Speaking of Christmas...seasonal monologues, please?
November 26, 2011 7:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to get into the spirit of Christmas, but not musically. Do you have favorite seasonal spoken word pieces, and can you tell me where to find them?

I'm looking for monologues and stories about the Christmas season, and preferably those that highlight calamity ("Polly Anderson's Christmas Party," for example, and there must be a few "This American Life" episodes that would work, and yes, I've heard David Sedaris), a longing for home (NPR's rendition of a long passage from "The Wind in the Willows," or its Christmas Orange story), a sense of mystery (in a broad, um...secular...way; it's the mystery suggested by the lines "for the rising of the sun/and the running of the deer"), an appreciation for the light in the season's darkness.

My intention is to round up a selection of these pieces and listen to them as I drive or do chores. I think I'm looking for multiple perspectives on the season--some respectful, and some anything but--and would like to laugh, and reflect and maybe get a little sentimental as I work.

I have looked through other questions about Christmas recordings, but they're all musical in nature; if I've missed a previous question, please link me up. Also, I am not fond of Christmas, or most of its music, or the shopping bits, or the decorating, so reflections that help make clear how others find meaning in the season are much appreciated. Thanks in advance, hive mind.
posted by MonkeyToes to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Patrick Stewart's reading of A Christmas Carol is an absolute must. Here's a taste.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:55 PM on November 26, 2011

John Henry Faulk's Christmas Story that is an NPR Holiday staple never fails to make me tear up.

Kevin Kling does this hilariously funny and wistful recollection of his childhood Christmas. You might have to buy the CD, but it's worth it just to hear "A View From the Card table.".

Of course David Sedaris' Santaland Diaries....

And one of my favorite ever is Gordon Atkinson's (Real Live Preacher) version of the Christmas Story.
posted by cross_impact at 7:55 PM on November 26, 2011

This is a phenomenal TAL episode. My favorite part is Christmas Freud.
posted by decathecting at 7:59 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory", which was in a Christmas Episode of "This American Life" and can also be found in a film version here.
posted by drwelby at 8:01 PM on November 26, 2011

Stuart McLean's Christmas stories from The Vinyl Cafe are all pretty great. This album is a nice compilation and absolutely worth paying for.
posted by stravinsky at 8:04 PM on November 26, 2011

Dylan Thomas's reading of A Child's Christmas In Wales.

(I have the picture book illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman and I follow along like a little kid every year.)
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 8:33 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am so glad to hear someone else love's Polly Anderson's Christmas Party. Stuart did a speed-telling of it last time I saw the show, and it made me so excited to listen to the whole thing this season. As for Christmas radio pieces, there may be some coming up on http://audiofil.es/ which collects great radio pieces much like Longreads collects great longform essays. I love this stuff too so I will be checking the replies closely :)
posted by hepta at 8:35 PM on November 26, 2011

William S. Borrough's The Junky's Christmas (Wikipedia synopsis; YT Pt 1, Pt 2; Amazon mp3)
posted by puritycontrol at 9:31 PM on November 26, 2011

Seconding David Sedaris' Santaland Diaries, read on NPR's Morning Edition!
posted by 5ean at 10:44 PM on November 26, 2011

There's also 'The Blue Carbuncle', the Sherlock Holmes story, either read straight or in the BBC radio version . And James Joyce's short story The Dead. I know there was a radio version of this from RTE at one point (or at least I have convinced myself of that) but it doesn't appear to be available anywhere.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:52 PM on November 26, 2011

The Age of Persuasion's holiday episode is really good, but won't do much to reconnect you with any seasonal sentimentality.
posted by t_dubs at 11:54 PM on November 26, 2011

I listened to Fredrick Forsyth's The Shepherd on the CBC one very strange Christmas eve and it took my mind off of everything that was going on and gave me hope. The story is captivating; it is about an experienced pilot who becomes lost in flight on Christmas eve, and I will not give any more away. Apparently for many people, it is a Christmas tradition to listen to it being read on the radio, a classic.
posted by to recite so charmingly at 12:13 AM on November 27, 2011

Ah...this might be not quite what you're looking for, but I couldn't help posting it given the general lunacy that abounds at this time of year. It has replaced the traditional 12 Days of Christmas at our house. YMMV.
posted by ninazer0 at 1:59 AM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: ninazer0: "The mother is on sedation as I write." Hilarious!

I'll work my way through the rest of these (Sedaris, Thomas, TAL, check)--thank you!-- but so far they're on target. Nothing from Garrison Keillor? Jean Shepherd?

Had forgotten about "The Dead," and that suggestion, along with "The Shepherd," helps me to refine my question a bit: Are there other traditional seasonal pieces that play on English-speaking radio?
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:37 AM on November 27, 2011

I never thought of looking up the lyrics for the Frank Kelly thing ninazer0 linked to, and while I've always found it funny, I realise now I didn't catch quite a lot of good bits 'till now. Thanks for linking the video!
posted by Ms. Next at 9:40 AM on November 27, 2011

There is a ton from Jean Shepherd and Garrison Kiellor. In the 90s there was a set of seasonal tapes of monologues from a Prairie Home Companion - I think it's this A Christmas Companion. And you can go to Flick Lives, the Jean Shepherd database and fan community, to identify shows with Christmas concent. They have a pretty wacky email/snail-mail audio sharing system, but my brother has sourced some CDs from them with really hilarious Christmas stories well beyond what's in A Christmas Story or the source book for that film, In God We Trust, ALl Others Pay Cash.
posted by Miko at 5:42 PM on November 27, 2011

So, I'm going to recommend one of my favorites, definitely not for everyone: the immortal Cheech and Chong bit Santa Claus and His Old Lady.

It's available on download on Amazon for $.69.
posted by mskyle at 6:03 AM on November 28, 2011

Two of my favorites, a holdover from hearing Rabbit Ears Radio stories as a kid, are The Tailor of Gloucester read by Meryl Streep and The Snow Queen read by Sigourney Weaver. There are clips of each one on Youtube and CDs/mp3s on Amazon.

Looking further, it seems Rabbit Ears has two Christmas story collections, one with the Steadfast Tin Solider and The Gingerbread Christmas and one with Animal Stories.
posted by grokfest at 8:58 AM on November 29, 2011

Oh, there's also a terrific radio play version of It's a Wonderful Life - starring most of the same actors! It's more compact and speedy than the movie, but enjoyable for its own sake nonetheless. There are a few different distributors - you might want to Google for an easier format or shipping.
posted by Miko at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2011

« Older Getting a driver's license without insurance or...   |   Do I move out and leave my best friend with a man... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.