Holiday specials, for the most part, are a family affair. In general, they are (at best) sweet adventures or (at worst) cloying cash-grabs. There is a sweet spot for holiday specials, however, that make them entertaining for every member of the family and not something the older folks in the room dread having to watch again as the calendar moves closer to December. Your Muppet and Pee-wee specials fit nicely into this category. But what if someone with experience making comedy made a holiday special? And what if the kids were an afterthought? And what if it was just a meta comment on holiday specials in general? Well, ladies and gentlemen, in 2002, in the far off land of Canada, Kids in the Hall and NewsRadio veteran Dave Foley did exactly that with Dave Foley’s The True Meaning of Christmas Specials.
The opening to Foley’s special might seem jarring for those familiar with his work. We are on a beach, somewhere that is probably not Canada, that is stuffed with teens in bikinis and Santa hats, dancing to a live performance from surf guitar god Dick Dale. Out from the throngs of these teens stands Dave Foley who wishes us a Merry Christmas (an offscreen voice pipes in, “And Happy Hanukkah!” reminding Dave to include his Jewish friends as well). He lets us know that he and his revelers are awaiting the arrival of Santa Dude, and wouldn’t you know it? There he is! Santa Dude (played by Jason Priestley, Canadian) arrives on a jet ski and immediately he and Dave begin hawking a portable grill, touting its features, its price point, and giving out the 1-800 number you can use to order it now.
Suddenly Dave is snapped out of his commercial. Something about his holiday special feels wrong. As Dick Dale begins to play “Blue Christmas,” Dave steps away from his Santa Dude, the teen partiers, and his special altogether to walk along the beach where he encounters a Catholic priest, standing barefoot in the waves (played by Andy Richter, non-Canadian). Dave tells him his troubles, and the priest begins quoting from the book of Luke: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field…” When he finishes, Dave, with a big smile on his face, wags a finger in the priest’s face. “You stole that! You stole that from that from Charlie Brown’s Christmas!” he tells him. When the priest corrects him that it’s from the Bible, Dave (eventually) accepts that answer and thanks him for his time, but he’s looking for the meaning of Christmas specials, not Christmas.
Realizing that he needs advice from someone who is also famous, Dave makes his way to (Canadian) Mike Myers’s home. He meets briefly with Myers’s butler, Tom Green (Canadian), who ushers him into Mike’s bathroom where the Austin Powers star is lounging in a bathtub filled with money. Myers advises Dave to return to a foggy memory of a place that they both once knew, a place with “distinct seasons and socialized medicine” (Canada).
Dave returns to Santa Dude and the kids and brings them to a beautiful cabin in Canada, which initially seems to get Dave into the Christmas special spirit, but once Santa Dude and Dave launch into another infomercial, Dave falls into another depression. While going for a reflective walk outside, a man on a bench stops him: “Hey! Aren’t you Dave Foley from Kids in the Hall?” “And NewsRadio,” Dave adds, sourly. Relatively quickly, though, Dave recognizes the man as Elvis Stojko, “world-famous figure skater and heterosexual.” Dave notices Elvis has his skates and they are sitting in front of a frozen pond, and so he obviously asks Elvis if he wouldn’t mind… lending him his skates. Dave straps them on, takes to the ice, and then Dave, and definitely not Elvis in a wig, skates a routine to “Carol of the Bells.”
Dave meets Mexican Elvis impersonator El Vez, clumsily hits on his El Vettes, loses them to Elvis Strojko and angrily heads to sleep only to be awoken by The Ghost of Christmas Specials Past, played by Bob Hope, played by SCTV’s Dave Thomas. Together they travel to see an old special starring Bing Crosby (played by another SCTV alum, Joe Flaherty) and David Bowie (Dave Foley) who perform a song. The Ghost of Christmas Specials Present (Jann Arden) shows Dave all the fun he’s missing in bed that’s happening downstairs right now, and The Ghost of Christmas Specials Yet to Come (Kids in the Hall’s Kevin McDonald) takes him to a strange post-apocalyptic future where people hook their brains up to a strange monetized contraption that pumps love and holiday warmth directly into their brains. Dave comes to the realization that his commercialization of the holiday is directly responsible for this future, and that’s really not so bad, with the exception of the people-based snack of the future, People Chips.
Dave returns downstairs having learned his lesson and apologizes to his cast and guest stars, and even finds himself with a Christmas-appropriate happy ending. But in an even happier turn of events, this Christmas special has broken out of the archives and found its way online. And it’s available for the low, low price of free (as long as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation doesn’t object)! Get into the Christmas Special spirit (and Hanukkah!) and enjoy!