Transcript

422:

Comedians of Christmas Comedy Special
Transcript

Originally aired 12.17.2010

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/422

Prologue.

Ira Glass

Everybody knows the holidays can be stressful. And so with the holidays upon us, we thought, you know what would be nice? An hour of jokes. Let's do an hour of holiday jokes. But reflecting on this for about 10 seconds made us realize there's actually no such thing. Think about it for a second. What is your favorite Christmas joke? Right? Even kids who love Christmas and love jokes do not have Christmas jokes. To be sure this is true we actually ran a scientific test this week where we asked a group of kids to tell us their favorite Christmas joke.

Kid 1

OK. Hmm. I don't really know one. Can they go first?

Ira Glass

One of our producers, Jonathan Menjivar, went to the playground at New York's PS 11 asking third graders for Christmas jokes. And while none of them knew any Christmas jokes, it turns out that all of them were willing on the spot-- apparently any third grader will do this-- they were willing to make up Christmas jokes.

Kid 2

Why did the reindeer cross the road?

Jonathan Menjivar

I don't know. Why?

Kid 2

To get to the horn station.

Ira Glass

You know, the horn station.

Jonathan Menjivar

The horn? What's a horn station?

Kid 2

Where they get new horns.

Kid 3

Oh! That makes sense sort of.

Kid 4

Yeah.

Ira Glass

I don't know if you could hear that. One of the kids in the background goes, "That makes sense." And everyone then agrees.

Jonathan Menjivar

--sense? I'm not sure I understand.

Kid 2

Because reindeer have horns and then they need new horns.

Kid 5

Yeah. And then sometimes reindeer if they get their antlers broke off, they grow back in, and in this joke, they go to a store.

Ira Glass

Here's another one.

Kid 6

There was a chicken that's running around like crazy on Christmas Eve. And then Santa came. And it's like, "Hey, Santa! Can I go on?" Then Santa's like, "You can get on the deer, but not on my head!"

Kid 7

Why does Santa get married with a skinny woman?

Ira Glass

Yeah. I feel like the setup is often the best part of these jokes. Why does Santa get married to a skinny woman?

Kid 7

Because Santa feels bad that he's so fat and she's so skinny. And he wants to see somebody that's skinny.

Ira Glass

I'm glad to say though that some of the jokes the kids made up on the spot did actually have the structure of real jokes and worked as real jokes, with punch lines that actually made actual sense.

Kid 8

Why didn't Santa deliver the presents?

Jonathan Menjivar

I don't know.

Kid 8

Because it wasn't Christmas.

Ira Glass

OK. This next one was told to Jonathan by a little kid who first explained that they don't celebrate Christmas. They celebrate Hanukkah with the Hanukkah menorah and all that.

Kid 9

What does the Christmas tree say to the menorah?

Jonathan Menjivar

I don't know.

Kid 9

He says, "You don't have decorations like me. I'm more popular than you."

Ira Glass

It's funny because it's true. Jonathan wasn't sure what he should say to this little Jewish kid about that joke.

Jonathan Menjivar

Wow, the Christmas tree is mean.

Kid 9

The Christmas tree is mean, but the menorah actually has good intelligence.

Ira Glass

Good as these jokes are, fact is, if you want a Christmas holiday special that's filled with jokes, you really have to go to professionals. And so in preparation for today's show, we went to stand-up comedians and performers and we put them on stage in little clubs and venues, wherever they like to try out new material over the last few weeks. And today, from just a small club with I think 200 people in it, we bring you our Comedians of Christmas special. We have some people who you've heard of on our show before, like Mike Birbiglia, but lots of amazingly funny people who you may not know. We have actually never tried this before, and it's been completely exciting seeing what happens when we throw a theme like Christmas to these really talented, funny people.

And so, from WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life, distributed by Public Radio International. I'm Ira Glass. Stay with us.

Act One. Jesus Has Prison.

Ira Glass

Act One, Christ Has Prison.

We were worried that was a little too Eastery. It's a Christmas show.

Wyatt Cenac is a correspondent and a performer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. And he has this story about spreading Christmas cheer in Texas. Please welcome him.

Wyatt Cenac

Thank you. I am from Texas.

[LAUGHTER]

That's not normally the response I expect. Its very weird because when you tell somebody that you're from Texas, their response is, "Oh my God, I love Austin!" Which is cool, but I grew up in Dallas. And people will be like, "Oh, I'm sorry. Austin's pretty awesome. Austin's great."

It's weird. I've lived here in New York now for about two and a half years, and I was actually born here. I lived here as a baby. And it's nice to be back. The city has changed a lot since I lived here as a baby. When I was a baby, everywhere you went it was just colors and shapes everywhere. Gentrification has changed all of that. In my old neighborhood, I remember on the corner there was this amorphous yellow blob. Now it's a Chipotle.

