I don’t think I’ve ever done a “re-run” on the Clogged Blog. But this one came to mind during a serious moment in Jesse Gephart’s otherwise hilarious stage production of David Sedaris’ “Santaland Diaries”. This talented performer, in a one-man show, seamlessly shifted from satirical monologue to genuine concern when he noticed an audience member having some very real health issues. Shifting his focus to solving an unforseen problem, he turned a show-stopping incident into something that seemed completely natural and in character. That, plus the part of the script detailing all the awkward things Santa gets asked for…brought back an experience I may not have told you about, if you’ve just recently “tuned in”. This is from 2008.
I can’t reveal names, lest I jeopardize any cherished Christmas traditions, but this really happened. I know because I was there in the studio.
A local radio station decided to whisk Santa Claus into town to take phone calls from area kids. It’s a situation just waiting for a misstep. And sure enough, just fifteen minutes into the hour, it happened.
Santa was cheerily chatting up a sister and little brother, with plans of innocent avarice dancing in their heads. At one point, Santa asked the boy if there was anything else he’d like. There was the briefest hesitation, and then the little guy continued…words carefully chosen, and voice starting to quaver a little.
“What I’d really like…would be…to be able to…talk to my Papa again.”
It was more a simple statement than a request. But I couldn’t imagine how the old guy was going to get through this one. Before I’d even finished the thought I heard Santa, in a very soft and sympathetic voice: “Ohhhh, I know what it’s like to miss a papa, especially around the holidays. It’s extra difficult, isn’t it.”
“Yeah,” the little voice replied.
“Well,” continued the old gent at the microphone, “I’m not sure exactly how much I can fix, but…I’ve got an idea. You put your mom back on the phone, and meanwhile we’ll work on getting that game system you and I talked about to maybe lift your spirits a little, okay?”
And darned if it didn’t sound like that was just enough for the young fellow. He handed the phone back to his mother and I heard Santa, in that same caring voice, ask if she had any old recordings of the dad she could lift a little something from, and wrap up a small tape or disc for the boy…with a note that it was the best Santa could do. Those of us in the studio half expected the lady to brush it off, but she immediately brightened to the idea, saying she’d never thought of that, and knew of something that might just fit the bill.
Sincere wishes for a season of comfort were exchanged and the call was ended. The editor went to work and condensed what actually went on the air, though I was surprised he left in the conversation about “papa”. A brief adlib was attached alluding to the “talk to mom/got an idea/lift the spirits” ending and the call went out over the air.
I don’t remember much about the rest of that hour. But later I had to wonder how differently it could have gone, if the station had just yanked in some guy with a funny voice who could go “Ho Ho Ho!” on cue and talk about toys.
I post this “long winter’s tale” not so much as a credit to quick thinking, but as an encouragement for all of us who are tasked with using our talents to really connect with the person(s) we’re being paid to talk to.
Yeah, it helps if you can nail the sound and read the words without stumbling. But when the person at the microphone can let some part of what’s truly inside come out in what’s being voiced, whatever’s on the page…there’s potential to transform the everday into something a little more.
But who am I to say: maybe he WAS the genuine article!
Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and a Season of Comfort to us all.
— over and out —