December is here which means the countdown to Christmas has begun. Although let’s face it the countdown began the day after Halloween when stores traded one set of decorations for another and started to force feed us Christmas (I’m sorry “Holiday”) cheer. I don’t mind the hype, and I kind of dig Christmas music (to a point), but there is one part of the whole season that bugs me. Between now and the 25th I will do a ton of Christmas themed shows. That is not the bad part, because I work for myself and lots of shows means lots of money and I am very fond of such a thing. No no, the part I don’t like is that most of the Christmas shows I do involve Santa. Now I have nothing against Santa per say (other than fact that it’s been 42 years and I haven’t gotten a pony), its just that when I do shows where he is involved, he is the main attraction.
Usually when I do a regular show, everyone is there to see me. When I do Christmas shows however I am just an opening act, a warm up, a prelude to something bigger. I am there to set the stage for the true star of the show. Don’t get me wrong, my problem with all this has nothing to do with ego. I have opened for many big performers, bands, and entertainers and was fine doing it. The problem with opening for Santa is that he’s, well..Santa. He is the one who brings kids tons of presents once a year and really how can you compete with someone like that?
When I am on the same bill as him, I am pretty much meaningless. I am basically the guy that is preventing kids from seeing Santa. They don’t want stories, they don’t want entertainment, they want presents. It doesn’t help that when I do these shows they introduce me by saying “Okay kids it’s time for Big Joe the Storyteller, then after him: SANTA!!!” From that moment on they hear nothing I say because I am talking and all they hear in their head is “Santa,Santa,Santa,Santa,Santa,Santa, Presents, Santa Santa, Santa, Santa!!”
I am fairly good at keeping an audience’s attention, but in that situation three minutes in and I start to lose them as visions of sugarplums start dancing in their heads. I try to hold onto them by name dropping Santa in a story or two, but that only serves to remind them of what’s coming next. What’s coming next is their main focus and I’m pretty much white noise (or in this case “White Christmas” noise – your groan here). I swear I could just talk gibberish for a half hour and I would get the same reaction I get telling my cute little tales.
Being second fiddle to Santa isn’t the worst thing in the world because at least I can say I am sharing the stage with an icon. Of course it would be nice to get some of the adulation and cheers the big guy gets. There was one time last year when I was doing a Christmas show and it was particularly grueling. The kids had gone off to get cookies before the main event and I sat in my chair collecting my thoughts. A three year old came up to me and said “Thank you for the show!” and proceeded to give me a hug. I was momentarily touched but then he followed it with “I love you Santa!” The sentiment wasn’t meant for me but I took it anyway as my own personal Christmas present. Let’s face it I need all the presents I can get because I am pretty sure I am not getting a pony again this year!