“This can’t be for real.”
These were the first thoughts I had while listening to “Santa Fight Club”, by Josh Bearman on This American Life. Imagine a group of Santas, the first national Santa convention, a coup, and Santa fights caught on camera. Sounds absurd? This is the story of Santa Nick and Santa Tim, two bearded Santas caught in a political schism. When all the power of Christmas goes to one man’s head, chaos ensues… I was completely enraptured, listening to it.
Dispel all existing assumptions you might have about Santa Clauses. They may appear jolly and just, but they engage in political battles and sometime even physical ones.
This rich and complex story shines a light into the secret life of a most mysterious man. The pace is quick, with rapid-fire alternation between the perspectives of Santa Nick, Santa Tim and their respective followers. The conviction each side holds that they and only they are in the right sharpens the dramatic climb in finding out the fate of the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas.
Clear diction helps ensure that the audience can keep track of all the characters introduced. A prime example is the introduction of Santa Tim who is described “dressed in a sort of Santa casual, red and white shirt and green pants dotted with candy canes.” This vivid depiction is what I imagine every time Santa Tim speaks, and this helps hold together the momentum of the story.
Later on, the host uses little phrases like, “the one who sang to me,” or “the other embroiled Santa from the beginning of the story.” These tiny tags work wonders, keeping the listeners’ focus on the story so they don’t have to remember everyone’s names (which they wouldn’t, anyway). They might forget which one is Nick and which one is Tim, but they’ll never forget the one who sang.
In a world of warring factions of Santas, the accepted notions of Santa Claus are turned upside down and inside out. Where Santas are deemed naughty or nice, what happens to naughty Santas?
You will hear for yourself that Santa is real, in this story. And although parts of the story might sound sound unreal, this Santa is both real and real-bearded.
Santa Fight Club
By Josh Bearman for This American Life in 2008