Day One hundred and seventy-five: "The Night Santa Went Crazy (Extra Gory Version)" from Medium Rarities
The existence of two distinct versions of the beloved Holiday chestnut “The Night Santa Went Crazy” poses a surprising philosophical question. It’s surprising in that you don’t expect Christmas songs or “Weird Al” Yankovic album-closers to make you think about the nature of punishment and rehabilitation.
Then again, “The Night Santa Went Crazy” is anomalous in other ways as well. Where most Christmas songs depict corpulent gift-giver Santa Claus as the twinkly-eyed, apple-cheeked embodiment of goodness and generosity, Al’s song portrays him as a kill-crazy madman, a whiskey-soaked sociopath who finally snaps after decades, even centuries, of unrelenting pressure and embarks on a blood-soaked rampage that leaves his trusty stable of flying reindeer brutally murdered, injured or traumatized for life.
In Al’s evocative turn of phrase, not so jolly old Saint Nick is less every child’s friend and benefactor than a “big fat drunk disgruntled Yuletide Rambo” who follows his traditional greeting of “Merry Christmas to all” with the threat/promise “Now you're all gonna die!”
In the album version of “The Night Santa Went Crazy” a psychotic Kris Kringle survives his massacre, is incarcerated and up for parole in a mere 700 years. The Christmas season Charles Whitman is not quite so lucky in the Extra Gory version of the song.
You can’t turn Santa into a deranged mass murderer and remain a beloved favorite of children and families the world over. You sure can’t turn Santa into a deranged mass murderer, and then violently end his cruel, tragic life in a flurry of bullets. Yet that’s just what Al does on “The Night Santa Went Crazy” and its extra-gory version. Al got away with it because he’s Al, and can go to incredibly dark, ghoulish places and somehow hold onto his sterling reputation as a figure of family friendly fun. In the extra gory version of “The Night Santa Went Crazy” that extends to describing Santa’s violent demise with a starkness and brutality as cold and gleefully sadistic as the choice to kill Kris Kringle.
With child-traumatizing delight, Al takes way too much malicious pleasure in singing the lines, “Yes Virginia, Now Santa is dead/Some guy from S.W.A.T team blew a hole through his head/Yes little friend now, that’s his brain on the floor/I guess they won’t have the fat guy kicking around anymore.”
This is where the philosophical question comes in. What, ultimately, is the worse punishment for a world-class monster like Santa Claus? Is it crueler to use the power and moral authority of the state to end a violent, irredeemable criminal’s life, as both the ultimate form of punishment and as a deterrent to other mythological creatures who might be tempted to break bad, your tooth fairies and Easter bunnies? Or is it crueler to allow an immortal creature like Santa Claus to live forever in circumstances specifically designed to make him suffer and reflect upon his unthinkable crimes?
Is a millennium-long sentence in a federal prison a fate worse than violent death? That’s a question every Christmas music aficionado and “Weird Al” Yankovic fan ultimately has to answer for themselves but there’s no denying that this demented spin through North Pole mythology takes perhaps Al’s darkest sick joke and makes it, depending on your perspective, even sicker and darker, or a little kinder in its choice to put the titular miserable bastard out of his misery, to terminate him with extreme prejudice.
“The Night Santa Went Crazy” makes a point of going way, way, way too far. The extra gory version of this Christmas perennial, God bless it, goes even further.
Support independent media, get access to patron-only content and help ensure a robust present and future for the Happy Place by pledging over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace