Various artists

Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics
(American)

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut may have been as vulgar and potty-mouthed as any movie ever made, but what was really remarkable about it was what an exuberant, toe-tapping musical it was. There were classic-style show tunes about avuncular incest and nationalist hatred and the private yearnings of Satan himself, and some of us have been humming them for months now.

We're likely to be doing the same with this South Park holiday album. Songwriter Trey Parker and his co-producer and fellow performer Matt Stone, working again with the greatly gifted composer and arranger (and, apparently, good sport) Marc Shaiman, have come up with a series of hilarious, devastating and listenable parodies of the increasingly creepy genre of commercial holiday pop.

If anything, this album tops the fine Bigger, Longer & Uncut soundtrack both in outrageousness and musical excellence.

For the uninitiated, Mr. Hankey is the cable cartoon's much-beloved anthropomorphic Christmas character in the style of Frosty the Snowman -- he's a human turd with a happy face, a Santa cap and a little green scarf, who sings in a high falsetto voice. The opening cut on the CD, an ostensible "Early '50s Recording Performed by Cowboy Timmy," explains the story in nauseating terms: "Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo/Small and brown, he comes from you . . ."

This is followed by "Merry Fucking Christmas," an ode to international interfaith holiday well-wishing by South Park's third-grade teacher, Mr. Garrison:

On Christmas Day
I travel 'round the world and say
Taoists, Krishnas, Buddhists
And all you atheists, too
Merry fucking Christmas to you!

Semitic Yuletide alienation is explored in "The Lonely Jew on Christmas" ("I'm a Jew, a lonely Jew/I can't be merry, 'cause I'm Hebrew . . .") and a great version of "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel." Adolf Hitler sings a wistful "O Tannenbaum" and is cheered up by Satan, who sings the rousing "Christmastime in Hell." This describes a holiday party attended by Jeffrey Dahmer, Mao Tse-tung, Michael Landon, Princess Diana, Gene Siskel and JFKs Sr. and Jr.

For one day we all stop burning

And the flames are not so thick

All the screaming and the torture stops

As we wait for ol' Saint Nick!

Best of all, maybe, is the great Isaac Hayes' Chef, who had only a minor appearance on the movie soundtrack. He gets a whole juicy cut to himself this time, a lascivious version of "What Child Is This?":

What child is this
You've laid to rest
At my feet? This is not the time.
I know that I'm not responsible
It's white, so it cannot be mine . . .

Quoting these lyrics may not do them justice; they may read simply as sophomoric crudity. The achingly acute music is what gives them their effect. It's all gasp-inducingly scandalous, but it's also satirically valid, because it's based on a fairly logical extension of fundamentalist-Christian literalism, xenophobia, and other widely accepted mainstream-American cultural values.

Of course, if Parker, Stone and Shaiman were pretentious enough to regard themselves as social critics, this would come across as insufferably smarmy and sour. Happily, they're just childish jokers, seeing what they can get away with. As a result, Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics comes across as surprisingly . . . well, festive.

 
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