When my mother hit her 50s, she went through a bit of a midlife crisis. And typically, a midlife crisis is something that people associate with men. Men who are struggling with getting older, they maybe go out and buy themselves a Corvette or some other type of penis car. And my mother didn't do that. What she did for her midlife crisis was she went to church wearing those big fancy church lady hats that star in Tyler Perry movies.

You see, a man in a midlife crisis maybe goes and gets himself an old Mustang and soups it up. And my mother did the same thing. She would take these hats, and you'd see her at church on Sunday with a bunch of other middle aged ladies. And they'd have tricked these hats out with lace and ribbons and flowers and dodo eggs, whatever they could get their hands on. They'd put rims and a spoiler on there if they could. And this is what my mother did.

And in the same way that when a man goes through a midlife crisis, he might find himself a trophy girlfriend, some 20-year-old who will spike up his hair and put him in ill-fitting T-shirts that have sparkly dragon skeletons on them. My mother did the same thing. She went to church and she found herself a trophy boyfriend named Jesus Christ.

And when you think about it, Jesus is really the best trophy boyfriend for a menopausal woman. He's older, but he doesn't show it. He doesn't care if you feel like you're aging and you've got crows feet or you feel bloated or anything like that. He doesn't care. He loves unconditionally. If you want to spend all day in aerobic slippers, guess what? So does he. That's his uniform. Oh, and the most important one. He's made of bread and wine. He's perfect.

And around the same time that my mother started seeing Jesus, the church decided that this Christmas they were going to do some Christmas prison ministry. And what they were going to do is they were going to take Christmas gifts to prison inmates. And my mother loved this idea, so she signed up.

And you might be asking yourself, What kind of Christmas gift do you give to a prison inmate? I mean, their list is probably pretty simple, it's probably just freedom and sex, not necessarily in that order. The church couldn't deliver on those things, so they thought the next best thing would be a bag of fruit. And what it was, it was a paper bag that had been decorated by the children of the church. They drew little pictures on it. And then inside that bag was an apple and an orange and a little prayer card. Because it's church, nothing's free. And then on the flip side of that card was a calendar, which really seems like the worst thing you could give a prison inmate as a gift. That's the Christmas prison equivalent of some kid waking up on Christmas morning to find a pair of socks when he has no feet. But at the same time, it's the thought that counts.

And my mother was doing this thing. It was very noble. Not everybody would go and give Christmas to prison inmates. I thought, wow, that's really awesome of her that she wants to do that. I'm going to do something nice for her. So that morning, I figured I was going to wake up and I was going to make her some pancakes because she's got a big day ahead of her.

And that's when I found out that my mother would not be going to the maximum security prison. My mother had never had any intention of going. See, she liked the idea of doing a Christian mission, but she also liked the idea of spending the day in bed watching Wheel of Fortune. And since she couldn't do both, she decided she would send me to prison in her place. It was at that moment of my life that I understood what outsourcing was.

My mother decided to send me, my little brother, and my stepfather, who up to this point had been OK with the open relationship that my mother, he, and Jesus had been having. And we get out to the prison. And if you've never been to prison, the first thing that happens is you take off your Santa cap, because you feel silly. It doesn't seem right. And it's like everything you've seen in movies. There's a big buzzer that's like, errr, and some guy's like, "Come on through!" And you do that and then there's a caclunk of the door and all that stuff. And we do all that, and we're inside the prison.

But what doesn't happen most times in the movies or an episode of NBC's Lockup is because there was a thunderstorm going on, there was like big flash of lightning and then this really loud thunder crack. And then the power went out. Yeah. It was just darkness in prison. And at the time, the movie Jurassic Park was big. And all I can think to myself is, [BLEEP], the raptors are loose and all I have are these apples to defend myself. The oranges I'll keep to fend off scurvy. But the apples. And then eventually the power comes back on, and everybody's fine. I have to pick up some of the warning apples that I threw out.

And we're doing this. We're giving Christmas to these guys. And in prison they tend to separate the prisoners and categorize them in different ways. And there are the guys who are in solitary confinement. It's called the hole. They're considered the worst of the worst.

And then on the other side of the spectrum, they have inmates called trustees. And these are inmates who have decided they want to rehabilitate themselves. They may never make parole, but they've decided that they want to be better people now than they were when they walked in. And so they take counseling, they take classes, they get jobs, and they're given more responsibilities. And they don't live in cells, they live in barracks with bunks. And so these are the people we're going to be giving Christmas gifts to.

And we go there and we go into the barracks and we start handing these gifts out, and it's amazing watching these guys get these gifts. Their faces just light up. Just the bag itself, the drawings on the bags. You would've assumed that those were drawn specifically for them because they're so proud of these drawings. They are like, "Yo, check it out. This kid drew me a car, and it's red, and that's my favorite color. It's awesome." Another inmate would be like, "Check it out. This kid drew me a house, and then there's a pool. And that's the house I want to live in." Another inmate was like, "Check it out. This kid drew me a horse with a spear sticking out of his head." "That's a unicorn." "It's a spear horse!"

