Sitcoms really only have four ways of handling Christmas: it can either be the Sentimental Episode, the Parody Episode (like all seven billion It’s a Wonderful Life lampoons), the Christmas Doesn’t Exist Episode, or, my favorite, INSANE CHRISTMAS. That’s the one that usually features a lot of blood and violence and reindeer frothing at the mouth, and it’s almost always because of the actions of Saint Nick himself. I love Bad Ass Santa because there’s only so much you can do with Christmas, plot-wise, and any story with Father Christmas brandishing a machine gun or baseball bat feels fresh and exciting. And on TV, it’s almost exclusive to sitcoms; when was the last time you saw Santa decapitate someone on an episode of The West Wing? HMMM, SORKIN. Here are seven of my favorites.
The Simpsons, “Marge Be Not Proud”
Bart really wants a copy of Bone Storm for Christmas. In the commercial he sees for the ultra-violent video game, a muscular Santa and his two snarling reindeers crash through the wall of a house, to instruct the kids playing a boring Mortal Kombat-like game to tell their parents, “Buy me Bone Storm or go to Hell!” So, Bart does, but he’s denied his wish, not only because he didn’t say “please” and it’s violent and it would distract him from his housework, but also because video games “cost up to and including $70.” And it’s all because of Santa. Obligatory: THRILLHO.
Futurama, “Xmas Story”
Remember: if you ever time travel to the year 3000, do NOT say the word “Christmas.” By then, it’s “Xmas,” because in 2801, a robot Santa (voiced by John Goodman, and later, John DiMaggio) was built to smooth out the process of judging who was naughty and who was nice every year. There was a programming error, though, and Robot Santa became a relentless Christmas Eve killing machine. Though he set up shop on Neptune, he visits Earth every year on Xmas Eve, to chop off the heads of those dumb enough to be out after sundown. There’s even a song: “You’d better not breathe, you’d better not move/You’re better off dead, I’m telling you, dude/Santa Claus is gunning you down.”
South Park, “Red Sleigh Down”
Before Randy and Butters ever appeared on the show – heck, before there even was a show called South Park – Santa Claus battled Jesus in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s aptly titled “Jesus vs. Santa.” The short was passed around amongst a group of friends, and later on VHS tapes and the Internet, before getting the attention of Comedy Central. The rest is, as they say, history. Seventeen years and three appearances by Santa later, the guy in the red jacket would have his finest South Park moment in “Red Sleigh Down.” Cartman, looking to do one GIANT nice thing to even out his naughty-nice scale/get presents, convinces Mr. Kringle to bring Christmas to Iraq. By the end of the episode, not only has Santa killed multiple people, including his torture-happy interrogator after his sled was gunned down by missiles, he’s also earned the appreciation of Jesus. Before Jesus gets shot and dies.
A Colbert Christmas
After years of fighting and ThreatDowns, Stephen Colbert finally tries to make nice with his biggest enemy: bears. Things are going so well that he and his guest brown bear go in for a kiss during his Christmas Special — until Stephen remembers that he’s delicious, to bears at least. The bear begins chasing him around the set and is about to eat Stephen, until Santa comes down the chimney to save the day. What follows is an epic between Human vs. Nature, which ends with Santa sticking a shiv in the bear’s side. He begins ripping apart the dead carcass, only to release the greatest gift of them all: Elvis Costello in a top-hat.
Mystery Science Theater 3000, “Santa Claus”
What’s better than Santa Claus fighting Jesus? Santa Claus fighting a devil-like demon named Pitch. In a fifth season episode of MST3K, Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo are forced by Dr. F. and Frank to watch 1959’s Santa Claus, a Mexican film about an outer space-living, castle-dwelling Father Christmas who comes to Earth to fight with a devil (Pitch!) who’s there to make “all of the children…do evil.” It’s great. After the movie’s finished, the crew of Deep 13 chats with Pitch to discuss how best to ruin Christmas, the New Year, and pretty much everything, when Santa Claus arrives on the spaceship to bare-knuckle brawl with the demon. Dude deserves ALL the cookies and milk.
American Dad!, “For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls”
American Dad! has the best Christmas episodes of any current TV show. “Reaper’s Delight” is the best of the bunch, but it’s a little light in the Santa department; “For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls,” on the other hand, is nearly as good, and has plenty of the Jolly Fat Man. Well, maybe not so much with the Jolly, because after receiving a machine gun as a present from his dad, Steve accidentally shoots and kills a mall-store Santa. Turns out, though, that it was the REAL Santa. And he’s not actually dead, or at least he comes back to life after being resurrected by the elves in the North Pole. ZOMBIE SANTA. An elf pays the Smiths a visit to tell them of their wrong-doings, and the family flees to a cabin in the woods to hide from the revenge that’s surely coming their way. And boy does it: thousands of reindeer, elves, and snowmen all attack the cabin, with the Smiths’ defending themselves using a variety of guns in their armory. I won’t ruin the ending, but I will say this: the Smiths’ Christmas tradition is SO much better than mine and yours.
Robot Chicken, “Co-Opting Santa”
Santa’s had enough. He’s sick of companies using his likeness without ever paying him a dime. So he decides to pay the executives of Coca Cola a friendly visit. He enters their board room and begins to explain his situation, and by “explain his situation,” I mean he begins bashing the greedy bastards, men and women alike, with a baseball bat. By the time he leaves, the office is a bloodbath, people have Coke bottles in their eyes (literally), and even the man-eating polar bear that came with the big guy has quenched his thirst for human blood. Merry Christmas!
Josh Kurp is Jewish