SETTING: A stage decorated in festive holiday spirit: with oodles of garlands, glitter and greenery. Potted poinsettias are interspersed on either side of three podiums. Each podium is decorated with the Travelocity logo, surrounded by glittery snowflakes. A number of familiar-looking holiday characters stand behind the podiums, looking nervous. At a downstage table, stage right, the moderator is sitting, a gnome. His red, cone-like hat has been decorated with white trim to resemble a Santa hat.
GNOME: Good evening and welcome to the first annual Travelocity Holiday Spokesman Debate, designed to help you choose a holiday spokesman. I am your host, the Travelocity Roaming Gnome, and I booked this trip on Travelocity, so I can be reasonably assured I will not have a lighting rig dropped on my head.
(A LIGHTING RIG CRASHES TWO FEET FROM THE GNOME, TAKING OUT A POTTED POINSETTIA.)
GNOME: First question: all those who thought that was a predictable joke, please raise your hand.
(THE CANDIDATES LOOK AWKWARDLY AT EACH OTHER. IN A SMALL CRIB DOWNSTAGE, STAGE LEFT, A BABY-SIZED HAND RAISES INTO THE AIR.)
GNOME: Right. You're out!
(TWO GOONS DRESSED IN ELF COSTUMES WHEEL THE CRIB OFFSTAGE.)
GNOME: There's no place for that sort of honesty in commercial marketing.
Now, let me introduce our remaining candidates, starting with Frosty the Snowman, the most amazing pile of snow you'll ever meet. He's been thumping around since 1950, when he appeared in a Gene Autry song. He's the true outsider in this competition, because if he comes inside, he'll melt.
Next is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, immortalized by Gene Autry in a 1949 song. He's Santa's go-to flying mammal and was recently spotted doing the Antler Dance at a first-grade party in Topeka, Kansas.
And on the far end is the Grinch, first appearing in a 1957 Dr. Seuss book and then starring in a 1966 TV special. His Gloomy Greenness has had a heart transplant to correct his congenital nastiness.
Here are tonight's ground rules. I'll be asking questions which pop into my head. Each candidate gets 30 seconds to answer. If I believe a rebuttal is called for, I will allow a 10-second response. Otherwise, keep that comment stowed in your overhead rack. And just a reminder: tonight's winner will face off against Santa Claus in next week's finals, which may or may not involve a cage fight. That's up to you, viewers, so remember to vote!
Let's start with the economy. In these trying times, what do you say to the family who can't afford Christmas gifts? Starting with you, Frosty.
FROSTY: People get presents at Christmas? Neat-o! Will I get one, too?
GNOME: (LAUGHS) I should explain to the audience that, while Frosty has been around since 1950, he melts every spring and has to be reincarnated every winter. We had some kids build him just before the show, and then they placed the magic hat on his head. Show them how the hat works, Frosty.
(FROSTY REMOVES HIS HAT AND IMMEDIATELY FREEZES IN PLACE)
GNOME: Rudolph, what would you say to a family that can't afford Christmas presents?
RUDOLPH: (IN AN EXTREMELY CHIPPER HIGH VOICE) Don't worry, families! With my help, Santa and his magic sleigh full of presents will get through!
GNOME: (BANGING HIS NOTECARDS ON THE DESK) Riiiiight. OK, Grinch. What do you tell those needy families?
GRINCH: I used to think you needed presents and trees and roast beast to be happy on the holidays, but then I dressed up in a poor excuse for a Santa suit, broke and entered into an entire neighborhood, stole all the holiday gear from the Whos down in Whoville, loaded it all onto a dangerously overloaded sled, after which I whipped my poor doggie, dressed as a reindeer, into pulling it up a snow-covered precipice until it seemed like his little legs were going to collapse. Just as the little dog was about to go over a cliff with his dangerous load, I reached a revelation...
GNOME: Time's up! Moving on to question number two.
(GRINCH LOOKS VISIBLY UPSET, OPENING AND CLOSING HIS MOUTH SILENTLY SEVERAL TIMES)
GNOME: What is the true meaning of Christmas? Frosty?
(FROSTY IS STILL FROZEN IN PLACE AND SAYS NOTHING)
RUDOLPH: (LOOKING AT FROSTY) Shouldn't we put his hat back on so he can answer the questions?
