Chaos of Christmas
We may be a few weeks away from it, but it’s really beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And while it is of course a time for celebration and good cheer, let’s face it: it can be a little stressful as well. Indeed, one might even call the holiday season ... agonising.
How appropriate then that the ABC is airing The Agony of Christmas, a yuletide edition of the popular series that began with Agony Aunts and Agony Uncles before tackling the big issues of existence in The Agony of Life.
Written, directed and hosted by Adam Zwar, this special asks the all- important question: if Christmas is meant to be a time for peace and love, why does it throw so many lives into turmoil?
Couples tend to break up. Workers will often behave boorishly at office parties. Family members can end up at each other’s throats.
So how can someone avoid the pitfalls of Christmas? The esteemed line- up of Agony regulars – including Kate Langbroek, Rob Carlton, twentysomething’s Jess Harris and the father- and- son team of John and Tom Elliott – are on hand to offer advice on everything from gracefully accepting a disappointing gift through to diplomatically dealing with unruly in- laws.
Among the smart cookies sharing their wisdom is stand- up comedian, author and broadcaster Dave O’Neil, who claims to have his share of good Christmas experiences and bad.
For instance, hosting a family meal for his parents, in- laws and assorted kids ( including three of his own) a few years back saw him washing dishes until midnight and waking up on Boxing Day with a blinding migraine.
And even though he and his clan are spending Christmas Day at his sisterin- law’s place this year, something about which O’Neil sounds audibly relieved, there are still many, many tasks he has to perform to make Christmas merry for his family, friends and acquaintances.
“Well, my daughter keeps asking me when we’re getting our tree,” he groans.
If he can help it, though, one job he’ll be avoiding this year is putting on a Santa Claus suit. “As a large man, I do have to put on the costume occasionally and play Santa at work functions or kindergarten parties,” he said. “It’s quite traumatic.”
Surely there was a time in O’Neil’s life when Christmas was a time for merriment and relaxation, though, right? Maybe when he was a kid?
“Yeah, Christmas is quite full- on now – it’s a bit over-
OK, Dave, how about your 20s, when you were footloose and fancy- free? Surely the glitzy world of stand- up comedy had its share of rockin’ Christmas bashes?
“No, they weren’t that good,” said O’Neil. “I usually ended up performing at Christmas parties rather than going to them. And you’d see all these patterns forming, like someone bringing their partner, who just seems disturbed at everything that’s happening, or someone who was sacked halfway through the year but still feels entitled to show up to the Christmas party anyway.”
Those days are long gone now, though, and the extent of O’Neil’s professional Christmas duties run to appearing on The Agony of Christmas and a Christmas Day edition of his panel show Tractor Monkeys.
“We had a really good time making the Christmas special,” he said. “But anything’s good if I don’t have to put on the Santa suit again.” The Agony of Christmas, Wednesday, December 18, ABC1, 8.30pm