And to see how happy they were getting these gifts. And for this moment, they're not inmates in a prison anymore. As they're going through these gifts, they're just kids on Christmas. And they're so happy. And they're emptying out the bags and just smoothing out the bags and hanging them on their bunks, and you're watching just the sheer pleasure on their faces as they're going through the gifts. And you're watching that fade away as they find the calendar. "Like seriously, man, what am I supposed to do with this?" Beyond that, they were very appreciative. They were appreciative for the apple, appreciative for the orange, appreciative for the bag. The calendar not so much.

But we give everybody the gifts, and I notice there's still a lot of gifts left. And so the guard who had been taking us around was like, "You know what? Let's take those and give those to the guys in solitary." Really? Does Santa's naughty list mean nothing at this point? I mean, what happened to be good for goodness' sake? Better not pout, better not cry, better not shout? Santa has problems with those, but murder he's cool with? Really?

And we go to solitary. Solitary, each of the doors are these metal doors. And there are these metal doors. And then on the door is a smaller little over door about the size of a shoebox. And that's there. And then there's a guard, and he's got a stick. And he'll take the stick. He takes it to the little shoebox sized oven door and opens up and he's like, "All right, give me a gift." "All right. Do I get a stick?" "No, you'll be fine." "Really? Because you have a stick." "Do it." So I start giving the gifts, and I'm just throwing them in the hole. And we go to the next one, and it's like I'm playing Quidditch, just tossing them in.

And eventually we get to this one, and I throw the gift in, and the guard is about to stick up the door again, and from behind the door I hear this voice and he goes, "Wait. Hold on a second. Hold on. I want to shake his hand." "Well, my friend, I'd love to, but I'm sure the guard has something to say about that." "No, it's fine. Go ahead. Do it." "Really?"

And I'm terrified, because now I can't see anything except eyes back there. And I'm slowly making my way and just thinking, I could shake his hand, and he could eat my fingers. And I'm nervous. And I'm walking closer, and I still can't see anything. And then all of a sudden this hand just comes out. It's a big, meaty hand, because it's a prison hand. And I walk over, and my hand sort of nervously grabs his and shakes it. And he holds on to it and pulls me a little closer.

He's like, "Yeah, I thought I knew you. Yeah, I know you." I'm like, "Oh, no you don't. No. No you don't." And he's convinced. He's like, "Yeah, I know you. I know you, man." And now I'm starting to think to myself, Does he know me? He's really convinced. "Yeah, I thought it was you. Yeah, I know you. You're from Austin." Which at that particular moment, I had never felt more pride to be from Dallas. I was just like, "No, I'm from Dallas, [BLEEP]!" At which point, he was like, "Oh, you should really tell people you're from Austin. It's a much nicer place." Thank you, everybody. Thank you.

Ira Glass

Wyatt Cenac.

Act Two. Stocking Stuffers.

Ira Glass

Act Two, Stocking Stuffers.

Among other things, Edith Zimmerman writes these very short, short stories. Please welcome Edith Zimmerman.

Edith Zimmerman

This story is called "The Holiday Party."

"So, do you come here often?" he asked, leaning toward me with a twinkle in his eye and a sprig of mistletoe in his hand. We had been exchanging flirtatious glances across the bar all night. Finally he was making a move. "Yes," I said with a playful smile. "Oh really?" he said. "Yep. I come here every day actually," I said. "On weekdays, they open at 5:00, so I get here 15 minutes before that to wait outside. And then on the weekends they open at 3:00. And then today because it's a holiday party, they opened at noon, and I didn't have to wait outside at all." "Huh," he said, giving me a funny smile. "You really do come here often I guess." "Yep. There's no one else who comes here as much as me. You can ask the manager. They let me keep stuff in the bathroom sometimes." "Ah," he said and looked around the room. "One time I fell down over there and hit my head," I said and pointed to a corner in the bar, "but no one noticed, so I even got to stay here overnight."

This one is called "Christmas Cookies."

"Good morning!" I said to my students. "Does anyone like--" And here, I reached under my desk to produce a heaping tray of homemade treats. "--Christmas cookies? Yes!" they screamed. "How much?" I asked. "A lot!" they screamed. "Do you love them?" I asked. "Yes!" they screamed. "We love them!" "So why don't you marry them?" I asked. "No!" they screamed. "Why not?" I asked. "You can't marry cookies!" they screamed. I looked down at my engagement ring and slid my hand behind my back so the children couldn't see. "Is that like for sure a fact or is it something you just assume?" I asked.

Ira Glass

Edith Zimmerman. She's the editor at TheHairpin.com where she writes all day, every day.

