Crack reporter grills jolly old elf; Santa gets the big laugh

Michael Boylan's picture

Several years back, old Kris Kringle gave me an exclusive interview. It was one of many highlights of my career and he was a perfect gentleman — charming, funny, thought-provoking and every bit the legend I expected.

Now, as a hungrier and more fierce journalist (who hasn’t seen “Frost/Nixon” yet, but is looking forward to it), looking for world fame and credibility, I want another crack at Old Saint Nick. We’ll see if he’s laughing like a bowl full of jelly after this.

Boylan: Good afternoon, Santa.

Claus: Good afternoon, Michael. Ho, ho, ho.

Boylan: Yes. Ho, ho, ho. Let’s start with that laugh. Have you always laughed like that?

Claus: What do you mean?

Boylan: You talk your laughter. It would be the same if I laughed by saying, “Hee, hee, hee,” or “Ha, ha, ha.” Did you used to sound like an asthmatic donkey when you laughed or snort like a pig at the end of your laughter? What prompted you to go with “Ho, ho, ho.”

Claus (removing his tiny glasses and rubbing his eyes): I am on 24-7, 365 days a year. There is hardly ever a time where I can be myself. I am always in front of employees or prospective clients and if I don’t say “Ho, ho, ho,” it becomes the matter of losing millions of dollars. Being Santa is a billion dollar industry and the world can’t afford for me to laugh only when I find something funny. So, “Ho, ho, ho,” it is.

Boylan: Does it bother you that you have become a character that gets lampooned as much as he gets heralded?

Claus: Not at all. It comes with the territory. The kids love me, so everyone else can take a long walk off a short pier, if you get my drift.

Boylan: I do.

Claus: Figured you would. You’ve always been a smart cookie.

Boylan: Thank you. That kind of brings me to my next question. Is your list ethical?

Claus: What?!?

Boylan: The naughty and nice list, the one you make and check twice.

Claus: Ethical? I’m all about ethics. If you’re nice, you get presents and if you’re not, you get a lump of coal. It’s really simple.

Boylan: Yes, but how do you know who has been naughty or nice? You watch them. You know when they are sleeping and you know when they are awake.

Claus: You’re taking Christmas carols literally.

Boylan: So, that isn’t true?

Claus: It’s true. I know. I know all and I see all. You happy?

Boylan: How do you know?

Claus: Magic.

Boylan: So, you never feel bad about that? Looking in on every child in the whole wide world?

Claus: Again, I don’t mean to sound like Nicholson in “A Few Good Men,” but it’s a job that has to be done. Who’s going to do it? You?

Boylan: I don’t mean any offense, Santa.

Claus: It doesn’t sound like it. You’re trying to paint me as a villain.

Boylan: Not at all. I just want to know what makes you, the whole Christmas thing, tick.

Claus: Well, tone it down, would you? Christmas is stressful enough without getting the Mike Wallace treatment from you.

Boylan: Fine. Let’s talk Christmas generalities. What’s your favorite Christmas carol?

Claus: Good question. Much better. When I first start flying Christmas Eve, I like to pop on The Beach Boys “Little Saint Nick.” It gets me and the reindeer grooving. On the way home, “Silent Night.” It might be a little corny to be flying home listening to that, looking down at the world just before everyone wakes up, but I have to admit it makes me misty.

Boylan: Interesting, you listen to religious songs on Christmas.

Claus: Yeah. My iPod is packed with all sorts of stuff. I’m well-rounded.

Boylan: I just mean no one ever really talks about Santa’s religion.

Claus: Yeah and no one is going to. It’s a private matter.

Boylan: How do you feel about this so-called “war on Christmas” stuff?

Claus: (sighs) You know, I think it’s pretty silly. Christmas can incorporate both the birth of Jesus and Santa. It has for a long time and it will continue to do so. I think the media — that’s right, I’m looking at you — has drummed up a lot of controversy over nothing.

Boylan: I didn’t do it, Santa. I don’t think there’s a war on Christmas, but every day you hear of people pulling songs out of Christmas recitals or protesting who can ring bells where.

Claus: It’s a big world. You hear about these incidents, sure, because it is good copy and it stirs the debate, but it isn’t indicative of what is going on in most places. Do they do that stuff in your hometown?

Boylan: No.

Claus: There’s enough to worry about at Christmas without worrying about phantom organizations coming to take it away. Like this Happy Holidays thing, people get so upset. You know what? There’s more than one holiday in December and the people at the registers at your favorite stores, they aren’t paid to be mind-readers, determining whether or not you’re going to freak out at not being told “Merry Christmas.”

Boylan: Right on.

Claus: Don’t patronize me.

Boylan: I’m not. I’m with you. Happy Holidays is cool with me.

Claus: Good. I’m glad.

Boylan: Do you have a favorite Christmas special on TV?

Claus: I’m a little busy when they come on, aren’t I? I don’t leave my job at 5 every day and go home and watch the tube every night.

Boylan: Yes, but I’m sure you’ve seen them. Come on, which ones do you like?

Claus: “Elf” is pretty good. Ed Asner played me in that. He came up and visited for a few days, studying my mannerisms. I grilled him pretty good about Mary Tyler Moore. I like “A Christmas Story,” with Ralphie. Funny movie. All that you’ll shoot your eye out stuff, great. Just great. Of course, the elves don’t make toy guns anymore for that very reason. Thank you very much, nation of lawyers.

Boylan: Any specials you don’t like?

Claus: Not a big fan of Frosty. I know that sounds harsh, but I feel like he kind crashed the party. You know, not everyone gets a white Christmas. In fact, its kind of rare, and yet people think of snowmen as a part of Christmas now because of that song.

Boylan: You mentioned elves a minute ago. Can we talk about the elves?

Claus: They are not slave labor.

Boylan: I didn’t suggest they were.

Claus: You were going to.

Boylan: No. I just want to know where you find an army of elves to build all the toys in the world.

Claus: They find me. I don’t have to go anywhere. Every elf in creation shows up here on Dec. 26, looking for a job and we squeeze them in. Actually, squeeze sounds like the working conditions are poor and they aren’t. Look, with all the labor laws and stuff, I’m just really sensitive about this. They are treated very well. Like members of the family.

Boylan: And they build all the toys?

Claus: Yes.

Boylan: If I ask for Rock Band for the Wii, they are the ones who make it.

Claus: For all intents and purposes, yes. Move along. I have a test flight to get to.

Boylan: Just a few more quick questions.

Claus: Fine.

Boylan: Is eternal life all that it is cracked up to be?

Claus: Better than being dead, I suppose.

Boylan: Ever want to relocate to a warmer climate?

Claus: No. Being up here really helps keep the riffraff away.

Boylan: What’s the worst part of the job?

Claus: Reindeer patrol. There are a lot of them and it can get a little smelly.

Boylan: What’s the best part of the job?

Claus: Seeing all the faces of the children light up on Christmas morning. I’m home, got my feet up, sipping a nice cup of coffee and their faces just come pouring in. It makes it all worth it. All of it. That’s how I’m able to start working on the next Christmas the very next day.

Boylan: Mr. Claus, it’s been a pleasure.

Claus: Thank you. Keep working on your novels. I like you better as an author of thrillers than as a hard-hitting journalist.

Boylan: Will do.

Claus: Merry Christmas. Ho-ho ho.

Boylan: Ho-ho-ho, sir.

[Editor’ note: We hear on good authority that hard-hitting journalist Boylan will be receiving from Santa a chunk of coal in his stocking and a bag of switches, well-used. Don’t mess with the fat guy dressed in red.]

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