In honor of the upcoming holiday season, today I’m discussing two of my favorite holiday songs: “Elf’s Lament” by the Bare Naked Ladies (BNL) and “Can I Interest You In Hannukah?” of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart (yes the political talk show hosts). The first is one of my favorites because it’s funny, pensive and sung by the enormously talented and awesome Bare Naked Ladies. The second is one of my favorites because it’s hilarious, a little non-politically correct (PC) and representative of two different winter holidays, both of which I celebrate to some extent.
“I make toys, but I’ve got aspirations./Make some noise:/Use your imagination./Girls and boys,/before you wish for what you wish for/there’s a list for/whose been naughty or nice,/but consider the price to an elf.”
The peppy Bare Naked Ladies song is fun due to its tune and theme and the play on the mythology of Santa’s elves. However, this song also delves into deeper subjects such as union labor (or non-union labor) and the harsher aspects of daily life in the manufacturing world, or as it may have been before many labor laws in the United States and as it probably remains in several other countries.
“Toiling through the ages,/making toys on garnished wages./ There’s no union/ we’re only through when/we outdo the competition.”
In fact, this song could be seen as not only a holiday tune but also a commentary on purchasing products manufactured internationally from countries with less strict labor laws than our own. Although it makes the scenarios this elf goes through somewhat extreme in order to keep the playful tone of the song, it also speaks to a pessimistic view of the working world.
“A full indentured servitude/ can reflect on one’s attitude/ But that silly red hat just makes/the fat man look outrageous./ Absurd though it may seem,/you know, I’ve heard there’s even/been illegal doping./And though we’re coping,/I just hope it’s not contagious./ You try to start a movement,/and you think you see improvement / but when thrown into the moment,/ we just don’t seem so courageous.”
The melodious quality of the song lends to the idea that it’s meant to be more playful and lighthearted than depressing, but it’s always good advice to keep perspective on how your actions affect others. Another fun thing about the song is that on the album it’s recorded with the added vocals of Michael Bublé, as well as Ed Robertson of BNL. Just as these two personalities hit it off musically, so do Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart – though maybe not in the same ‘harmonious’ way.
“Can I interest you in Hannukah?/Maybe something in a Festival of Lights./ It’s a sensible alternative to Christmas./ And it lasts for seven -for you – eight nights.”
Of course, the Festival of Lights, also known as Hannukah (Channukah, Hunukkah, – there are so many different spellings!), always involves eight nights of celebration. The cutesy plays on words, holiday-lore and outdated terms make this song fun as well as informational. Overall this playful song consists of Stewart attempting to persuade Colbert into converting to Judaism through his interest in the Jewish holiday of Hannukah by explaining the holiday to Colbert.
“Are there presents?/ Yes, indeed eight days of presents./ Which means one nice one, then a week of dreck.”
Although the lyrics I found online say “dreck,” I was always pretty sure in listening to our copy at home that the word was “crap.” The funny thing about this line is that supposedly only children receive gifts each night of the holiday and the fact that in my mind he’s associating the last several with the proverbial “socks and underwear” gifts of Christmas. Also, it’s always funny when public figures swear, no matter what weight you might give to “crap” as a swear word. Shortly after this explanation, Stewart continues to explain the elements of the holiday, and Colbert gets carried away in asking him to define each item, adding to the hilarity of the song.
“We have latkes./ What are they?/ Potato pancakes./ We have dreidels./ What are they?/ Wooden tops./ We have candles./ What are they?/ They are candles!/ And when we light them,/ oh the fun it never stops.”
Despite the hilarity and child-like enjoyment of discussing the holiday on both the parts of Stewart and Colbert, in the end Colbert decides that Hannukah is not for him. However, the two are very comfortable remaining friends and wishing that each other enjoys his own holiday. Of course this is done in a cutesy way, using weird terms. The ending line on Colbert’s part, meant to be ridiculous and therefore hilarious, is a little non-PC, but that just adds to the laughter coerced by this song. All of which are reasons that I love the song.
“I can’t interest you in Hanukkah?/ Just a little bit?/ No thanks I’ll pass./ I’ll keep Jesus,/ you keep your potato pancakes./ But I hope that you enjoy ‘em/ on behalf of all of the goyim./Be sure to tell the Pontiff,/ my people say Good Yontif./ That’s exactly what I’ll do./ (Both): Happy holidays,/ (simultaneously): you too! – you Jew!”
Since I am such a glutton for laughter, these two songs are definitely two of my holiday favorites. However, that’s not the only reason I like them. They are meaningful and informative, all of which, including fun, are the ways in which I prefer to celebrate holidays – religious or otherwise. So whatever you celebrate this season, don’t forget why you’re celebrating or to let it be fun!
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