“If you’re looking for something tart to cut the holiday sweetness, Shaffer offers a naughty little treat.” — The Gazette
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like F*ck This is an off-beat collection of Christmas parodies, essays, poems, and cartoons by New York Times bestselling humorist Andrew Shaffer.
Previously published as The Shelf on the Elf, this newly-expanded holiday cult classic has it all: holiday pickles, talking lambs, and knife-wielding maniacs.
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About the Author
He has appeared as a guest on FOX News, CBS, and NPR, and has been published in McSweeney's, Mental Floss, and Maxim.
An Iowa native, Shaffer lives in Lexington, Kentucky with his wife, novelist Tiffany Reisz.
Read an Excerpt
THE CHRISTMAS SNITCH A PARODY
Have you ever wondered how Santa Claus knows if you're naughty or nice every year when it snows?
Since olden days, it's been a closely-kept secret.
I'll tell you the truth, so long as you don't leak it.
Every December, Santa sends me your way to watch everything that you do and you say.
My orders come from the jolly fat man himself.
I'm his eyes and his ears, a little old elf.
When I arrive you must give me a name, something like Fanny or Merkin or Zane.
Girl names and boy names, whatever you choose.
My gender is fluid — any name will do!
Every night when you're tucked in and asleep, I'll fly to the North Pole with one magic leap.
While you're snoring away at home in your bed, I'll tell Santa everything you've done and you've said.
If you've broken even one little rule (like not washing your hands after using the stool), on Santa's naughty list your name shall be writ, and this year for Christmas coal is all ye shall get.
I'll be back in your house before the sun is up, and at first you may think that I've gone missing.
That's because I won't be where I was yesterday, I'm somewhere new in your home, hidden away ...
I could be in the kitchen or bathroom or den, or on an exercise bike watching CNN.
I could be in the fridge or the oven — who knows!
When it comes to hiding spaces, anything goes.
Oh look, you've found me — that was quick.
You're a clever one, so full of tricks!
You have something to show me, you say?
You want me to get on my knees and pray?
I don't understand, this isn't much fun.
That thing in your hands ... is that a gu —
REGRET Last Christmas, I gave you my heart.
Then, because I didn't have any way to pump blood throughout my body and supply oxygen and nutrients to my brain tissue, I died.
LAW & ORDER: A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS EPISODE A PARODY DET. BRISCOE: (arrives at crime scene) Jesus Christ, I can smell the eggnog from here. Who's the human popsicle?
DET. GREEN: Deceased female. Caucasian. Estimate she's around seventy, eighty.
DET. BRISCOE: Name?
DET. GREEN: No identification. We've just been calling her "Grandma."
DET. BRISCOE: So Grandma gets plastered on Christmas Eve and walks out into a snowstorm. Who's the idiot that called homicide?
DET. GREEN: She didn't die of exposure. Take a look at her back.
DET. BRISCOE: (bends down for a closer look at the corpse, which is on its side)
DET. GREEN: Looks like someone took a sword and slashed her from shoulder to waist. The cut goes through her coat.
DET. BRISCOE: Could be from a runner, given the time of year.
DET. GREEN: A runner?
DET. BRISCOE: The metal on the bottom of an ice skate or a sled. It broke her skin, but barely. She got any other injuries?
DET. GREEN: See those bruises on her forehead? The ones that look like hoof-prints? Touch one of 'em and it's like touching a rotten apple.
DET. BRISCOE: I'll take your word for it.
DET. GREEN: Guessing that's the cause of death, right there. The strange thing is, we couldn't find any tire tracks around. The snow's been coming down, but her footprints are still here, so ...
DET. BRISCOE: It's a hit and run.
DET. GREEN: Didn't you hear me? There aren't any tire tracks —
DET. BRISCOE: That's because she wasn't hit by a car.
DET. GREEN: You don't think ...
DET. BRISCOE: (nods) Grandma got run over by a reindeer.
FRONTLINE IN THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS AN ESSAY In 2009, I was a guest on FOX News — and lived to tell the tale.
"Merry Christmas or happy holidays? Which strategy should retailers use to cash in? Here for a fair and balanced debate is Andrew Shaffer, owner of the Order of St. Nick [greeting card company]," FOX & Friends host Steve Doocy explained to the television audience.
It was 6:24 AM at the FOX News studios in New York — an early hour by anyone's watch, but it was 5:24 AM in Des Moines, Iowa, where I was live via satellite. My fiancée had grilled me late into the previous night with questions that we expected a FOX News host would ask a heathen guest, such as, "Where are your horns?" and "Why do you hate America?" It had taken a hotel wake-up call, two cell phone alarms, a Red Bull, and a gas station coffee just to pry my eyes halfway open.
