With the rise of the latter we risk losing the former. Many comedians no longer perform at college campuses because campuses in America have turned into humorless dens of fascism with “speech codes,” “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings” and “microaggressions” – anti-intellectual devices designed to suppress expression and thought.
In the words of the American poet Charles Bukowski, “beware those who are quick to censor, they are afraid of what they do not know.”
Racial humor has always been a touchstone of comedy, and if that ceases to be then the world will be less funny and diverse peoples will become more and more alienated from each other.
Countless comedians have based their entire oeuvre on their ethnicity, from Mel Brooks to Margaret Cho, Paul Rodriguez to Chris Rock. Comedians, like Don Rickles, who use crass racial humor in a positive light as a means to bring people together, are often misunderstood and shunned by the ignorant and the self-righteous.
This translates to music. Artists from Louis Jordan to Louis Prima created humorous songs by playing up ethnic idiosyncrasies and stereotypes.
So this holiday season, here are a few of my favorite racist, culturally appropriated Christmas songs.
Trigger Warning: some of these records may induce joy and cause one to laugh at oneself. In severe cases, they may allow an appreciation of others’ experiences and cause one to recognize elements of those experiences in their own.
“¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?” – Augie Rios
Augie Rios was a child theater actor born in New York City to Puerto Rican immigrants. In 1958, at the time of this record, he was appearing in Jamacia alongside Lena Horn, Ricardo Montalban and Ossie Davis. “¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?” is credited to Rod Parker, Al Greiner and Rios’ manager at the time, George Scheck. Considering the flip side, “Ol’ Fatso (I Don’t Care Who You Are Old Fatso, Get Those Reindeer Off My Roof),” this 45 should come with a double trigger warning. “¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?” remains a holiday staple in many Latino-American homes.
Dominick the Donkey – Lou Monte
Lou Monte made his entire career out of Italian-American themed novelty records. There was “Who Stole My Provolone?” (talk about a microaggression!), “Pepino the Italian Mouse,” its sequel “Pepino’s Friend Pasqual (The Italian Pussy-Cat),” and wild interpretations of semi-traditional fare such as “Luna Mezza Mare.” Monte struck Christmas gold in 1960 with “Dominick the Donkey,” about an unsung Christmas hero who helps Santa and his reindeer navigate the steep terrain of Sicily.
American songwriters John Redmond, James Cavanaugh and Frank Weldon wrote many songs together in the 1940s and early 1950s, including hits for Kay Starr and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. In 1951 Bing Crosby recorded his definitive version of their Christmas classic, and I’m handing you no blarney. Speaking of blarney, the phrase, a microaggression demonstrating the Irish tendency for verbose exaggeration, was coined – err appropriated – by Elizabeth I who was frustrated by the diplomatic resistance from one of her conquered subjects, Cormac McCarthy, lord of Blarney Castle.
The Be-Bop Santa Claus – Babs Gonzales
Hepcat Babs Gonzalas waxed his take on a classic Christmas tale with “The Be-Bop Santa Claus,” transplanting American seminary professor Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “The Night Before Christmas” to the inner city, with references to “old Pops and Mom…in their big easy chair goofed on eggnog, sherry and beer.” And the children asleep “while visions of Cadillacs danced in their heads.”
There is no safe space from “the Be-Bop Santa from the cool North Pole.”
And I’ve been down since the days of old
I’m known all over from here to eternity
And a stud’s mighty square if he don’t dig me
So cast thy peepers into my righteous bag and see
What insane object I shall lay on thee