The Sound of Young America Holiday Special 2010

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Ronnie Spector
Guests: 
Fred Schneider
Guests: 
Tasha Robinson
Guests: 
Kyle Ryan

A holiday extravaganza!

Interviews with:

Ronnie Spector, the very bubbly and Christmas-spirit filled lead singer of legendary 60s girl group The Ronettes, performed what became Christmas classics on A Christmas Gift for You, and she's recorded some new songs to add to the list with Ronnie Spector's Best Christmas Ever. (Transcript)

Fred Schneider is best known as the frontman of the new wave group The B-52s. Hear some of his signature talk-singing and tracks from his band The Superions' Destination… Christmas! (Transcript)

And finally, a visit from Tasha Robinson and Kyle Ryan of The AV Club for a holiday gift guide including Bruce Springsteen's The Promise box set, The Goonies, Simpsons World: The Ultimate Episode Guide, and The Secret of Kells. (Transcript)

Plus some of our favorite holiday music. It's all in one big, fun, festive show, and we hope you enjoy it. Happy Holidays!

Jump to our transcripts here.

JESSE THORN: Welcome to The Sound of Young America Holiday Special, I’m Jesse Thorn. We’ve got a full plate of holiday goodies for you, so pack your stockings and roast your hams, all that good holiday stuff. Coming up on the show we’ll talk with a Christmas legend, Ronnie Spector. As a member of The Ronettes she recorded some of the greatest Christmas music ever made. We’ll talk with her about that, some of her new music, and about some of the gentlemen that she flirted with when she was in her prime.

RONNIE SPECTOR: John Lennon was cockeye over me. He took me in this back room at Déco Records, and I almost had to use a whip to get that guy out of the room.

JESSE THORN: Plus we’ve got the legendary Fred Schneider of the B-52s. His band The Superions have a new Christmas record and he has an important holiday announcement for everyone.

FRED SCHNEIDER: Give me presents!

JESSE THORN: That’s all coming up on The Sound of Young America Holiday Special. First, here’s the Martian Kids Choir from one of my favorite Christmas films, Santa Claus vs. The Martians, with “Hooray for Santa Claus.”

JESSE THORN: That was The Martian Kids Choir from Santa Claus vs. The Martians with their smash hit, “Hooray for Santa Claus.” It’s The Sound of Young America Holiday Special.

My guest on The Sound of Young America is Ronnie Spector. She made her name as a member of The Ronettes. They were the centerpiece of the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” and a beautiful centerpiece at that. Ronnie was still a teenager when she started recording, and the only thing bigger than her ambitions was her hair. With The Ronettes she recorded some of the greatest Christmas music ever on the legendary Phil Spector Presents A Christmas Gift to You album. Now she’s got a brand new Christmas record, Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever.

Ronnie Spector, it’s really a pleasure to have you on The Sound of Young America, thank you for doing this.

RONNIE SPECTOR: Hi Jesse, it’s great being here, especially for Young America. And I love Christmas.

JESSE THORN: I was listening to your EP and there’s this wonderful little interlude about you asking your father where Santa Claus was going to come into the house. I grew up in a city without a fireplace, myself, and I remember having that very same conversation.

RONNIE SPECTOR: No kidding?

JESSE THORN: Yeah, absolutely.

RONNIE SPECTOR: Oh, Jesse. I remember I was around six or seven years old, and I was so in love with Christmas and Santa and Frosty and all that stuff, and I remember being in school, and the books always had Santa with the black boots on coming down the chimney. So I asked my father, I said, “We don’t have a chimney! How’s he going to get here?” I was so upset and frustrated, and he said, “Ronnie, Santa is coming down the fire escape.” I was so happy, Jesse, I ran to my room, I put the covers over my head, and I fell fast asleep. And that’s a true story.

JESSE THORN: Was singing part of your Christmases as a kid?

