In the interest of providing some holiday cheer to the masses, Ira hits the stage in Brooklyn with the intention of filling an hour with Xmas jokes, a genre previously untapped outside of a Scholastic book order form. Hanging around a schoolyard in the least David Wooderson way, producer Jonathan Menjivar captures some great audio of 3rd graders pulling nonexistent Santa jokes out of their butts, making the candid prologue the most amusing act in the episode. A particularly poignant comparison of the Christmas tree and the menorah is the uproarious highlight–“it’s funny ’cause it’s true,” says Ira. Because I’d like to dodge a fate on a blacklist among comedians similar to Job’s with the Magicians’ Alliance, this episode’s content chockfull of set-ups and punchlines is untouchable. Like a club manager in the Bloomburg’s Gamechangers episode on Jon Stewart reflected, a room at the mercy of a comedian trying out new content is a black plague that Ira uncharacteristically exposes us to. Yet, the awkwardness that each comedian exudes in facing the challenge of making up Christmas hahas is not out of place on the This American Life soapbox in the 2010 installment of TAL’s Comedians of Christmas Comedy Special.
Act 1: Oh my god, I love Austin!
Comedian Wyatt Cenac tells a tale of church-humping do-gooders spreading mitzvahs at a Texas prison. The eerie melange of cheeriness symptomatic of the season and the somberness of the joke’s setting is exactly the Zombies’ Care of Cell 44. An unfortunately lackluster punchline makes a second listen with lesser expectations of the joke an A-OK act.
Act 2: WE LOVE THEM
Deadpan makes this act a quirky treat as Edith Zimmerman tries her hand at the theme of the hour. With all the kidcentric setups, minds wander back to the lines of a deadpan great:
“I went to the park and saw this kid flying a kite. The kid was really excited. I don’t know why. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Now if he had had a chair on the other end of that string, I would have been impressed.” Mitch Hedburg
Act 3: I tried so hard not to laugh, cause I was on Jesus’s team
Mike Birbiglia! This holiday delight trumps dim sum any day. His routine is the funniest, and also the most Jesusy as he reminisces on being an altar boy. Listening to Catholics tell church jokes is probably like the experience of a goy exploring Jewcy, a whole lot of going with it, in the hopes of finding a universal funny on the other side. And of course, Birbiglia pulls through.
Act 4: She’s not my girlfriend.
Gabe Liedman and Jenny Slate, two Jews in the media try their hand at Christmas. Slate, most recently noted for her presence in Bored to Death (our top show of twenty ten) is also top notch in the duo, a team with energies that feed off each other, creating a shmoozy atmosphere in which they are the type A’s at a cocktail party where we can’t help but get sloshed and laugh along.
Act 5: And like a human, he passes out.
Comedy Central Presents vet Julian McCullough seems to channel the lovechild of Palahniuk and Sedaris onstage. His story of Christmas displaced is almost too Jerry Springer to be funny, but isn’t it in the hottest messes of life that comedy reaches a most potent concentration?
Act 6: I still love you.
Always milking his resources, Ira adds to the live mix a performance of a Christmas original by Dave Hill and Doug Gillard while the credits roll. Emotive lyrics echo the show’s underlying binary of misanthropia and Christmas cheer. An approving crowd gives it up with Obamafan-like cheers at the host’s final, “Tune in next week, I’m Ira Glass.” That cathartic energy that reveals itself only at live events reminds that we are one big happy TALian family, the warmest Christmas sweater of all being of course that we never have to talk to each other.
To a very Ira Christmas! To celebrate the time of year filled with cheer, Chinese, and Chivas, spread this Ira Glass Christmas card to spread the love for the tribe this season. Staying home as capitalism shuts down for Santa, I think I’ll pick up a warm cuppa Ira. Love, Bambi