Coming up, more Comedians of Christmas. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio and Public Radio International when our program continues.

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Each week on our show of course we choose a theme, bringing a variety of different kinds of stories on that theme. Today's show for Christmas, a comedy Christmas special. We wanted something funny for the holidays, so we invited comedians and other performers to go on stage at various locations wherever they perform. And we created two shows at a club in Brooklyn called Littlefield to record them in front of live audiences. In our search for holiday jokes, Christmas jokes, holiday humor of all kinds, one of the kids of one of our producers found this book called Christmas Crackups and knew that we were doing the show and sent it into the office very generously. Though I'm supposed to return it when I'm done. I thought I would read you a few of the jokes.

What kind of bills to elves have to pay? Jingle bills. What nationality are Santa and Mrs. Claus? North Polish. Suddenly I feel like Steven Wright or something. I'm deadpan. On which side of Santa's face is his beard? The outside.

I want to play you guys one more clip that Jonathan Menjivar got when he was out on the schoolyard at PS 11 talking to kids about Christmas jokes. He talked to this one kid and he said, "Have you got any Christmas jokes?" And the kid says--

Kid 10

I don't want to do that if it's going on radio.

Jonathan Menjivar

Yeah, don't worry about it. No one's going to know who you are.

Kid 10

Oh, OK!

Ira Glass

OK, so now the kid knows that the kid is anonymous, so here's the joke that this kid tells.

Kid 10

Knock, knock.

Jonathan Menjivar

Who's there?

Kid 10

Ella.

Jonathan Menjivar

Ella who?

Kid 10

Ella really got to go poo.

Ira Glass

The kid works blue. The kid knows, I'm anonymous. Great. I've got this dirty material that I've got to try out on public broadcasting.

Act Three. Little Altar Boy.

Ira Glass

Act Three, Little Altar Boy.

Despite our nation's best efforts to turn Christmas into a festival that's about gifts and toys and buying stuff, it is still a religious holiday. Please welcome comedian Mike Birbiglia.

Mike Birbiglia

One of the reasons Christmas was a really big deal to me when I was a kid was that I was really good at being Catholic. And not everyone was. My brother Joe only came to church on Christmas and even then he'd show up late. He'd be like, "Mike, the later you show up, the shorter it is." And then he'd change the lyrics to the hymns. There was this one we used to sing every week that goes, "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." And Joe's lyrics were, "Christ has lied. Christ is in prison. Christ will come at 10:00." I'd try so hard not to laugh, because I was on Jesus's team.

Well I went to church every week with my mom and I thought it made me her favorite. My mom decided early on that I would be a priest. And I really thought that I would, and I liked the idea. So every week we'd go to church. When other kids would go to the park or the mall, we'd go to church. And sometimes I'd be like, "Hey, Mom, I want to go to the mall." And my mom would say, "Like fun are you going to the mall." That's an expression that my mom uses. Like fun. Which is her way of saying, Like Hell, because she's Catholic. And for Catholics, Hell is fun.

When you're seven, and your mom sends you to Catholic school, it's all pretty simple. They're like, "There's this guy Jesus, and he totally loves you." And you're like, "Great." And they're like, "You love him too, right?" And you're like, "I'm sorry. Do I know this guy?" And they're like, "You know, from the cross. That guy loves you, and you love him." And it starts innocently enough, as innocently as man/boy love can start. You just kind of accept it. "There's this guy, Jesus, who everybody's afraid of but everybody loves because he loves everybody. And a long time ago, some people killed him, and it's not totally your fault. So don't be scared or sad, because he's living forever next to God who's his dad, even though he's also God. And also there's this whole Holy Spirit part too that no one really understands. Am I going too fast for you, seven-year-old boy?"

So you go with that for a few years. And then you're 11 and you get the word that Father Grady wants you to be one of his new altar boys. He's seen your work at recess on the kickball field, and he thinks you've got what it takes to snuff out candles and hold a chalice and not trip and fall on your robe. So I became an altar boy. And the answer's no. I wasn't, and I think it's because they knew I was a talker. I have that look about me.

And I loved being an altar boy because church was glamorous. The priests have these multicolor robes. As an altar boy, even you have a robe, just a plain white one. It's like karate where they start you with the white belt and then you get the different color belts once you start kicking some Devil ass. So I loved being an altar boy, especially on Christmas. That's when I could really show off, because Christmas was cool. I mean everyone came to Christmas Mass. People who you never saw at church came to Christmas mass, people like my brother Joe.

And they'd see me there with their families and they'd see me in my robe, all fitting in around the church. I acted like I owned the place. I'd go, "Oh yeah? You want to walk up on the altar? That's probably not a great idea. That's where J-Dog hangs out." "You know Jesus too? Yeah, he's a pretty good friend of mine. It's cool of you to come by, but seriously where were you during Advent?" That's for the real diehard Catholics, that last one.