Greg Stielstra, a Christian marketing expert, joined the conversation from the FOX & Friends set. Greg's position was that, by using the secular greeting "happy holidays" in advertising and store displays instead of "Merry Christmas," retailers risk alienating a majority of their customers. This wasn't semantics; this was war.
GREG: Businesses play a numbers game. They carry the most popular products. They open their stores in the busiest intersections. If 96% of the population is celebrating Christmas, and 77% consider themselves Christians, why wouldn't you speak to Christmas as a retailer?
STEVE: All right. Andrew, what do you make of that argument?
ME: I actually agree with that. I think that if you're trying to reach the widest possible audience, that's a great strategy.
The atheist — I'm actually agnostic, if you want to get technical — and the Christian, finding common ground? The debate was over before it had even begun. It remains, to this day, three of the least-riveting minutes of television ever produced by a major cable news channel (and that includes every episode of Larry King Live). It wasn't a total disaster — at least I hadn't fallen asleep on the air, something I'm pretty sure that Larry King has done.
While Christians are usually portrayed as the defensive side in the War on Christmas, they fired one of the first shots in 1870 when President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill into law declaring Christmas Day a federal holiday. If this sounds like a possible violation of the constitutional separation of church and state to you, you're not alone. Ohio lawyer Richard Ganulin sued the federal government in 1998 to have Christmas Day removed from the list of federal holidays. The lawsuit was tossed out. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, upholding a lower court's dismissal of Ganulin's lawsuit, ruled that the 1870 law does not constitute an endorsement of Christianity by the government.
Case closed, right? Not so fast: State and local governments are not required to recognize federal holidays. In the late 20th century, city council and PTA meetings have become the de facto battlegrounds for the heart and soul of Christmas. If your children attend a public school in the United States, there is a reasonable chance they don't take two weeks off for Christmas break — it's likely they're being forced to enjoy a "holiday break" or a "winter break" instead. Christians are "asked to celebrate something they don't celebrate — winter — as if they are pagans in the Roman Empire," FOX News host John Gibson writes in The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought.
Gibson views the usage of "happy holidays" and "winter break" as evidence of a vast conspiracy to eliminate Christmas from the public sphere. The bad guys, it turns out, are not just "professional atheists" but are, in fact, "mostly liberal white Christians." According to Gibson, the nefarious plot against Christianity is the work of ACLU lawyers, school superintendents, and city council members — many of whom are Christian — afraid of running afoul of the constitutional separation of church and state. They've taken the law into their own hands, re-branding Christmas trees as "friendship trees" and stopping children from handing out candy canes. One misguided soul even banned red and green decorations altogether in his school.
The Supreme Court has consistently protected expressions of Christmas on government property and in public schools. As long as a Christmas display is not entirely composed of religious symbols, for instance, court precedents point to letting things slide. This has led to the Supreme Court's stance being mockingly nicknamed the "Three Reindeer Rule." With enough secular reindeer, snowmen, and elves, the religiosity of a display can be diminished to acceptable levels.
The War on Christmas isn't limited to skirmishes over the separation of church and state. Businesses are the latest grinches to enter the fray. Right-wing media had a proverbial field day with Walmart, Sears, and Target when they started using the term "happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" in the 2000s.
"I think it's all part of the secular progressive agenda ... to get Christianity and spirituality out of the public square," FOX News's Bill O'Reilly said. "Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born. Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable." Conservative Christian groups now maintain lists of "naughty and nice" retailers that concerned citizens can consult to find out who's celebrating Christmas and who's celebrating "the holidays."
By December 2005, Christmas was under siege from all sides: in our schools, in our townhalls, and in our most hallowed grounds (retail stores). But at least the federal government still supported Christmas.
Then, the unthinkable happened: President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura sent a "holiday" card.
When the biggest, baddest Christians in America dropped the H-bomb on the 1.4 million people on their Christmas card list, all hope for the future of "Merry Christmas" was lost. The white flag had finally been waved. To paraphrase John Lennon, "War is over now ... happy holidays."
After the White House slight, the word "Christmas" suddenly felt dangerous and sexy. In 2007, I started Order of St. Nick, a greeting card company specializing in humorous Christmas cards. The most popular designs were a line of six tongue-in-cheek "atheist Christmas cards."
By some estimates, up to fifteen percent of Americans consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or otherwise unaffiliated with any religion. If ninety-six percent of Americans celebrates Christmas, that means there is a large segment of the population that Hallmark and American Greetings had never spoken to directly: Santa-loving, tree-decorating, carol-singing non-believers.