RONNIE SPECTOR: Of course, that was how it all started. I was six years old and I remember my mother taking - - my mother was a waitress. And she stood up on her feet all day, and I just had to go sit on Santa’s lap. So my mother took me to Macy’s, and I felt so bad as I grew older to remember, wow, my mother stood up on her feet all day as a waitress, and then she took me to see Santa Claus at Macy’s, and we had to stand on line for two hours, and I said Mom, I can’t go, and she would say, “Honey, I’m so tired.” And I would say, “But Mom, if I don’t get to sit on Santa’s lap I’m going to be crazy this Christmas,” and she said okay Ronnie, okay. Or Veronica is what they called me back then. I sat on Santa’s lap and that’s when I fell in love with Christmas, with Santa, with Frosty, with the tree. Everything. That’s when it started, sitting on Santa’s lap at Macy’s.

JESSE THORN: Why don’t we hear a little bit of your classic Christmas recording of “Frosty the Snowman.” Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes.

RONNIE SPECTOR: Yes.

JESSE THORN: How old were you when you first went up on stage at Amateur Night at the Apollo?

RONNIE SPECTOR: I was like eleven, twelve. Something way in that age.

JESSE THORN: Tell me about from the first time that you performed at the Apollo. Do you remember it?

RONNIE SPECTOR: Oh God, like it was yesterday. It was my first show ever -- professional show. I remember it was Nedra, myself, Estelle, and another cousin, and my cousin Ira, which is a boy cousin because back then they had Frankie Lymon, The Students, Frankie Valli, all these guy singers. So I said to my cousin Ira, “Maybe you should sing lead.” So we went there to Amateur Night. I’ll never forget, my cousin Ira has the microphone in his hand and nothing comes out. I was petrified, so I grabbed the mic from him, and I started singing, “Why Do Birds Sing?” -- the Frankie Lymon song. I started and the audience went nuts for me, so for me it was like I was passing, because they didn’t know what we were but they loved me. So I said, Oh my God, if I can pass at the Apollo, they’ll love me all over the world.

I was very young to have all these kind of feelings about touring all over the world, and my mother would always say, “Don’t get too excited. This is show business we’re talking about. You don’t know if you’re gonna make a hit record, you don’t know anything.” But I did know I loved the stage, and I got it from a very early age.

JESSE THORN: You and your sister and cousin have this outrageous look. In the beginning of your career, I wonder how long it took for you and what you had to do to get your hair as high as it was when you were on stage. I was watching some film clips, and I was very impressed at the sheer height of what was on top of your head.

RONNIE SPECTOR: I’ll tell you what we had to do. First of all, you had to tease it a lot, and use a lot of Aqua Net hairspray, that’s what we used in the 60s, Aqua Net. Then you wind it around your hair, then you twirl it again, then you tease it again - - we had a lot of hair. I guess it was because of our background and stuff. That’s what I said about me and Keith Richards. If we had married and had kids, our kids would have great hair. I always say that to Keith.

JESSE THORN: It’s The Sound of Young America Holiday Special, my guest is Ronnie Spector. She’s got a brand new holiday EP called Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever. Let’s hear a little bit of the title track.

So the height of your career was this really transitional time in popular music. It was this time when doo-wop and that kind of thing was on the way out, and harder rock and roll was on the way in. You and your contemporaries were bridging that gap between those two things.

RONNIE SPECTOR: Right.

JESSE THORN: And one of the ways that you bridged that gap was by having these actual personal relationships with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

RONNIE SPECTOR: Yes we did!

JESSE THORN: Tell me about how you first met The Beatles.

RONNIE SPECTOR: First of all, The Beatles hadn’t come to America yet, so they weren’t even known in America. When we were over in England we were on the front pages of every paper there, so The Beatles wanted to see - - Decor Records gave us a party, because that was our record label over there. So Decor Records gave us a party and guess who showed up? The Beatles! John Lennon was all cockeye over me, and he took me in this back room at Decor Records, and I almost had to use a whip to get that guy out of the room. I met all of them, I love them all.

