Chaos of Christ­mas

Guy Davis

Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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