The Best Christmas Novelty Songs. Seriously. The Best. Ever.

"Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg..."

I think it’s found in Jeph Loeb’s unbelievably awesome The Long Halloween, but the single greatest panel in comic book history shows the Joker, tiptoeing through the empty house of Harvey Dent, wearing a Santa hat and goofily singing the following to himself:

Jingle bells, Batman smells
Robin laid and egg
The Batmobile lost a wheel
And the Joker got away…

In terms of meta-jokes, there can be none finer. First time I read those panels, I laughed out loud – not because of the Joker’s obvious insanity, but because I immediately went back to the fifth grade, or whatever year it was that I first heard that song. Sung, obviously, to the tune of “Jingle Bells”, it stuck with me because A) it was horribly catchy, B) it combined Christmas with Batman, every boy’s two favorite things, and C) it was more than slightly irreverent.

For a kid whose rebellious streak began and ended with taking small sips of milk directly from the carton late at night when no one else was awake, this song was a delicious little piece of devilment.

It was also my introduction into the world of Christmas novelty tunes, a world that – too often unfortunately – has expanded considerably over the years.

Novelty songs are taken for granted now, but once upon a time they really were novel because they took the over-inflated sentimentality out of Christmas by poking fun at it. It’s hard to be schmaltzy when you’re singing songs that seemingly encourage arson in the local hall of education.

(For the record, I found the subversive “Deck the Halls” to be hysterical when I was a kid. My classmates and I used to hum the melody – sans words – while sitting in class during our seventh grade year at Shiloh Middle School. We were stuck in a trailer just outside of the gym that felt more like a Siberian work camp than a classroom on a chilly winter day. I suppose the idea of setting the school on fire was as much for warmth as anything else. But, all that to say – we had a kid get suspended from school for singing the song in the hallway. The principal heard him and decided the song was tantamount to a terrorist threat and she ran his little butt out of school for a few days. Suffice it to say, Christmas cheer went down considerably after that.)

Of course, the novelty song epoch peaked with Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, a country-inspired ditty that combined a nifty little hook with some naughty little lyrics. Naturally, all of us kids loved it, and we were quite surprised when most of the adults did too.

Who knew geriatricide was so popular?

Heck, that song was so popular that even in the small, ultra-conservative church where I grew up, a place where instruments weren’t allowed to be plugged in (not even the organ), someone sang the song as a Christmas special – and got away with it!

That being said, on a dreary, wet December day, a day where there is literally little sunlight, allow me to brighten your life with my list of The Best Christmas Novelty Songs Ever. No, it isn’t an authoritative list, and I’ll happily take recommendations for alternate titles should you be able to make your case for another song. But this is a pseudo-scientifically compiled list based on literally minutes of searching Google, so you’ll really have to come with a strong argument to get me to change my mind (or at the very least point out a song that I like that I forgot about).

So, without further ado, here are my five Best Christmas Novelty Songs Ever, from least to greatest:

5. The Restroom Door Said Gentlemen (parody of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen): the link is to Bob Rivers’ version, but I first heard it on Randy & Spiff in the morning, back in the days when Atlanta had decent radio stations. Randy Cook and Spiff Carner were the morning hosts on Fox 97.1 and they were known for their comedy bits, one of which happened to be parody songs by a group called The Shower Stall Singers (boy, am I dating myself – and the sad part is, I didn’t have to Google one bit of that info).

Anyway, during Christmas one year they trotted this song out and my mother nearly drove off the road. We were rolling with laughter. To this day, it’s one of the most memorable radio bits I’ve ever heard – and no, I don’t know why that is, other than I’m just weird.

4. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer: I’ve probably covered this enough in the preceding paragraphs, but still, this song stands out for its sheer ubiquity when I was a kid. Did you know that it was originally recorded in 1979? I didn’t either. The things you learn…

3. The Hippopotamus Song: the linked video is a strange bit of noir absurdity, but it matches well with what is easily one of the silliest, strangest, and catchiest of all Christmas novelty songs.

My grandfather, Pop Emmett, thought this song was hilarious and somehow that thought infected that entire side of my family. I seem to recall that there were at least two Christmases in which this song played a prominent role of some sort, including one Christmas where my mother lost her mind and sang it repeatedly for some unknown reason. The things you remember. On a personal note, my favorite word in any Christmas song, ever, is “rhinoceroususes.”

2. Run Rudolph Run: ah, the inimitable Chuck Berry. It’s a little slower than I actually remember it; for some reason, I recall the song has having a scorching guitar intro and then keeping a frantic pace throughout. Maybe I consumed too much sugar as a kid, because the linked version is about half the speed I remember. Oh well – the song still stands the test of time, even if it does sound like every other Chuck Berry song. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot more fun compared to the Gene Autry song about Rudolph.

(What? Don’t look at me like that. I still love the original Rudolph, but come on – Berry’s song is easily the more fun one.)

1. The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late): the original version is still the best, and the artwork shown in the YouTube clip is exactly the artwork I remember for the Chipmunks. When you’re a kid, there’s just something priceless about the sound of those little rodents singing – a fact that has recently been re-emphasized in my household through my kids. We put in the big screen version of Alvin, Simon and Theodore just last night, and my kids bobbed along and sang happily with the version of The Chipmunk Song that they re-mixed for the movie. It’s still catchy, but has a much edgier sound, which is absolutely ridiculous to type about a song performed by high-pitched tree rats, but somehow summarizes life as a parent.