I love The Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones were my opening act in England, so I knew them real good. We used to travel on the tour bus together. Keith and I, when it would get too foggy in London, the bus would pull over and Keith and I would get out and knock on doors, and they were so nice! They would open the door, and I would say, “Hi, I’m Ronnie of the Ronettes,” and Keith would say, “I’m Keith of The Rolling Stones.” They’d let us in and give scones, and tea, and everything. We’d take it out to the bus and give Mick some and the other guys, like Brian. I knew those guys better than I knew the American groups.

JESSE THORN: When did you become aware of what a holiday icon Phil Spector’s Christmas record made you and your contemporaries? When did you start to feel that these songs were going to be more than just what a Christmas record usually is, which is just a way to sell a couple hundred thousand records for a hit band?

RONNIE SPECTOR: I tell you one thing, Phil Spector was Jewish; he didn’t know anything about Christmas. So he’d come to my house and ask me - - that’s why I sang “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” He’d say, “What did your mother and father do when you were a little girl?” All my songs, “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Sleigh Ride,” I loved sleighing. Everything that’s on that album of my stuff was actually done from my own words to Phil, and that’s how he got them. He didn’t even think about Christmas, because like I said he was Jewish. So I got him really into Christmas, that’s how he made A Christmas Gift For You.

JESSE THORN: Let’s hear Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes singing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

RONNIE SPECTOR: Okay. Muah!

JESSE THORN: The Sound of Young America Holiday Special continues with the great Ronnie Spector after a break. It’s The Sound of Young America, from maximumfun.org and PRI, Public Radio International.
It’s The Sound of Young America, I’m Jesse Thorn. My guest on the program is Ronnie Spector.

So you’ve been doing these holiday shows for more than 20 years now, since the end of the 80s. What do you have to do to gear yourself up for the Christmas season? How do you get yourself into that Christmas place?

RONNIE SPECTOR: I’ve got two boys, and what I do is put on A Christmas Gift for You, my old Christmas album. I put that on and we start doing the Christmas tree and putting all the bulbs and everything on it, the peppermint sticks, everything. That’s how I get into Christmas, of course. Then I put my records on. Now I have a new Christmas thing called Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever. So this year I’ve been listening to that, even before Christmas, because I had to learn the songs. I did it in a recording studio, so I’d never done it live before. I was at my band rehearsal yesterday, it sounds amazing!

JESSE THORN: Let’s hear another track from Ronnie Spector’s new Christmas EP, Best Christmas Ever.

I went really deep into your catalogue when I was preparing for this interview, and I really loved listening to a couple of songs that you recorded in the 70s. One of them was this song called “Try Some, Buy Some” that you recorded for Apple Records.

RONNIE SPECTOR: Yes, with George Harrison.

JESSE THORN: Tell me how you ended up not just being pals with The Beatles, but recording with them.

RONNIE SPECTOR: It was very simple. They said we want Ronnie Spector’s voice on Apple Records. My ex-husband took me over to England, we got over there and I get into the studio, and there was one person there. His hair was long, so I couldn’t really see who it was. He was sitting at the piano, and he looked up, and it was George Harrison. We hugged, and kissed - - well, not that kind of kissing, you know. Hugged and kissed, and it was so great. He wrote “Try Some, Buy Some” for me right there on the spot. We did that song and then I went back to California to be with my adopted children.

JESSE THORN: Let’s hear “Try Some, Buy Some” from the early 1970s.

RONNIE SPECTOR: I loved it.

JESSE THORN: Written by George Harrison, performed by Ronnie Spector.

JESSE THORN: You also recorded in the 1990s with Joey Ramone of The Ramones.

RONNIE SPECTOR: Oh, yes. Love Joey.

JESSE THORN: How did you first meet him?

