You know A Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Why recap it? Even if you haven’t watched it beginning to end, almost everyone has culturally absorbed its strangely prescient evaluations of consumerism and religion during the holiday. Charlie’s wimpy tree. Linus’s Jesus speech. Snoopy’s Christmas decorating competition. You’re familiar.
But you’re familiar because it works. It hits on the religious and the secular and the ornamental and the personal and the performative. The humor in the briefer-than-you-remember special works because is real. The children may be too precocious but they capture the specific melting pot of sadness and hope that is Christmas.
I mentioned Linus’s Jesus speech. It’s easily the special’s defining and yet most ballsy moment.
Whether you’re religious or not (for the record, I’m atheist), you have to appreciate the bravery of this scene. Unlike most religious moments in Christmas specials, it’s not Trojan-horsed in or used as an easy moral compass bookended by punch lines. Rather, it’s the solution to Charlie Brown’s disappointment and disillusionment with all that he sees around him — the source of most of the comedy in the special.
It’s disconcerting because it happens at the climax of the comedy. When Linus says “I know what Christmas is all about,” the audience expects the goofy screw-up to say something funny and fall on his dumb face. Rather, they get a humble, yet firm message.
Seem familiar? It would be used again and again thirty years later by South Park.
Mike Drucker is a lovely man with many positive characteristics. He has written for Saturday Night Live, The Onion, McSweeney’s, and Nintendo. He’s also a stand-up or something, I guess.