Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holiday Horrors: The Twelve Days of Christmas


Other than “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” I can’t really think of a holiday song that I truly hate. There are some that are sappy, and others that are annoying. There are versions of holiday songs that I don’t like, and, especially over the past few years, I have heard some original holiday songs that grate, but who wants to write about those?

“The Twelve Days of Christmas,” though, is a generally painful song. First, there is the repetition. I understand that many old folk songs are repetitive, because they were designed to allow them to be sung and memorized before they were written down, or before most people could read. Maybe back when people had longer attention spans, this song was a hoot. But now it just goes, on and on. I’ve seen it compared to “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

Then, there are the gifts. Way more birds than anybody needs, before you get to troops of people, plus, of course, five gooooooooooooooold rings. And it annoys me that every year, some (probably junior) reporters are forced to report on the cost of the presents, as if they had some bearing on the economy. I’m guessing that it was harder back in the pre-Internet era, when, I assume, the cub reporter had to call, say, an employment agency, and ask how much it would cost to rent a bunch of milkmaids or pipers.

The song’s very ridiculousness makes it ripe for parody, and my favorite is the Bob & Doug McKenzie version, a cartoon of which is above. The McKenzies were characters created by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas on SCTV, a brilliant sketch comedy show from the late 1970’s-early 1980’s that never really got the kind of consistent scheduling that has allowed Saturday Night Live to run forever. A number of SCTV alumni later joined SNL, and/or went on to greater fame in movies and TV, but for me, the SCTV shows approached Monty Python in their inventiveness and lunacy.

SCTV was produced in Canada, and the McKenzie brothers were created in response to a requirement, or request, that the shows include Canadian content. So, these characters embodied pretty much every Canadian stereotype, and somehow, we in the USA got it. The popularity of these dim “hosers” led to a movie and a couple of albums, from which “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” comes. It is funny, sloppy and gently rude, and thus effectively demonstrates the McKenzie brothers’ charm. And they get bored part of the way through, just like me.

We’ve been encouraged to post multiple versions of the songs we choose, so here’s another parody, by Allen Sherman from the early 1960’s. Here, the recipient gets a series of cheap, tacky gifts, and exchanges them on the twelfth day. Not only is it a send up of the increasingly prevalent consumer culture of the time, one of the running gags is that Japanese electronics are inferior. Times have changed, I guess.

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