactive glands). As I'm sure your records will indicate, I have been a good little boy again this year, and I expect appropriate compensation. Before I list my demands, though, I'd like you to straighten a few things out for me.

You see, Mommy takes me to a lot of theater this time of year because she says I need to get out from in front of the TV and get some "goddamn culture." (We used to go to the Guthrie to see A Christmas Carol, but we stopped because Mommy said they were already stuffing their stocking enough, and didn't need any help from us.) Here's where I'm confused, Santa: I saw two plays last week, and they both suggested either that you don't really exist, or, if you do, that you're kind of a schnook (Mommy tells me that it's not the same as with God, because we only have to pretend to believe in you once a year instead of once a week).

The first play we saw was SantaLand Diaries by David Sedaris (I recognize his name because Mommy sometimes turns on NPR when she wants me to go to sleep). In this one, a man who doesn't like Christmas moves to New York City, runs out of money, and has to take a job as an elf in a big department store. (Mommy says New York turned her into a working girl, too, but she won't say if she got to wear a costume). I don't think it would be that bad working in SantaLand, but Mommy says I will feel different when I become a register jockey. I visited you at the Mall of America last year--do you remember?--and it didn't seem like such a bad job, since all you had to do was sit there like a bowl full of Jell-O, and the prosthetic beard helps protect your stoma from grabby tots. Although my Mommy often warns me not to go near the laps of old men who use the word "naughty," I didn't think you were that creepy. I did notice that you smelled like the pine air freshener in Mommy's car and had fingernails like a miner (which makes sense, I guess, since you have to bring coal to all the land-mine manufacturers, phys. ed. teachers, and other evil people).

But, Santa, I'm getting off the topic. I saw SantaLand Diaries last year, and I remember that Crumpet the Elf seemed a very bitter elf (I almost offered him a handful of the pills Mommy takes to help her feel "festive" for the holidays). This year's Crumpet, Brian Baumgartner, seems both less bipolar and saltier than his predecessor. Because he looks like a teddy bear crossed with a linebacker, the scene where he stuffed himself into the candy-cane-colored elf uniform is especially funny. You can give David Sedaris a lump of whatever you want, but make sure you bring something nice for the director, Casey Stangl, and Baumgartner.

I don't mean to tell you how to do your job, Santa. But I could go either way on the naughty/nice issue with Fully Reciprocal Theatre Company, who are doing a new play by Randy Latimer called The Santa Club. In this one, a group of aspiring Santas gather for a support group meeting--like a Yuletide version of AA (that's not the one where they fix your car, Santa, but the place where Mommy goes to ride her wagon).

Mommy says that the holidays are the time when the people you least want in your living room are most likely to end up there. All I know is I wouldn't want any of these Santas in my living room. One, played by John O'Donoghue, is named Pickles and has emotional problems. Another (Tim Jopek) looks a little like you, but hates and fears children (plus, he's Jewish). There's a woman Santa (Kari Shaff), who carries around a pretty little flask full of Christmas spirits (Mommy says she was reminded of our aunt Sally, who gets sick in the figgy pudding every year, and once wrapped herself before falling asleep beneath the tree). There's also an angel named Stan (Jeff Redman), who has wandered into the meeting by accident and who gets on everyone's nerves. After an hour of listening to these Santas kvetch at poor Stan, I felt like yelling, "Give it a rest, ye merry gentlemen!"

This brings me to my question, Santa. I know that you don't actually deliver the toys to my house, because I saw Mommy dumping them under the tree last year (she called it santus interruptus). Also, Mommy says that Christmas isn't about getting toys from Santa, but about buying expensive presents so your friends and relatives will feel bad for the rest of the year and remember you in kind next Christmas (she says guilt is the gift that keeps on getting). Mommy says that you're really just a story invented to make us behave--like Hell or social security. I know she's wrong, but here's my conundrum: If you really can see us when we're asleep and awake, then why can't you warn us before floods, wars, and other bad stuff? How, in other words, can an infallible Santa let naughty things happen to nice people?

Please explain yourself, Santa. Also, I want a new bike and some Pokemon cards.

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