Shortly after I finished college, my mom developed this condition where as far as the doctors could tell, part of her spine was pushing into her spinal cord. And they weren't sure what was happening, but she was experiencing chronic pain all over her body. And so the doctors did this operation, and the problem is the pain didn't go away. So my mom was faced with both the original pain and then the pain of this operation. And she was laid up for months. She was in bed. And so I came home and lived with them to administer her pain meds, and get her meals.

She was also prescribed this drug called Ativan, which is an anti-anxiety. And she was supposed to take it three times a day, but pretty soon she wanted to take it five or six times a day. And I wasn't sure why. And I asked her, and she pulled me aside and she said, "I'm dying." And I was so upset that I called her doctor and I asked him if my mom was dying. And he said, "Well we don't know what's happening exactly, but there's no reason to believe she's dying. Just make sure she doesn't take too much Ativan. It's making her delirious."

So I hid the Ativan. And it drove my mother crazy. At one point she shouted, "Michael, where is the Ativan?" And I said, "Mom, I can't give you the Ativan." And she said, "I am your mother and if I say get me the Ativan, you get me the Ativan." And I said, "Mom, like fun am I getting you the Ativan."

She started pulling me aside every day and she'd say, "Michael, I'm dying and I'm going to Hell." And the way she said it wasn't in that exaggerated way that people use it, where they say, I'm going to Hell. She said it as though it was the next stop on her train, like it was this actual location. It wasn't a concept. It was like, I'm going to Hell on Tuesday. And I'd say, "Mom, you're not going to Hell." And she said, "No, there's things that I've done in my life that you don't know about." And I'd say "Mom, if you're going to Hell, Hell is going to be really crowded, because I had you as a first-round draft pick for Heaven."

And she wouldn't laugh. I mean there wasn't a lot of laughing in this period. And eventually my mom got better. But the whole thing shook me up. It was this side of Catholicism I never thought about as a kid. And I never went back to church. I can't be part of an organization that convinced my mom she was headed for eternal torture. Like Hell am I going to a church like that, except of course on Christmas.

Ira Glass

Mike Birbiglia. He's the author of a book based on his one-man show called Sleepwalk With Me: and Other Painfully True Stories.

Act Four. One Lord A-Leaping

Ira Glass

Act Four, One Lord A-Leaping.

Gabe Liedman and Jenny Slate perform together all kinds of places. They have a video series called Bestie x Bestie. They have their own weekly show, Big Terrific in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Please welcome Gabe Liedman and Jenny Slate.

Jenny Slate

Hi. My name is Jenny.

Gabe Liedman

I'm Gabe. We're thrilled to be here.

Jenny Slate

Yeah. We're really excited and we put on our holiday best.

Gabe Liedman

Yeah, you look great.

Jenny Slate

Thank you very much.

Gabe Liedman

You look really good.

Jenny Slate

Well, I think I sort of look like--

Gabe Liedman

You look like Stevie Nicks.

Jenny Slate

Oh, thank you.

Gabe Liedman

Yes. That's the highest compliment.

Jenny Slate

It is the highest compliment you can give a woman. I don't want to ruin the vibe or anything, but I'd just like to say how happy I am to have a boyfriend that I can also perform with--

Gabe Liedman

A what?

Jenny Slate

--over the holidays--

Gabe Liedman

A what?

Jenny Slate

--because it's really like a double [INTERPOSING VOICES].

Gabe Liedman

She's kidding. Yeah, we're not a couple.

Jenny Slate

Its really nice to have a boyfriend.

Gabe Liedman

You guys probably already know that without being told, because you can hear my voice.

Jenny Slate

And to be in a couple is very important to me.

Gabe Liedman

We're just friends and comedy partners and we spend all the time together in the world.

Jenny Slate

I'm a very loving person.

Gabe Liedman

But we're just friends and we work together.

Jenny Slate

It's sort of my main quality that I'm very loving.

Gabe Liedman

Obviously. No duh times a million. And I can tell she's pretty.

Jenny Slate

I'm happy about it.

Gabe Liedman

I'm not blind. I'm not a blind comedian.

Jenny Slate

But it is lovely to be in love because--

Gabe Liedman

Yeah, or in whatever. Just hanging out in Brooklyn.

Jenny Slate

I'm very, very grateful. I'm just in general in sort of a sappy mood I guess, because I really, really love the holidays.

Gabe Liedman

Me too.

Jenny Slate

I get super into it.

Gabe Liedman

Or I love other people's holidays. I wish I had Christmas.

Jenny Slate

Yeah. We should just get real about it.

Gabe Liedman

Yeah, we're Jewish. Yeah.

Jenny Slate

But I love Hanukkah. I love it.

Gabe Liedman

You do?

