The Seinfeld author who gave the world Festivus reveals the origins of the vacation—invented by his father, not Frank Costanza, and that includes clocks and wailing youngsters slightly than the well-known pole—that are fairly darkish certainly.
Dan O’Keefe, who additionally labored on iconic exhibits reminiscent of Silicon Valley and Veep, joined The Each day Beast’s Fever Dreams podcast to speak about satire within the post-Trump age. However first, he gave hosts Will Sommer and Asawin Suebsaeng a surrealist tour by how Festivus got here to be.
“I imply this within the nicest means potential: My father was an undiagnosed bipolar, extreme alcoholic who nonetheless was extraordinarily high-functioning and held down a job as an editor on the Reader’s Digest and had a complicated diploma and was extraordinarily erudite,” O’Keefe explains, noting he “got here from an especially working-class background, which he was continuously making an attempt to ensure nobody knew about—and in so doing, he reminded everybody of it continuously. I believe the phrase is, ‘got here up from nothing and introduced it with him.’” O’Keefe’s father invented the vacation: “At one level he stated it was an anniversary for his first date with my mother, however he additionally stated lots of loopy shit… so who is aware of?
“It was a vacation that was distinctive to our household. That was ostensibly a power. And it didn’t have a set date.. in actual life it may simply occur each time the fuck he felt prefer it, or was extraordinarily hung over and needed to jump-start his synapses. In a single 12 months, there have been two for some motive; one 12 months, there have been none. You by no means knew when it was coming.”
And in contrast to the fictional Festivus—which featured an unadorned aluminum pole as its centerpiece (Frank Costanza discovered tinsel distracting)—“in actual life, there was no pole. There was a nail that he hammered into the wall within the early ’70s. And yearly he put a clock right into a bag and hung it on the wall. And the image of the vacation was a fucking clock in a bag for some motive… [and there] was a poem that referred to ‘clock and bag’. And it was rhymed—four-line stanzas with a really difficult rhyme scheme. And I don’t have a replica of it someplace and I’ll burn it earlier than I share it with anybody, not to mention you. It was very peculiar.”
One real-life function of the vacation that did make it into Seinfeld lore was the legendary Airing of Grievances. “It was only a very formalized setting for yelling at us,” O’Keefe notes. “Yeah, rising up, myself and my two brothers have been in a type of little one abuse that but wasn’t acknowledged as such by the state of New York, induced to carry out seasonal rituals.”
“They are saying, ‘Jerry thinks that is hilarious and we need to put it within the present.’ And I attempted to dissuade them.”
“Each time we requested him about [the clock and bag], he actually screamed at us—‘That’s not so that you can know,’ for some motive, that was what he stated. So we celebrated this factor and my brothers and I rapidly realized you don’t speak about this in school otherwise you get extra beatings than you’re already getting.”
O’Keefe had lengthy buried his recollections of Festivus—which was “patterned after the Roman Saturnalia and among the different holidays of antiquity … I believe it was to indicate that he knew who the Romans have been”—when he was at a celebration in L.A. with considered one of his brothers, “and my loud-mouth youthful brother opens his yap and mentions this bizarre household vacation referred to as Festivus. And I’m on Seinfeld on the time, and a few my co-workers are there they usually’re immediately throughout me, like flies on shit: ‘Wait, excuse me, what is that this?’ And I attempted to clarify it as calmly as I can, after which flip the subject away.”
However O’Keefe’s colleagues sensed comedian gold and lured him to a diner with a purpose to persuade him to incorporate Festivus within the present. “These will not be thugs. These are like the pinnacle writers of the present. One in every of them sits down, so I can’t depart. And so they say, ‘Jerry thinks that is hilarious and we need to put it within the present.’ And I attempted to dissuade them as convincingly as I may, saying, ‘I’ve the best love and respect for the present. I don’t suppose you need to try this to it. It’s finished nothing to deserve that.’ However they stated, ‘Look, it could actually go in your episode or another person’s.’ So I determine, fuck it, if this must be smeared onto the world, that I would as effectively be the hand doing the smearing.”
O’Keefe’s admits he downplayed the extra traumatic elements of his childhood ordeal within the writers’ room. “I attempted to maintain that shit on the down-low as a lot as potential and nonetheless do it. I don’t know why I’m telling you about it now … I actually didn’t carry it up as a lot as I may. But it surely appears, for those who take it out of context, like a really enjoyable, quirky Frank Costanza story, which was was.” And that’s how a household custom that concerned “all of the craziness of my dad ranting about politics of the Reader’s Digest C-suite and forcing my crying brother to sing a track in German for some motive” was the anti-Christmas celebration that Cosmo Kramer and Seinfeld followers love at the moment.
Later within the podcast, O’Keefe and the Fever Goals co-hosts additionally focus on how Festivus has been co-opted by Republican politics—for those who Google the phrases “Festivus Trump” you’ll see what they imply—and debate whether or not social and political satire can truly handle the Donald J. Trump presidency or whether or not it’s “simply too horrible and recent” for comedians to have the ability to make enjoyable of one thing “so already preposterous and absurd and terrible.”
O’Keefe additionally reveals that Trump’s presidency modified the story arc of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character on Veep. “We discovered when taking a look at these whiteboards that the bar for a corrupt, venal, and simply downright evil presidency had been significantly lowered or raised—whichever the right one is—and that what we had on the time put collectively, what appeared form of lacerating, it was form of quaint in a world the place it was steered that it is best to inject bleach into your self. So we needed to just about scrap Season 7 and rewrite the entire thing. And what it ended up being is, I wish to name it a comedic Breaking Dangerous.
“It exhibits the Selena [Meyer] character subverting an election with international help and permitting and inspiring a loyal underling to go to the penitentiary—and simply turning into a monster.”