NEAL CONAN, host:
On Christmas Eve in 1822, a sleigh ride home from Greenwich Village allegedly inspired Clement Clarke Moore to write the poem that would memorialize Christmas forever after. Parents have recited "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" for nearly two centuries; we suspect parodies of "The Night before Christmas" are very nearly as old. We issued an email challenge earlier. We want to hear your parodies on politics, on baseball, on Donner or on Blitzen. We welcome callers, too. The phone number, 800-989-8255. You can post your doggerel at our Web site. That's at npr.org; just click on Talk of the Nation. And our first entry comes in the politics arena, and our guest contestant, Ken from Potomac, Maryland, who happens to be with us here in Studio 3A.
KEN RUDIN: North Potomac.
CONAN: North Potomac, OK. RUDIN: Thank you very much. This will end my career if this show hasn't already.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RUDIN: OK, here we go.
(Reciting) 'Twas the night before Christmas, and we at NPR, Decided to review the year in politics, near and afar. It started off clear, so sure where we, The nominees would be Mitt, and perhaps Hillary.
He had the hair and the great wealth, She had connections, and the program for health. But then something happened that ended in surprise, Obama and McCain wound up with the prize.
Barack, he was called, what a strange name, Not to mention Obama, let alone Hussein. He was new to the Senate, a new shining light, But he had his problems; think Reverend Wright.
And then there was Bill, who for Hillary he made his pitch, He could do anything he wanted; remember Marc Rich? The Clintons were tough; there was no question. But Obama never gave up; it was as if he was destined.
He smiled, he reasoned, he spoke out for hope; So what if he spends his college days smoking that dope?
(Soundbite of laughter)
RUDIN: (Reciting) On the GOP side, there was another good story, John McCain was on top, but many were worried. On taxes, on torture and the immigrant fight, He was not one of them, said the folks on the right.
So what did he do with his chances a-fading? He picked that woman, this Sarah Palin. She was tough, wore lipstick and came from Alaska. Was she going to help John McCain and the Republicans? You betcha.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RUDIN: (Reciting) But then something happened to end their mood euphoric, She had trouble with questions and one Katie Couric. Bristol was pregnant, in love, thanks to Cupid, But ultimately, it came down to the economy, stupid.
The collapse of the Dow, the growing unemployment number, Proved more important than John or Sarah or Joe the Plumber. This year, of course, was more than just this, And if Neal allows me, I'll continue my list.
Religion was important and family, too, Just ask Vito Fossella; he had two. And for...
(Soundbite of laughter)
RUDIN: (Reciting) And poor Tim Mahoney, he who replaced Mark Foley, The Florida Democrat has his own sex scandal, holy moly! Bill Jefferson, his money in the freezer, he couldn't explain how No matter. He lost his seat to a Vietnamese-American named Cao.
President Bush, down on his luck, Went to Baghdad and managed to duck. Two shoes were thrown, was the journalist's role; Bush saw the reporter and looked into his sole.
RUDIN: Oh yeah, sorry.
(Reciting) Caroline Kennedy, as a child there was no one cutah(ph). Now has to spend her weekends and Christmas in Buffalo and Utica. But if you think campaigning for the Senate is really a bitch, Just think, it could be worse; you could be Rod Blagojevich.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RUDIN: (Reciting) Want to buy a Senate seat? You have money I can keep? If you don't, then all I can say is bleep, bleep, bleep. I'm sorry for this poem; it is a bit clunky, But I urge you to read my daily blog which just so happens to be found at npr-dot-org-slash-junkie.
(Soundbite of laughter)
RUDIN: Merry Christmas, Neal.
CONAN: Merry Christmas, Ken. Ken will be back in the New Year and every Wednesday...
CONAN: Maybe, we'll have to check that list with a Political Junkie. In the meantime, we got this "'Twas the Night before Christmas" parody from Paul in Jacksonville, Florida: "The Day after Christmas."
(Reciting) 'Twas the day after Christmas, and what did I find? Half my Christmas cards hadn't been signed. In fact, they're still sitting quite snug in their box, Right next to my pile of new Christmas socks.
So, out to the table I move with a shuffle, To send out late greetings with nary a hustle. To bid special people the peace and good cheer, That comes to our families at this time of year.