Jenny Slate

Yeah. My family just floored it, and I can remember almost all of my presents that I got. They were so shocking and awesome, I can remember each one.

Gabe Liedman

You're so lucky. I don't know what this says about me. I mean I know my parents were the sweetest people ever. They were such good parents, but all I can remember is my worst Hanukkah present.

Jenny Slate

What was it?

Gabe Liedman

I have two siblings. And one night for Hanukkah we all opened our presents and we had all gotten thermometers.

Jenny Slate

No! That's horrible!

Gabe Liedman

All three of us, three thermometers.

Jenny Slate

That's medical!

Gabe Liedman

No, not for taking a fever. It was for the temperature outside.

Jenny Slate

No, that's even worse!

Gabe Liedman

It's way worse.

Jenny Slate

I don't even get that. Why don't you just use your face? How does it feel on your face?

Gabe Liedman

Yeah, totally.

Jenny Slate

Why did you each need one?

Gabe Liedman

I don't know.

Jenny Slate

You only need one, right?

Gabe Liedman

Yeah. You don't need any!

Jenny Slate

Right. You don't need any.

Gabe Liedman

We had AOL. It was fine. It was fine. Everyone knew what the weather was.

Jenny Slate

I really love your parents.

Gabe Liedman

They're the best.

Jenny Slate

I mean, hopefully my in-laws one day.

Gabe Liedman

That would be weird.

Jenny Slate

But that is a horrible present and it's stupid and I don't like it.

Gabe Liedman

Yeah.

Jenny Slate

But what I want to talk more about is how good one of my presents was one time. I think that I'll never die because of the energy that I got from that one day of getting the present. It gave me an extra heart somewhere in my body. That's how exciting it was. OK. It was from my grandparents, who were a wild card, a lot of mock turtlenecks in the mix for sure.

Gabe Liedman

Yes definitely.

Jenny Slate

But I opened it up, and it was a digital clock radio-- Hold on. I know. --with a tape deck in it.

Gabe Liedman

Nice.

Jenny Slate

OK?

Gabe Liedman

Nice.

Jenny Slate

And then my older sister to top it off gave me a cassingle--

Gabe Liedman

Yes, of course.

Jenny Slate

Gabe taught me that word. --of "From a Distance" by Bette Middler, which I know how to sign.

Gabe Liedman

Yes.

Jenny Slate

Thank you. I know. And I woke up every morning to "From a Distance" and I felt mature. I felt beautiful. I felt ready for my day.

Gabe Liedman

Yes, that is a good present.

Jenny Slate

Well I didn't ask for any presents this year, because I have everything that I need. And I would like to say that the best gift that I could have ever received is to have a wonderful boyfriend like Gabe Liedman.

Gabe Liedman

Or whatever that you have.

Jenny Slate

That's right. So, Season's Greetings.

Gabe Liedman

Season's Greetings, guys.

Jenny Slate

Let's find some mistletoe!

Gabe Liedman

Yeah, and take it down so no one gets hurt! It's poisonous.

Jenny Slate

Happy Holidays! Thank you.

Gabe Liedman

Goodnight.

Ira Glass

Jenny Slate wrote and voiced the award-winning film Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, and can be seen on HBO's Bored to Death. Gabe Liedman writes for videogum.com, and can be seen on AOL.com's new series, The One.

Act Five. The Fight Before Christmas.

Ira Glass

Act Five, 'Twas the Fight Before Christmas.

So we booked a bunch of comedians to do stories about Christmas. And for reasons I don't even understand or care to speculate about just a number of them ended up doing stories that heavily involved their moms. Go figure. Please welcome our next comedian, Julian McCullough.

Julian Mccullough

When I was a 14 years old, I lived with my dad and my mom in southern New Jersey. And one Sunday, my mom was like, "Hey, let's go out to your favorite restaurant for breakfast." And I was like, "Why? OK." So we go to breakfast and after we leave we're driving home, and she stops. The car has to stop at a railroad crossing. And she turns to me and she says, "How would you feel if I moved to Tennessee?" And I kind of understood the finality of what she was saying, even though she didn't use the word divorce or anything like that. And it's amazing how fast defense mechanisms can kick in, because I remember immediately my reaction was, "Oh my God. Go. When was the last time Patricia did something for Patricia?"

So another thing you should know is that this didn't seem that strange to me, because my parents had moved us so many times. I was born in Philadelphia. We had lived in Portland, Oakland, San Francisco, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and southern New Jersey. People always asked if I was an Army brat, and it wasn't true at all. My parents would just get bored and move us. So I was used to an unstable existence. I was new in school almost every year. And I just thought this seemed kind of logical for my mom to all of a sudden move to Tennessee for no reason.