RONNIE SPECTOR: I had met Joey a few years before we recorded. We’d always meet at this place called The Continental, down on 8th street. Then we got to talking one night, and he said Ronnie, I would love to record you. You’re my favorite female singer. He said we gotta make a record together.

At the time I didn’t know Joey was sick; I didn’t have any clue. And then we would go over to Daniel Ray’s house, his best friend who lived a block from him, and he would bring his lunch, we did a full EP and everything. I had no idea. There’s this one song called “Memory”, and it was like telling me that he will only be a memory in the near future. I had no idea that he was dying and stuff. It devastated me when I couldn’t go and see him in the hospital that very last time. He said, “I don’t want Ronnie to see me like this,” so I didn’t see him the very last time. It broke my heart. He was the nicest guy, and he was so genuine. He loved rock and roll.

JESSE THORN: Had you heard his records when you first met him?

RONNIE SPECTOR: Oh yes, of course.

JESSE THORN: What did you think of them? They’re so deeply rooted in the music that you made, but they’re also so completely different.

RONNIE SPECTOR: That’s what I liked about them; the fact that they were like me and they liked my music, but they were different from me. That’s just like The Beatles and The Stones, we were all so different. Ronnie sitting in the middle of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, then I come to New York and I’ve got Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Joey Ramone and The Ramones. So I’ve been surrounded by people that love my voice, thank God.

JESSE THORN: What do you enjoy most about being a music performer?

RONNIE SPECTOR: I love being in the recording studio, because it brings me to the stage with new material. Of course I sing all my old songs, but there’s nothing like doing something new and fresh. Like the new CD, all the songs on there are originals. “Sleigh Ride” and “Frosty”, all those records were Irving Berlin and stuff. But my stuff that I did now is stuff that is original and I love that.

JESSE THORN: Ronnie, thank you so much for taking all this time to be on The Sound of Young America, it was really a pleasure to talk to you.

RONNIE SPECTOR: Thank you, Jesse!

JESSE THORN: Ronnie’s new Christmas EP is called Best Christmas Ever.

JESSE THORN: It’s The Sound of Young America Holiday Special, I’m Jesse Thorn. There are few bands that better define outrageousness than The B-52s, and there is no greater symbol of that outrageousness than my guest Fred Schneider. His signature - - I don’t know what you would call it. Talk singing? Bellowing? Proclaiming? - - is one of the most identifiable vocal styles in rock music. It’s a sound that begs to be impersonated; anyone has a Fred Schneider impression. It is literally taking all of the self control that I can muster not to do a bad Fred Schneider impression right here on this show right now.

It sort of makes sense that Fred Schneider has a thing for kitschy novelty music. These days he’s indulging that with his band The Superions. They’ve got a brand new Christmas record, it’s called Destination Christmas. Before we get to my conversation with Fred Schneider, let’s hear a little bit of “Fruit Cake”, from that album.

JESSE THORN: Fred, welcome to The Sound of Young America Holiday Special.

FRED SCHNEIDER: Good to be here, Merry Christmas, happy holidays.

JESSE THORN: Thank you very much. What time of year was it when you recorded The Superions album and you wrote all these Christmas songs?

FRED SCHNEIDER: I would go down to Orlando and work with the guys, and I had Christmas ideas and The B-52s didn’t want to do a Christmas record. We were going to do a Christmas record, a Halloween record, and a regular record; but we just got caught up doing Halloween songs, and we wrote nine songs in 11 days, one of which was a Halloween song.

JESSE THORN: To be fair.

FRED SCHNEIDER: We wanted to do a Halloween record, but that will be next year.

JESSE THORN: Let’s talk a little bit about your career with The B-52s. The group of you founded the band in 1977, and your recording breakthrough was Cosmic Thing in 1989, so you were certainly veterans by the time you became major stars. Tell me a little bit about what kind of scene you were part of, to the extent that there was a scene, in 1977 in Athens, Georgia.

