Much like watching It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, Tuna Christmas or, as evidenced by a recent admission, Die Hard, one of my annual Christmas traditions is to listen to John Cleese’s adaptation of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas from podcast No. 28.
Never mind that there have been endless readings over the years by the likes of Art Carney, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Perry Como, Dick Van Dyke and Henry Rollins, we’re talking classic Python here and, more importantly, classic Cleese.
Published anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel on December 23, 1823 under the title A Visit from St. Nicholas, the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas has been called “arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American.” It is said to have largely been responsible for some of the conceptions of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today.
Legend has it that Clement Clarke Moore (who claimed authorship in 1837) composed the poem on a snowy winter’s day, with the inspiration of Saint Nicholas coming from his friend Washington Irving. There are some who believe the true author to be Henry Livingston, Jr.
While there are conflicting camps that believe both Clement Clarke Moore and Henry Livingston, Jr. be recognized as the author, there can be no mistaking one of the best modern-day renditions.
There was a bit of a challenge to the title in 2012 with the late, great Stan Lee reading the classic verse, but we are still talking pure Cleese here. That said, if only Bill Nighy or, maybe, Sir Michael Caine would try their hand reading it, Cleese may have some competition next year for the title.
It was just shy of 15 years ago in 2007 when one John Cleese set his Pythonesque sights on the traditional reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. In John’s own words from his (now-discontinued) podcast of thoughts, observations and musings, it’s his attempt to alleviate the planet from holiday stress “that finds everyone assembled around a blazing fire, where families eat themselves sick, drink themselves silly, and fight for their entertainment options with unaccustomed ferocity.”
From Tellyspotting (and John Cleese, of course), Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!
In: Odds & Sods