Jobs. They’re the means to the ends of all our ambitions — or, more often, the continuous thunderclap reminders of our endless failures. That’s why they make for such good fiction, especially of the mercilessly hilarious sort. Consider The Office , if you must, or Post Office , which is less hilarious but still on the money when it comes to depicting the emptiness of necessity employment. It is to moan.
Better still, consider David Sedaris, especially circa 1992, when he was reading from his diary in some Chicago nightclub. Ordinarily, the idea of reading a diary in public is completely revolting. It’s like taking a shower beside a fire hydrant or, worse, defecating naked in the middle of the road. Totally inappropriate and self-indulgent. Pretty selfish, too.
But this was different. Sedaris is one of those people just bursting with the caustic wit of a machine gun dressed up like a clown at a comedy club, drunk and trying to pick up the hottest girl. So you can imagine his diary is a far cry from your sister’s pansy pages of nonstop rumination.
Anyway, on that night in 1992, it just so happened there was a radio host in the audience, and, not long after, The Santaland Diaries made its debut on the airwaves, eventually finding a permanent home in the pages of Barrel Fever, the first book in Sedaris’s long and self-deprecating career.
Though new to Santaland , Rob Michaels digs on the story. Normally at work with Squamish’s Between Shifts theatre group, Michaels will be starring in the one-man Santaland on behalf of Euphoric Theatres from Dec. 18 to 20 at the Eagle Eye Theatre.
“It’s basically a first-person narrative about a guy who moved to New York and had no money,” he said. “He had to walk dogs and bug his mom for loans.”
And then, oh glorious day, he got a job as one of Santa’s little elves, though not before failing a drug test. Named Crumpet, this petulant little elf is supposed to find — or force — merriment in the chaos of candy canes, train sets, dancing penguins and coworkers named Jingle or Frosty. The children are scabby, and one of them is named “Great, a name that’s bound to get challenging when he’s old enough to sleep around.” When people threaten to fire Crumpet, he thinks about threatening to kill them. Funny stuff, and easy to relate to. Finally, there comes a magical moment that scrubs his belligerence, and he emerges slightly improved, a touch more empathetic — though not a ridiculous amount.
“It’s a basic Scrooge story,” Michaels says. “He’s a total Scrooge at first.”
If you ask Michaels about his worst job experience, he’ll hesitate. But not for long. It’s almost like he browses a handy, mental catalogue of awful job experiences, like he knows exactly what page he wants to get to, but just can’t help glancing at a few other entries along the way.
“I worked in the kitchen of a nursing home,” he says. “And that was fine. But there was an incident where one of the registered nurses was in a wing of the hospital. I came around the corner and, this nurse, I surprised her a bit. She dropped an old person’s diaper on the floor, and I laughed hysterically. I was asked not to come back. Apparently, it’s in poor taste to laugh at stuff like that.”