The atheist Christmas cards struck a nerve. Comedian Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, gave me an on-air tongue-lashing that I will never forget:
A wag of my finger at the Order of St. Nick greeting card company.
Now I always thought that any card that was blank inside was already atheist. You open it up and see nothing but a void.
Once atheists start sending Christmas cards, how long before they are including their year-end atheist family updates? [...] "Sadly, Grandpa passed away this year, but at least we know he's not in a better place. He's decomposing. Merry X-Mas."
Order of St. Nick sold thousands of atheist Christmas cards after The Colbert Report aired. The cards didn't mock Christianity or cry for attention with cheap shock value like the drawings of Santa Claus nailed to a cross that teenage atheists doodle in their notebooks every December. The Darwin-as-Santa image was a sincere expression of my belief of Christmas's unique ability to bridge the gaps between believers and non-believers.
For many, Christmas is already a secular holiday; believing in the Christian God is no longer a requisite for celebrating the day of His birth. The world's most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, exchanges gifts with his family and loves singing traditional Christmas carols. "I am perfectly happy on Christmas day to say Merry Christmas to everybody," he told Radio Four's Today program.
Dawkins is not alone. The Christmas season has become a time for families, regardless of religious affiliation, to get together, exchange gifts, eat cookies, and revel in "the hap-happiest time of the year." Celebrating Christmas without subscribing to Christianity is like watching the Super Bowl without having watched a single regular season football game all year. Some people watch the Super Bowl for the commercials; others watch it for the halftime show. Diehard NFL fans might turn their noses up at the party-crashers, but I submit that there are some spectacles so awesome that people can't help but be sucked in by their gravitational pull. Christmas sits like a black hole on the calendar, and the other holidays implied by "happy holidays"— Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, New Year's Day, etc. — are powerless to be drawn in by its force. No matter how thorough a semantic cover-up job we do, we all know The Holiday Whose Name We Shall Not Speak.
Moreover, Christmas is no longer limited to countries with Christian majorities. Christmas is beginning to show up in places where Christianity has never taken hold, such as Japan and China. Several Chinese men and women I spoke with on a trip to Guangzhou, China, a few years ago recognized Santa Claus' familiar visage ... but couldn't pick Baby Jesus out of a nativity scene.
Secular Christmas is already here.
The "church and state" court cases, the verbal wrangling over "happy holidays"— the War on Christmas that is being fought primarily in the United States, Canada, and, to an extent, the United Kingdom — feels so unnecessary by comparison.
Even as an agnostic, I feel some of Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson's pain when the War on Christmas claims another town hall display or department store ad. Can't we just back off Baby Jesus? Hasn't He been through enough already? Perhaps I've just been beaten into submission. Perhaps a more passionate non-believer would not concede points to a FOX News host and a faith-based marketer on national television. Perhaps I should take offense at nativity scenes on city property; perhaps I should roll my eyes every time someone says that "Jesus is the reason for the season."
But I'm an agnostic, not a vampire. I don't need to cringe at the sight of a cross in a school Christmas pageant. Christmas has given all of us so much to be thankful for. Without Christmas, there would be no It's a Wonderful Life, no Miracle on 34th Street, no Die Hard. We wouldn't have Dickens's A Christmas Carol or Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel. And, growing up, I would never have received so many Transformers, Nintendo video games, and JC Penney sweaters. Without the warm fuzzies created in our hearts by our collective Christmas spirit and shortened workweeks, Seasonal Affective Disorder would reach epidemic proportions every December in the northern hemisphere. As atheist Judith Hayes writes, "Life is difficult and short. If we can add some merriment to it, we should go for it. Every time."
DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, Do you know what I know?
A child, a child Shivers in the cold.
Let us bring him silver and gold.
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king, Do you want to buy a talking lamb?
Said the mighty king to the shepherd boy, What about that business with the kid?
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king, I said he talks, not that he makes any goddamn sense.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like F*ck This"
Copyright © 2018 Andrew Shaffer.
Excerpted by permission of 8th Circle Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The True Meaning of Christmas,
The Christmas Snitch,
Law & Order: A Very Special Christmas Episode,
Frontline In the War on Christmas,
Do You Hear What I Hear?,
The World is Going to Shit,
Hiding the Holiday Pickle,
An Earl Grey Christmas,
Some Good News and Bad News About Santa,
A Terrible Joke Only '90s Kids Will Get,
The Murders Across the Street from the Rue Whorehouse: A Christmas Story,
Some Thoughts For a Bleak Midwinter Night,
About the Author,
Also by Andrew Shaffer,