So what do you think? Are your favorites on this list? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!

Thank You, Chuck Klosterman

I’ve only recently discovered writer Chuck Klosterman, thanks mostly to his amazing work on the hybrid site Grantland (brought to you by Subway and Klondike bars, which should tell you something about the site’s target audience). Since reading several of Klosterman’s Grantland pieces, I’ve branched out to his books. I liked Eating the Dinosaur. I’ve only just checked out Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story.

So I’m still deciding on whether I’m ready to put him next to David Foster Wallace, Bill Simmons, and Malcolm Gladwell on my non-fiction writers Mount Rushmore (a concept, conveniently, that I stole from Bill Simmons himself – you have to scroll down to the question about the Mount Rushmore of Rap).

The following YouTube link, from Klosterman’s most recent Grantland piece, may have just cemented my undying love for him. Is there anything better than a Michael Jackson Medley on a Keytar?

Thank you, Chuck Klosterman. You made my day.

Insomniac’s Internet Report

Welcome back, Dave. Hal has upgraded to wifi and is waiting to show you some new tricks...

I couldn’t sleep last night, a fact you might have guessed given the blog’s suddenly new appearance (Side Note: can I help it if WordPress finally produced a free theme almost exactly like I’ve been wanting? I saw this last night and got giddy). To pass the time, and to prevent my insomnia from infecting my beloved wife, I opted to hit the couch with the old laptop and see what the internet has to offer once the midnight oil is lit.

The quick summation: Jack Squat.

In a world of supposedly 24-hour information, I just so happened to pick the world’s most boring 24-hours in which to be wide awake. Baseball is on a break until the All-Star sham starts, the NFL and NBA are both locked out and moving at pace that makes glaciers seem impatient, and Facebook offers no one with whom to banter once the clock strikes one in the morning. CNN’s lead story was about Prince William and Duchess Kate wearing cowboy gear to commemorate their historic opening of the Calgary Stampeded (Brits in boots and bolos – there’s some stunning reading!), and the folks at Fox weren’t much better (I think it was all about nine ways to bring Casey Anthony to justice, “Old West” style).

Even TMZ was DOA, and I couldn’t even bring myself to Google the words “Perez Hilton”, just out of fear that my computer would catch a digital STD. I tried reading some online books, but without the tactile sensation of a page to turn, Wuthering Heights is even more dreadful than previously imagined. I tried to keep up with Twitter, but even their feed was pathetically slow – two tweets in twenty minutes…it’s like all of the smart alecks in the world fell into a coma at the exact same time.

Hulu was hopeless (I just can’t bring myself to watch anything other than Law & Order from NBC) and YouTube gets boring after the 254,302 video of some poor father being “accidentally” hit in the groin. I tried reading some of the classier content aggregators but all I got was aggravation.

So in the end I turned on a small lamp, grabbed a Raymond Chandler story collection, and read some tales about my favorite fictional detective of all time, Philip Marlowe. My brain slowed down, I got to read some great writing, and eventually I was able to close my eyes and drift off to sleep…for ten minutes. I woke up to the sounds of my wife making coffee and my daughter flitting around the house, upset because daddy was taking up the whole couch and she wanted her seat.

Now, I’m too tired to really post anything insightful or truly hilarious, my head kind of hurts, and I have the vague sensation of needing to keel over at any moment. I can already hear my bed calling my name.

Unless aliens land or Casey Anthony suddenly elopes with OJ, I doubt there’ll be anything happening online tonight that I’ll really want to be part of. And even if aliens land, that can wait til morning.

OJ and Casey…well, who cares?

Hilarious Video You Must See

Okay – that’s an overstatement, but I read an article online about how to draw more views to your blog, so I’m rolling with it.

I am proud of the video, though – the students at my church came up with the idea and we were able to put it together in a short amount of time. I think it is a lovely homage to one of my favorite childhood cartoons, Scooby-Doo.

If you remember Scoob and the gang, then you’ll recognize a few of the video’s more subtle references. Hope you enjoy!

CONTEST — Help a Former Student of Mine, Dustin Sosebee

Howdy – I know that some of you have already seen this link on Facebook, and if so, well, click on it again.

I’ve been privileged to serve as Youth Minister to some awesome young men and women, and Dustin Sosebee is one of those. A talented singer, songwriter, and just an all around dadgum good person, he’s been an inspiration to me since I’ve known him. Uniquely gifted with a personality and charm that melt through the common walls we all build to keep people at bay, Dustin has to be one of my all-time favorite people.

So here’s a link to a video he recorded one evening and submitted to YouTube for a contest sponsored by a local radio station. 104.7 the Fish, a Christian radio station here in Atlanta, is holding a contest to find the opening act for their Celebrate Freedom Concert, which takes place Labor Day weekend. The stakes are pretty high – the top five people with the most page views get a chance to compete for the right to be the opening act at this huge concert, as well as win some pretty sweet prizes. I don’t know the other people who have posted videos, so I can’t speak to their being deserving of the honor or not. Maybe they are. But I know Dustin, I know his heart and his life, and I am positive this is the kind of young man who deserves a chance like this to touch lives. Please help me and the rest of his friends and family give that chance to him.

Click on this page, as many times as you possibly can over the next fifteen days. He’s already at 5,500 views – help me push him to 10,000 by the weekend.

And in case you’re too busy to click on the link, here’s an embed: