Over the past half-decade, husband and wife Harry Shearer and Judith Owen’s annual Holiday Sing-Along has become a welcomed tradition in the Big Easy. For the part-time residents, the show, which features a mix of original, comedic carols in addition to traditional holiday-themed tunes, is about more than bringing irreverent tidings of great joy: “I dress the stage as if it was my home. I decorate everything, and I make the whole room look as Christmas-y as humanly possible,” says Owen of the event that began in — and quickly grew out of — her and Shearer’s Santa Monica living room. “The most important thing for Harry and myself is music and laughter,” she goes on to say. “A song like ‘White Christmas,’ as corny as it is, a song like ‘Silent Night’ — which is truly a folk song for all us — there is nothing more beautiful that moves you more, that makes you feel more connected to other human beings in this world.”
For New Orleans, 2012 marks the first occasion that the couple will perform their Christmas play on more than one night. Next Tuesday and Wednesday (December 18 and 19), its longtime home, the Contemporary Arts Center will host the auteur-comedian-activist Shearer and his singer-songwriter wife’s mirthful misadventure, which en route will have swung through New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. “There’s no more uninhibited audience anywhere that I’ve ever been… They need no convincing, no cajoling,” says Shearer of the Crescent City, following Owen’s description of a New York couple who once refused to act out a lyric from the “12 Days of Christmas.”
The Sing-Along’s familial atmosphere extends beyond its much-anticipated audience participation segments, as in each city Shearer and Owen invite friends to join in the celebration. Under the musical direction of pianist Matt Lemmler, vocalists Phillip Manuel, Leah Chase and the Pfister Sisters, guitarist Phil deGruy, sousaphonist Matt Perrine and — as always — pianist Tom McDermott will partake in the festivities. In keeping with tradition, Shearer scripted an original holiday song to seal the eve. In this week’s episode of OffBeat’s Look-Ka Py Py Podcast, he reveals what prompted him to pen “When Santa Claus Came to Guantanamo Bay.” Listen below to hear his hilarious tale.