GNOME: I don't know. Should you?
RUDOLPH: (HOLDING UP HIS HOOVES) (PLAINTIVELY) But I don't have any hands!
GNOME: (SHRUGS) I guess not, then. Rudolph, the question was: what is the true meaning of Christmas?
RUDOLPH: (WEEPS INCONSOLABLY INTO HIS HOOVES) Why are you so mean?
GNOME: Unconventional, but I'll accept it. Grinch, what's the true meaning of Christmas?
GRINCH: (WALKS ACROSS THE STAGE AND PLACES THE HAT BACK ON FROSTY'S HEAD) There you go, my frosty friend.
FROSTY: (MOVING AGAIN) I'm alive! I'm alive! Let's dance! (SINGING) Thumpety thump thump, thumpety thump thump, look at Frosty go. Thumpety thump thump, thumpety thump thump...
GNOME: (INTERRUPTING) Let me remind our competitors that in order to give a rebuttal, you need to ask my permission first. Frosty, you get one demerit point.
FROSTY: What's a demerit point?
GNOME: Don't worry about it. You need three of them before we start cranking up the heat in the studio. Am I the only one who's freezing in here?
(FROSTY, RUDOLPH AND GRINCH LOOK AT EACH OTHER AND SHRUG)
GRINCH: I'm good. This is much warmer than my mountain cave, actually.
RUDOLPH: Compared to the North Pole, it feels like a sauna.
GNOME: Moving on to question number three. What's your favorite holiday treat and why?
FROSTY: You get treats on the holidays? Oh, boy! I think I'll try some hot chocolate!
GNOME: Sure, why not? We have some in the green room. You can have it after the show. Rudolph, what's your favorite holiday treat?
RUDOLPH: Carrots. Yummy, crispy carrots. "Bunnies like carrots, hop, hop, hop." That's what reindeer mommies tell baby reindeer to get them to eat their carrots. (GIGGLES)
GNOME: Ohhhh-kay, then. Grinchy-poo, what's your favorite holiday treat?
GRINCH: Did you just call me Grinchy-poo?
GNOME: Never heard of it. How do you make "Did you just call me Grinchy-poo"? Adorksayswhat.
GRINCH: What? (THEN, REALIZING THE LAME JOKE) (CRYING) Why are you so mean?
(RUDOLPH REACHES UP A HOOF TO COMFORT GRINCH, PATTING HIM ON THE SHOULDER)
GNOME: And now, question number four. What are your thoughts on the so-called war on Christmas?
FROSTY: (LOOKING SCARED) There's a war on Christmas? Are they going to shoot me?
GNOME: (SHRUGS) Who knows?
FROSTY: (RUNS TERRIFIED OFF THE STAGE, SHOUTING) Somebody give me shelter! They're going to shoot me! (JUST BEFORE THE EDGE OF THE STAGE, HIS HAT FLIES OFF, AND HE REMAINS FROZEN IN A RUNNING POSITION)
GNOME: Rudolph, what are your thoughts on the war on Christmas?
RUDOLPH: I think it's wrong to be mean to anybody. You should accept them for who they are, because they might be really special inside. And definitely don't shoot them.
GRINCH: As someone who used to wage a war on Christmas, I have a lot to say about this subject. You see, I used to be annoyed by all the Whos singing their happy little songs around their tree, holding hands like a paper chain of saps. I used to hate the way they tooted their ridiculous, fantastical instruments, and the smell of their sumptuous holiday feasts -- which, you can imagine, was difficult for a hermit like me to smell, living on pine cones and gruel, as I was. I used to hate everything about the way they celebrated, but then I learned an important lesson. On the holidays, it's more important to...
GNOME: And that's time! Thanks, contestants, for joining us.
GRINCH: That's it? Don't we even get closing statements?
GNOME: Viewers at home, cast your votes now to decide who will face off against Santa next week and whether it will be a traditional debate or a cage fight.
GRINCH: (AS THE CREDITS BEGIN TO ROLL) This isn't a debate! It's a trav...
GNOME: Travelocity commercial, that's right! If tonight's contestants had booked their trips through Travelocity, none of this would have happened.
Who won the debate?
What should the finals with Santa be like?
What question would you like to ask the finalists?
Many thanks to spydielives, who helped me brainstorm and without whom this delicious trifle would never have existed.