So that started a series of visits to my mom down in Tennessee for the next five years. I would go in the summers when I didn't have school. And I really started to dread it. By the second time that I went to visit her, my mom's new boyfriend, Rick, showed up at the airport to pick me up. And Rick showed up on a Harley, which is a motorcycle, to pick someone up at an airport. And I was like, "That's awesome. I'll just leave my bags on the twirly thing until I go back to New Jersey." He was wearing a T-shirt that's very popular. It's a Harley Davidson T-shirt, and the back of it said, "If you can read this, the bitch fell off." And I was like, "That's my mom. Is she OK? Let's get her."

To give you an idea of what Rick looked like, he was about 5'7". He had been a commercial roofer for many years. He had started out in a biker gang, and I guess decided to move on from that life and became a commercial roofer. So he was very, very strong and muscly and very red. He was red everywhere from the sun and from just anger.

And the tension between me and Rick started immediately and built from there. See, I thought Rick was an anti-intellectual, homophobic, racist, gun-toting alcoholic. And Rick thought that I was a wimpy, arrogant, self-entitled kid whose grandparents were putting him through college. And we were both dead on.

So finally after five years of going down there in the summers, my mom convinces me and my sister to visit her for Christmas for the first time. She had always been begging, "Hey, maybe for Christmas one year you should come down." And I didn't want to do that for a couple reasons. One, you just heard everything. Two, I had a sweet Christmas going on with my dad's parents. My grandparents in Philadelphia threw the most amazing Christmas. They threw a Thomas Kinkade painting Christmas.

But finally me and my sister-- she lived in San Francisco at the time, she was older --decided we would do that for my mom. And we go to Christmas. Now Rick was on his best behavior. In fact, he had a smile plastered on his face that my mom had clearly put there for him. But it's going fine. He's behaving himself, and so are we.

And we have dinner that night, and my mom cooked a great dinner. One other thing is that my mom was a vegetarian my entire life. And she also was a poet, and she read all the time, and she meditated. She did all these things until she got to Tennessee and she threw all of that out the window, because it made them uncomfortable. So she started eating meat and cooking ribs and wings and shepherds pie. And that's what we had for dinner. She also got tattoos at 47. She got a black widow spider on her hand.

[LAUGHTER]

That's the laugh of a man who that's not his mom. She also had a tattoo of an apple with a bite taken out of it on her upper thigh, which I didn't need to see to believe.

And by the way, I have to give them credit. They did a great job on the house. It was decorated, lit with Christmas lights everywhere. The tree was big and decorated. And there were presents. And we were sitting down to this dinner, and my mom was obviously really excited to have us there. She was so happy, she was choking back tears.

And Rick was drinking tequila out of a bottle to celebrate the fact that he had tequila, a whole bottle. So he was drinking Patron Silver, which if you don't know is a very unique bottle. It's a very thick, square, heavy bottle. So he's drinking that. He finishes the entire bottle of Patron Silver at dinner. And like a human, passes out.

So he goes to lay down, and now it's just me and my mom and my sister. And it's beautiful. And we're having Christmas. And it's the tree and the fireplace and the music. And we're just catching up. And I'm making my mom and my sister laugh with stories about college. And it's going really nicely.

And then the subject comes up-- I think my mom brought it up --of Rick's pride and how it's always an issue, the Southern/ Northern thing. And I said, "You know, it's just so weird for us to understand why he cares so much about that, because you know what the North thinks about the South?" And she said, "What?" And I said, "We don't. We pretty much won and we're like, bye!" Which I was very proud of at the time. I thought that was very witty. Somebody who didn't like it was Rick, who apparently had been awake enough to hear me say that.

[BOTTLE ROLLING ON THE FLOOR]

And that was him getting off of the bed. I've been doing comedy for nine years. That's the first time a bottle rolling on the floor was perfect for the story. "Uh-oh. He's awake! It's a Christmas miracle."

All of a sudden, Rick comes out of his bedroom like a bull in a rodeo. He charges across the room with just jeans on and no shirt. So he's got all his prison tats showing. He's bright red. His eyes are just as red as his skin. And I don't know if any of you have ever dealt with someone that was so drunk that they weren't there, but Rick wasn't there. And I've been struggling with how to describe what he was saying for a show like this. So let's just say I'll say what he said, and you guys can put in the F word every other word. Fair enough? He came out of the room straight at me first saying, "Get out of my house." And then to my sister, "You get out of my house." Are we doing the F thing? OK.

My mom said, "Rick, please calm down and go back to bed." And I say, "Yeah." And he said-- you can add in a couple of B's and C's on this one too. He said, "I don't want these spoiled Yanks in my house. Nobody comes into my house in my country and tells me that I'm not good enough." So my mom says, "Rick, you're drunk and you're being stupid."

And that's when he turned, grabbed the bottle of Patron Silver that was empty, and threw it at my mom as hard as he could. It hit her in the chest and made a sickening smack sound. And her chest immediately started to turned black. My mom bruises easily, but that's not fair either way. So my mom said to Rick, "You promised you wouldn't do this on Christmas." And that's when me and my sister realized that this was the kind of thing that was going on a lot.

