Spoiler alert: Don't play the video clips (below) unless you have already enjoyed the annual television extravaganza.
There is a great American holiday tradition that flies under the radar annually. It's not only funny, but heartwarming and wildly entertaining.
Every December 23rd, or the last weeknight before Christmas Eve, Late Night with David Letterman celebrates the holiday season with a special show that is not advertised or hyped. This show feels like a secret Xmas gift from Dave and the gang to me. I love this show as much as anything I've ever watched on TV.
While the longstanding traditions of the show don't sound like much in isolation, taken together they make one of the most rewarding hours of television each year.
After the monologue and usual opening bits, the festivities begin in earnest when Dave pleads with Paul Shaffer to do his impression of Cher singing, "Oh, Holy Night," just like she did on a Sonny and Cher Christmas Special, featuring guest star William Conrad, more than thirty years ago.
The impression is as absurd as the hilarious details setting up the historic musical recreation. Dave laughs with the joy known to lifelong buddies who can cause each other to burst into hysterics with the motion an eyebrow or the mention of one word.
Next, actor/comedian/radio host/raconteur, Jay Thomas comes out to fulfill two sacred holiday traditions.
1) He tells the story of being a young long-haired "herbed-up" North Carolina DJ working a promotion at a car dealership and the ensuing car accident involving the Lone Ranger. The story gets better every year with each retelling. Once again you share Dave's glee.
2) Then Jay joins Dave in a challenge of throwing a football to try and knock the meatball of the top of the Christmas Tree. It doesn't matter why there is a meatball at the top of the Christmas tree, all you need to know is that in 1998 Dave had NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde as his guest. It was the night before Christmas (Eve) and Dave challenged Vinny to knock the meatball of the tree. After repeated failed attempts by both Dave and Vinny, Jay Thomas, waiting in the green room to come on the show ran out on the stage, grabbed a ball and triumphantly hits the meatball with his first shot. Henceforth, a holiday miracle gets repeated each year.
The telecast ends with Darlene Love and a large ensemble singing Christmas (Baby Won't You Please Come Home). Love brings down the house with the song from the classic album, A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Specter. Each year, Paul and Dave argue that this is the greatest Xmas song ever. They may just be right.
My gift to you is a reminder to set your TIVO, DVR or VCR for CBS at 11:35 PM (10:35 Central) on December 23, 2009.
Have a safe, happy, healthy and musical holiday filled with joy!
Follow Gary Stager on Twitter: www.twitter.com/garystager