I have a twisted sense of humor when it comes to the holidays — especially when it comes to Christmas songs.
Grandma Got Ran Over By a Reindeer was the pinnacle for me as a kid as the go-to Christmas song. Now that I think about it, it probably explains why coal was a frequent gift in my stocking.
Musicians have embraced the quirky and the dysfunctional during the holidays, and here are five songs to get you through.
(There are some very, very NSFW songs out there that I find humor insurrounding Christmas and I’ll leave that to you to Google "Cold Blooded Christmas" or peruse on iTunes.)
1. Merry Christmas From the Family By Robert Earl Keen
The opening line says it all: “Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at our Christmas party. We were drinking champagne punch and homemade egg nog.”
It’s a perfect mix of dysfunction — a family with cultural acceptance challenges, a brother with kids from his first wife Lynn and two from his second wife and oh yeah, there’s his third wife Kay who “talks all about A.A.”
The chorus is just as cheerily messed up with some magaritas after the family drank through the rest of its liquor supply and a run to the Stop and Go for a box of tampons, Malboro Lights and a can of fake snow.
I’m actually partial to the Dixie Chicks version with Rosie O’Donnell (don't worry, her mic is turned down) for the skit and there's something about the song that makes it funnier sang by a group of women.
2. Elf’s Lament By Barenaked Ladies featuring Michael Bublé
No story is greater untold than the slave labor conditions that the elves face on the North Pole.
It’s a great story for all us working stiffs out there.
“Toiling through the ages, making toys for garnished wages. There’s no union we’re only through when we outdo the competition.”
The Barenaked Ladies (Steven Page era) write from the first-person point of view of what it’s like to keep up with all the demand for toys. Michael Bublé croons to help make this tune a slick one.
There’s a positive spin to it as the elves urge an uprising against all those kids asking for toys upon toys.
“We know we got leverage, so we’ll hand the fat man a beverage. Sit back while we attack the utter lack of our enjoyment.”
The whole Barenaked For the Holidays album is filled with Christmas and Hanukah songs with traditional ballads, originals and more weird ones like Deck The Halls sungwith just the words Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Genius.
3. Little Dealer Boy by Willie Nelson and Stephen Colbert
He at combines two of those with comedian Stephen Colbert for a parody on Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth with Little Dealer Boy about how the three wise men brought Baby Jesus with gifts but there’s one that featured “a plant that smoked more sweetly. Than either frankincense or myrrh.”
Colbert provides the foil for this David Bowie and Bing Crosby type duet with his choir quality falsetto.
Regardless of the drug usage Willie endorses there’s a universal message we all can appreciate: “Let not mankind bogard love.”
4. Drunk on Christmas By Jimmy Fallon (reprised with John Rich in 2010)
I don’t endorse drinking to solve your issues, but some of us have had those moments when the family gets to be too much to deal with fighting over trivial holiday issues.
Late night talk show host and Saturday Night Live alumnus Jimmy Fallon has a catchy country-type tune he debuted in 2009 asking Santa to bring him some Christmas cheer and name checks pretty a list of alcohols and brands.
“Can’t be sober when I’m over, everyone’s bipolar. So cut the crap and get some Jack and put it in my soda. And make it strong enough to put a Reindeer in a coma.”
It’s very upbeat and melodic even without the inebriation you can smell from the song.
5. Bizarre Christmas Incident By Ben Folds
Santa needs to do some P90X in this tale by the spectacled songwriter Ben Folds.
The best part about this song is that it’s inspired by a true story.
In this YouTube video of his live performance (NSFW warning for a soft F-bomb, if there’s ever such a thing), he shares this story of someone at a Nashville pancake house that took all his clothes off and put Crisco all over his body and slid down the vent and got stuck and died as he was trying to break in and steal money from the restaurant.
“And that’s what inspired this Christmas song,” Folds told the crowd. You can’t get any more offbeat than that.
In the song the burglar is changed to Santa who “went down the chimney and got his fat ass stuck. Oh honey call the lawyers fast because Mrs. Claus is gonna sue our ass.”
Honorable Mention: Santa’s Lost His Mojo By Jeremy Lister
This swanky tune sings about the follies of Santa’s sex life: “Old St. Nick lost his mind. He’s down in Mexico drinking tequila and wine.”
Despite that tease, the song is innocent, clean and has a hook to it.
Time to pull the jolly fat guy out of the dumps and regain his mojo. Mrs. Claus, the world needs you now more ever. Just a peck on the cheek and maybe something extra in his stocking to “make Kringle back to feeling jolly” or else Christmas will never be the same.
Even Santa needs a little loving.