The Story of a… Bad Santa
GREG THOMPSON, 46, is busy this time of year as a for-hire Santa Claus. But at office parties, his rendition of St. Nick is for mature audiences only.
“Bad Santa will come in with a pillow case on his back. He has a black eye, his beard is pulled down around his chin and you can see his stubble,” Thompson says. When he bursts (or stumbles) into the corporate holiday party, Bad Santa is preceded by a wafting halo of cigar smoke. His first words: “Where’s the bar?”
“I usually get asked, ‘Hey Santa, how’d you get the black eye?’ I’ll tell them, ‘I got it from an elf. But it’s OK. Now he’s doing Wizard of Oz down the street.’”
Thompson’s St. Nick is not like the Billy Bob Thornton character in the movie Bad Santa, but a “grown-up alternative” to Santa. “I think you can do comedy without being crass and vulgar.”
“One thing I do is read The Chright Before Nistmas.” Better known as The Night Before Christmas. “Everyone gathers around and I’ll read the book, every few lines stop and take a swig of (non-alcoholic) beer. The further into the story I read the more I start to mess up the words. Then it becomes the ‘Booger-Slum fairies…’ Everyone laughs and gets a kick out of it.”
The slurring is all part of the act. “People always want to buy Bad Santa a drink. So I let them. But I never want to drink at parties.”
Not all parties are fun to work. “The parties when I arrive and everyone is already drunk” are the worst, Thompson says. “I like to get there early before everyone gets too intoxicated.”
Bad Santa does have a few pet peeves. “I don’t like when people think they can come up and be rude and crude to Bad Santa. They think he’s here to be made fun of.”
Some encounters are unavoidable at every Christmas party. “I always get a woman who is drunk and wants to flirt with Bad Santa. There was one, she came up, rubbed her back against me and asked if she could sit on my knee because she had been naughty.” Bad Santa’s retort: “I tell them they are getting coal in their stockings and move on.”
“At a construction company party, one guy wanted to keep bumping into me really hard. He literally body-slammed me. This was the same guy who was carrying around a six pack of beer he grabbed from the open bar when they announced last call.”
Avoiding confrontations is a good rule of being Bad Santa. Thompson has 25 rules he follows when portraying Santa, but he considers them trade secrets.
Spreading holiday cheer with Thompson as Bad Santa costs $175 an hour.
“I could do Bad Santa in front of children, but I don’t want to. Once a kid saw me at a restaurant and asked me if I was Santa. I said, ‘No, I’m not Santa. I’m the dishwasher.’”