David Sedaris became famous in 1992 for The Santaland Diaries, his scabrous, hilarious account of his stint working as an elf named Crumpet at Macy’s at Christmastime. The miserable working conditions he describes are leavened only by the intrigue of gay flirtation and romance among the male elves. The tale essentially launched his career, as a performing humorist, an NPR personality (the essay debuted as a segment on Morning Edition), and as a writer of short stories (it appeared in his first collection, 1994’s Barrel Fever). The story even became an off-Broadway play in 1996, a one-act monologue starring future Justified star Timothy Olyphant.
To this day, Santaland Diaries in its various incarnations, remains a seasonal favorite among the cynical, with its almost wistful moral: as Crumpet observes during his duties as a photographer elf, trying to get kids to stop crying long enough to pose for a keepsake snapshot on Santa’s lap, “It’s not about the child or Santa or Christmas or anything but the parents’ idea of a world they cannot make work for them.”