(GK: Garrison Keillor; SS: Sue Scott; TR: Tim Russell; FN: Fred Newman)

GK: Well, Santa, for somebody who's been travelling, you look pretty calm and rested ----

TR: Thank you.

GK: Kind of a tough night for you, Tuesday night. Having to land a sleigh on top of a snowy roof and do it over and over again.

TR: Well, practice makes perfect. And I'm lucky to be working with terrific reindeer. Really the best crew of reindeer I've ever had.

GK: You don't work with the same ones from year to year? Dasher and Dancer and Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen?

TR: I don't remember a Donner.

GK: There isn't a reindeer named Donner?

TR: You're thinking of the Donner Party----

GK: How about Comet and Cupid?

TR: What about them?

GK: They still work for you?

TR: We have a policy of not discussing personnel issues in public. It's part of our reindeer contract.

GK: A contract?

TR: The reindeer are primarily for promotional events and for the actual delivery, we're relying more on standard distribution, Postal Service and so forth, and in remote areas, we have robotic reindeer who lower pneumatic tubes into the chimneys and shoot the presents right into the living room ---- we have a number of crews out, they leapfrog, and I come in for the big jobs-----

GK: So you don't actually go down chimneys anymore?

TR: I go down a few. But chimneys have gotten pretty narrow with energy conservation, and also it just doesn't make sense to have the CEO making house calls, even though I did lose a lot of weight this year.

GK: I noticed you were slimmer.

TR: Got down to a hundred and seventy. I've been working out.

GK: No longer a bowlful of jelly.

TR: That's right. You don't need to be fat to be jolly. I learned that from Oprah.

GK: So it was a good Christmas?

TR: We missed a few. We ran out of some stuff that kids asked for. But we managed to bring presents to everybody, or just about everybody, and also to collect money for public radio ----

GK: You did? You got people to contribute to public radio?

TR: Well, they were sleeping at the time, but I felt that they would've wanted to contribute----

GK: What did you do? Leave them a note?

TR: No, just collected some spare change off the dressers----

GK: You what?????

TR: Lots of people have a bowl on the dresser that's full of change----

GK: You took money from people?

TR: Just small change.

GK: But that's stealing------

TR: I think of it as managed giving.

GK: It's theft.

TR: A person has to think outside of the box. It's a whole new paradigm these days.

GK: Evidently. So what's new at the North Pole?

TR: We're not at the North Pole anymore. We're in Mexico and Malaysia and the Philippines. Had to rationalize the operation. Labor costs in the Arctic have just gone through the roof. Health insurance for elves is just unbelievable. And the heating costs?? Hey. And that polar ice cap isn't gonna be there forever. So we moved the corporate offices of Christmas to White Plains and we're thinking about moving the day to February so it doesn't get all tangled up with the football season.

GK: Christmas in February??

TR: It's just one idea that's on the table.

GK: When in February?

TR: The fourteenth.

GK: Valentine's Day?

TR: It'd be a merger. We think there's some real synergy there. Maybe bring in Lincoln's birthday. Get the historical angle. We're thinking big picture. I don't know. It's all under discussion.

GK: Well thanks for stopping by, Santa. Happy Holidays.

TR: Thank you.

GK: Would you mind---

TR: What?

GK: You know----

TR: You want me to chuckle?

GK: Yes.


GK: Maybe more of a belly laugh.

TR: Don't have much belly anymore.

GK: Give it a try.

TR: Ho ho ho ho. Ho ho ho ho ho.

© Garrison Keillor 2002