And never so mellow a time will we find, Than the day after Christmas, a time to unwind.
Let's see if we can get some callers on the line, and let's go to Leslie. Leslie is with us from Farmington Hills in Michigan.
LESLIE (Caller): 'Twas the night before Christmas, and just in the Senate, McConnell and Shelby were working not to get it. Money, that is, to those big three, you see, Because they might think, oh, Lord, it's free.
And that's about all I got.
CONAN: That's about all you got? That's pretty quick work anyway, Leslie. Thank you. Then I guess that was "'Twas the Night before Bailout."
CONAN: OK. Thanks very much, Merry Christmas.
LESLIE: Happy Hanukkah.
CONAN: Johnny in Lafayette, Colorado.
(Reciting) 'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the Whitehouse, The movers were stirring to move W. out. The stock markets are hung by his tender care, With hopes that Saint Obama soon would be there.
Then on the south lawn there arose such a clutter, He called up Dick Chaney to see what was the matter. Gone Rumsfeld and Rove and Scooter and Vixen, Gone Rice and Gonzales and the ghost of Dick Nixon.
And the country decided as he went out of our sight, Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight.
Again, that from Lafayette, Colorado. Let's see if we can get - this is - excuse me - Dave. Dave's on the line from White Bear Lake in Minnesota.
DAVE (Caller): Yeah.
CONAN: Go ahead, please.
DAVE: All right, thanks.
(Reciting) 'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the nations, The people and leaders were all losing patience. With economies tanking and job losses mounting, A new band of leaders would soon face surmounting, Problems of makers of autos and toys, Problems of parents of girls and boys.
The stocks were all hung, how they waxed and they waned, Investments did tumble, 401ks pained. Then what to our beleaguered should appear, But a man named Obama who said change was near. We all hoped and prayed that soon change was in sight, But all we could do is wait and sit tight.
On Daschle, Obama and Hillary Clinton, Your voters are waiting; your people have listened. Bailout consumers with all types of debts Will fund cars and banks, on this you can bet. For those with foreclosures and those with high debts, We've closed our eyes tight and our hopes we have set That a change will soon come and the change is so near. All hope is returning, the end of our fear.
On Daschle, Obama and Hillary Clinton, Your voters are waiting, your people have listened. Bailout the people with debts small and large, We know you can do it; you'll soon be in charge. An out-of-work writer with nothing to do Just wrote down these words to say this to you. When hope is all gone, not a chance left in sight, Let's all stick together and hang in there tight.
CONAN: I was going say, that's quick work, Dave. So, you're an out-of-work writer. So...
(Soundbite of laughter)
DAVE: You got that right.
CONAN: OK. Merry Christmas, and thanks very much for the quick work.
DAVE: Thank you.
CONAN: We got this from Kate.
(Reciting) 'Tis the day after New Years and all through the home, Thank goodness it's over; now leave me alone. My family is hung over by the chimney. It reeks From all that cheap booze they've inhaled for six weeks.
The house guests are gone now, that motley pack, Uncle Herbert, the pervert, and ex-con, Cousin Jack. And Aunt Mildred who bored us with lies called adventures, And Grandma Petunia with her gross wooden dentures. Goodbye to his side of the family. Good riddance. Of course, my own side of the clan ain't worth pittance.
And now to the kitchen where, look, piled high, Are eight million dishes and leftover dried pie. And the parlor is laden with paper and bows, When I get through these holy mess, God only knows. And then it's the rest of the year with the ills, Of paying the charges on the credit card bills.
Know when that will be over? Next Christmas, that's when. Forget it, I'm not going to do this again. I'm not mailing greetings; the cost is too much. I'm not stuffing stockings or turkeys and such. I'm not buying presents; I'm not going to clean; I'm not going to decorate; I'll never be seen.
I'm just going to hide for the season next year. You're all on your own; you can have your good cheer. Oh, who am I kidding? I know I'll do most, Don't worry, we'll soon once again overdose On turkey, on dressings, on potatoes and yams, And cranberries, corn bread, on pies and on hams,
On carols, on candles, on cookies, on candies, On ornaments, incense, on bells and on brandies, On presents we bought at exorbitant costs, On useless gifts gotten that always get tossed. On ball games, on parades, on waiting in line, On mistletoe, visitors, eggnog and wine,
Unwrapping, on traffic, credit-card limitation, How can anyone call this dread thing a vacation? Still, I know pretty soon I'll be saying a lot, Happy turkey day, Merry Christmas, have a good year - not.