So then he turns to me and he says, "I will kill you tonight." And people say that a lot I think and don't mean it, but that's not what he was doing. So now me and my sister decide to cower behind the Christmas tree, which is a weird place for a Christmas tree to be. They're not used to breaking up fights. In fact, the tree was so scared, I think it unplugged itself so that Rick wouldn't notice it.

So now my mom decides that I guess we could leave. So we leave. We get in the car, and Rick is chasing us out to the driveway. And we get in a car and just start driving at 1:00AM on Christmas Eve in our pajamas with nowhere to go. We eventually find a hotel and stay there overnight. We're kind of shell-shocked. Nobody really says much.

We wake up in the morning and we go to the police station, because my mom needs to go get some things and we don't want to go there without police. Also there was a lot of presents. So we show up back at the house with the police escort, and they had turned the lights on on top of the car, which I thought was festive. And I don't know if you've ever gone into a house with a homicidal maniac and a police escort for your presents, but it's very different than coming down the stairs.

So we collected our presents and put them in the trunk and drove away. We went to a Waffle House for breakfast. And normally if you told me, hey, you were going to spend Christmas morning at a Waffle House, I would be depressed. But after that night, I didn't care that the eggs weren't locally grown or whatever.

So we were sitting at breakfast, and it was then that I realized that I'd been going to Tennessee every year because I didn't want my mom to think that I'd abandoned her. I wanted her to think that in some way I was validating her choice, that I was encouraging her and her new life, even though I hated every decision she made. And it was after that Christmas Eve that I realized I had no more burden to go to Tennessee ever again. That was the best present I could have gotten.

Thank you very much.

Ira Glass

Julian McCullough. His Comedy Central Presents special can be seen on his website, julianmccoullough.com.

Act Six. The Best Christmas Song Ever, By Dave Hill.

Dave Hill

One, two, three, four. [SINGING - "THE BEST CHRISTMAS SONG EVER"] It's Christmas time. And Baby, please don't come home. Not even if you want to. Because for you I've got no Christmas cheer. It's Christmas time. And, Baby, please don't come home, not even if you want to, not after what happened last year.

Ira Glass

Our program was produced today by Jane Feltes, Seth Lind, and me, with Alex Blumberg, Ben Calhoun, Lisa Pollak, Sarah Koenig, Jonathan Menjivar, Robyn Semien, Alissa Shipp, and Nancy Updike. Senior Producer for our show is Julie Snyder. Emily Condon's our Office Manager. Production help from Shawn Wen.

[ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS]

Dave Hill

[SINGING] It's Christmas time, and baby please don't come home. Not even if you want to. Not after what happened last year. Yeah, I know, you're already thinking to yourself, wait, what do you mean, Dave? What happened last year? Well, I'm so glad you asked, Karen! Why don't I just refresh your memory?

It was Christmas Eve, and all our friends and family came over to the house. And yes, Karen, I know it wasn't my house. I don't own a house, Karen. And I guess that makes me not a real person or something, right? Anyway, so the doorbell rings, and guess who it is? It's Karen, everybody's favorite. Only it's not just you at the door. There's some guy with you, too. Some guy in a dumb sweater.

And you walk in and you're all like, Merry Christmas, everybody. I'd like everyone to meet my boyfriend, Don. And naturally, I can't help but think to myself, well that's strange. I thought I was Karen's boyfriend. Who the hell is Don? And so I just decided to go ahead and say it out loud. I said, well that's strange. I thought I was Karen's boyfriend. Who the hell is Don?

Ira Glass

Our website, thisamericanlife.org. WBEZ management oversight for our program by our boss, Mr. Torey Malatia. Every day between now and Christmas, you will find him where he always is this time of year, at the downtown store of Marshall Fields in Chicago or whatever they call it now on Santa's lap. Go there yourself. Find him and he'll tell you himself,

Edith Zimmerman

Yep. There's no one else who comes here as much as me. You can ask the manager. They let me keep stuff in the bathroom sometimes.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. I'm back next week with more stories of This American Life.

Dave Hill

And you know Karen, even though I'm pretty much the manliest guy I know, I'm not made of stone. So right then and there I couldn't help but burst into tears. And what do you do when the floodgates open? You just offer me a tissue like Michael Douglas in the hit movie Wall Street, after he punches Charlie Sheen right in the nose. Well, I'll tell you what, Karen, you might as well have punched me right in the nose, because you already stepped on my heart. Go ahead, Karen. Punch me in the nose. See what I care!

It's Christmas time, and baby please don't come home. Unless of course maybe you kind of feel like it, because Karen, I still love you. Still love you. I still love you. I still love you. Thank you, good night.

[APPLAUSE]

Announcer

PRI. Public Radio International.