Let's see if we can get another caller on the line, and this is going to be Desmond, Desmond with us from Columbus, Ohio.
DESMOND (Caller): Yes.
'Twas the night before our eviction from our adjustable-rate mortgaged house, No forwarding address, no three-months' security deposit, no Joe the average American bailout. The stock market just crashed six and a half years to the day Joe refinanced, But his non-union job downsized him to the position of a hula-hoop dance versus quitting, where there's no more retirement or benefits, just the benefits of non-gainful employment.
As a result, the children grow unaware and hungry nestled 60 each bed, Dreaming of videogames, Facebook names, and basic cable, while the reality of a derogatory credit score, who's going to lease to me? Who's going to sign and co-sign for me? Who's going to even loan me? Dance inside our mom and dad's heads.
This stay-at-home mom in her work clothes, knowing a deputy sheriff would be in this cap, with paperwork to serve, and day laborers to do everything but observe, just to put them out on their backs, like their property to be set on the hedged front lawn. Snowy day, rainy day, garbage day it won't matter. Don't be hurting, give some tithes to church, and not consistent enough will be the word, the message, the sermon.
Oh, get over by the window Dad, phone lights up with a flash. It's a bill collector at 9:01 in the morning, wanting $350, not billion or it's going hurt his credit real bad. If I had it I would've paid it, Joe said. The bank sold my mortgage to folks who bet, I couldn't afford it. Don't you understand? Joe said, mark this to my account, next week Thursday I'm throwing $20 out of my bathroom window, and whoever gets that first is going to feel like a lucky man. Due to his economic circumstances, what else could Joe say? The bill collector didn't think it was funny and hung up after saying, sir I'm going to mark this town in your report as refusing to pay. See you in court.
Just then, when Joe's stressed posture weighed too heavy, too late to run, a little old deputy named Nick pulled up with open hand cuffs in his hand by his gun. Not so lively, but this Nick was quick to rub you the wrong way. He joked if this was Israel, they'd Palestinian movement today. We need just a few more days, too, was all Nick let him say, but Nick pointed back at eight reasons out of his pocket he does pay. He didn't even say no to step aside or go to jail. Either way everything is getting out today.
Now, Nick was quick to grab the door and held it open till his endeared, he implored, go slow pay or no pay. You two start upstairs, on foreclosures, on credit defaults, you two start in the basement. Now repo's don't refinance, leave nothing in the kitchen but the sink and consumer confidence you stay here with me distribute the bags and boxes. We still got six more houses to go on this street.
And then in a twinkling our ears heard poo, bagging, dragging, then evacuating everything under the roof. Bundles of our belongings covered the snow covered lawn from front to back, not neatly or discretely unlike those of those AIG execs. Bankruptcy, while blinking his eyes like he was made to dance with his hands as they removed all the wood knocks and locks. That's when we started to learn the gloomy dream. Now this makes for very few kind words. He swore an oath to go straight to his work repossessing American dream-type possessions like an uncaring jerk, but I heard them explain as they drove just out of sight, I'll be killing(ph) the years retired, the big three will have machines, building cars they won't need to hire or fire. And all these folks would be leaving in private communities as refugees of the economy before their credit ratings will ever see the day of light. Yeah, I know they hiring at Wal-Mart. I see it right. Whew.
CONAN: Kind of a combination of a Clement Moore and Jay-Z there.
DESMOND: Hey, hey.
(Soundbite of laughter)
DESMOND: You know, I've been a fan of yours for years, and this is the first time in my life I got to call in, and I just thank you. You just do not know - you've made my new year.
CONAN: Well, Desmond, you made ours. Thanks very much for your persistence.
DESMOND: Thank you.
CONAN: And Merry Christmas to you.
DESMOND: Merry Christmas to you.
CONAN: We're talking about 'Twas the Night before Whatever. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And let's see if we can get another emailer. This is from Michael, who wrote this while working as shift commander at the Gainesville Fire Rescue in Gainesville, Florida. And because he's cheating - he wrote it in advance - we're just going to read a bit of it.
(Reciting) I stood by the Suburban and looked out on the ramp, When an amazing scenario emerged from the damp. I saw there before me in a dazzling light Eight tiny reindeer and a sleigh in full flight. In front of the engine, they landed with a bump, And out of the sleigh came Santa on the jump.
He was dressed all in red, and I saw with great cheer, I should have seen it before. It was all bunker gear. As I took it all in, I soon began to ponder, Is Santa a firefighter, a medic or first responder? It seemed to make sense, and I was no longer nervous, Of course, he's the original provider of service.
Let's see if we can get another caller on. Joseph, Joseph with us from La Crosse in Wisconsin.
JOSEPH (Caller): I am, thank you. I have a little Christmas Carol ditty that I think people will appreciate.
CONAN: Go ahead.
JOSEPH: (Singing) Christmas bills, Christmas bills piled on the floor, Every day the mailman comes to bring a dozen more. Oh, Christmas bills, Christmas bills, How the stores will swear, When they soon discover that my bank account is bare.
Dashing off the checks, all in great amounts, Mailing them today, knowing they will bounce. Bill collectors come, notify my boss, Now, they take my salary, my life's a total loss.
Oh, Christmas bills...
you get the idea.
CONAN: I get the idea. Not the tune we're asking for, but nice work, Joseph.
JOSEPH: Thank you.
CONAN: All right, Merry Christmas to you.
JOSEPH: Merry Christmas to you. Thanks a lot, Neal.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go to - this should be Rex, Rex with us from Mountain View, California.
REX: Hi. Let's see, I have a joke and a "Night Before Christmas."
CONAN: All right, what's the joke?
REX: I'll do the "Night before Christmas."
(Reciting) 'Twas the night before Christmas, looking all through the White House. Not a Bill of Rights was stirring, so where was the House And the Senate? The Constitution was completely shredded, And all through the Oval Office, all oil and coal lobbyists with glee were embedded. The environment was ready to be exploited, People who looked after species, human and otherwise, had been so far as to be double-jointed. Said Bush, history will judge me to be near the best, But people say otherwise. Bush follows presidents below all the rest.
And that fellow that did the really long one, I just want to say, was amazing. He blew me away.
CONAN: That was good. What's the joke, Rex?
REX: Oh, well, this is actually a little bit more closer to the end of the term, but this is visual, but I'm going to give it to you anyway. This is a questionnaire filled out by historians and the American people, and it says this White House has been, A, the most corrupt, B, the most ideologically extreme, C, the least honest, D, the most inept in the last 100 years; and the answer is checked - yes, all of the above.
CONAN: Somehow I figured you were going there, Rex.
CONAN: Merry Christmas. Thanks for the call.
REX: Thank you. These have been terrific, I have to say. You're very creative.
CONAN: Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed. Yes, you are. Here's another one. This is another cheat. This is from Constance in Murray, Kentucky, who writes a weekly column in the Murray Ledger & Times. And this is the column she wrote for today.
(Reciting) 'Tis the day before Christmas. We are ready for Santa. Our investments are worthless; we're chugging Mylanta. We hope he'll bring cash, for our coffers are bare, And our 401ks plunged to zero, I swear, No eggnog, no bourbon, no fancy bibelots...
I don't know what those are.
(Reciting) We've tightened our belts and put grindstone to nose. We're working more hours and doing our best, But our savings is dwindling and we're getting depressed.
Well, you get the picture, that from the Murray Ledger & Times in Murray, Kentucky. And of course, we have one last entry. This is from the Talk of the Nation staff.
(Reciting) 'Twas the show before Christmas and our editor groused That no news is bad news, well, she's such a louse. Our white board stood empty, the holes all unfilled. The wires run scores and flack year-end puffery.
When suddenly we all heard such a clatter And ran to the news room to see what's the matter. And there stood a guest host with a sleigh full of ideas Evergreens features, news did he boast And Ari bid fair to talk coast to coast.
On movies, on bailouts, on corruption and trends, With Koppel and Amy, with Murray and Ken.
For him working Christmas is no great big matter. (in fact, when we asked him, he seemed kind of flattered!) As for me, I'll be nervous, eager to look To see if my stocking can fit comic books. I'll see you all Monday, bushy tailed and bright. To all a good Christmas, and all a safe night.
I'm Neal Conan, NPR News in Washington.