FRED SCHNEIDER: It was basically - - Athens was not the music mecca it is now. It was nothing like that. Michael Stipe said you could lay down in the middle of Main Street and not get hit by a car on a Friday night. We were just a bunch of nuts hanging out, and we just got together one night and made a song and from that point on we created a band because we had nothing better to do.

JESSE THORN: Was there even a place for you to play?

FRED SCHNEIDER: We played on a kitchen table. We played in the living room of my friend’s house, that was our first gig. I told him we had a band even though we just got together and jammed. We had one song called - - you can tell when we started - - killer bees had just arrived in Brazil, so we had a song called “Killer Bees”. Just all the different disasters you read about in tabloids strung together in a song.

JESSE THORN: One of your first singles was also one of your first iconic, let’s hear a little bit of The B-52s and “Rock Lobster.”

It’s The Sound of Young America, I’m Jesse Thorn and that was “Rock Lobster” from The B-52s. One of their lead vocalists, Fred Schneider, is my guest. His band, The Superions, have a new Christmas album.
I have to say, I didn’t know that “Rock Lobster” had been written at the very beginning of your careers, and I was surprised that your aesthetic was so fully formed right at the very birth of the band. What were the different members of the band bringing to the table that made the kind of crazy pastiche that The B-52s were and are?

FRED SCHNEIDER: Ricky learned how to play guitar watching educational TV. Keith was a drummer in different bands locally. Everyone’s musical taste was very eclectic, we liked everything from Perez Prado to Yma Sumac to James Brown to punk music. When we had a party anything went, it wasn’t just one style of music. I’ve always been writing, I mean - - before I dropped out of college the last thing I did - - I didn’t want to do a final project, but then someone said, “I’m going to do a book of poetry,” and I thought, I’m going to do a book of poetry, too. So I just wrote crazy stuff and the teacher said, “I don’t understand this at all, but I know you’re serious,” and I got an A. Some of the poems - - “There’s a Moon in the Sky,” a couple of poems became the basis for songs.

JESSE THORN: What kinds of things were the poems about that your teacher was led to believe that they were quite serious?

FRED SCHNEIDER: They were literate, I used a lot of similes. I had to read them in front of the class, and everyone just looked stone faced except my friend who was just laughing the whole time. The first poem I wrote was called “Flamingo”, that’s the gist of my final project for creative writing.

JESSE THORN: Were you surprised when Cosmic Thing brought you from a beloved cult act of 11 years to multi-platinum recording artist?

FRED SCHNEIDER: We were all going broke, so it was a welcome change. The record company was ignoring us, they didn’t even get - - I had to literally go with the AR person while the band did soundchecks and go to different radio stations to beg them to play “Love Shack” because everyone thought it was too weird.

JESSE THORN: I mean, it was pretty weird. It remains pretty weird.

FRED SCHNEIDER: It was weird for the time. I thought it was our most accessible thing on the album, and finally it started going up the charts all over the country at different times. It was never consistent like Paula Abdul and Milli Vanilli were the two above us at that time.

JESSE THORN: Have you been saving Christmas song ideas for years by the time you cut this record? Did you have a secret notebook in your - -

FRED SCHNEIDER: Yes, but it was basically titles. I’d say, I’m gonna write a song called Fruit Cake, I just had the words fruit cake. So I knew I was gonna do a song called Fruit Cake. “Crummy Christmas Tree,” I just came up with one Christmas at a party. They were like, everyone has to sing a song, and I thought Oh God, I don’t wanna sing a Christmas song. So I just made “Crummy Christmas Tree,” and hopefully it’s gonna become a family and friendly favorite.

JESSE THORN: Let’s hear a little bit of “Crummy Christmas Tree,” my guest is Fred Schneider of The B-52s and The Superions. His new album with The Superions is called Destination Christmas.

It’s The Sound of Young America Holiday Special, I’m Jesse Thorn. My guest is Fred Schneider, best known as one of the lead vocalists of The B-52s, he’s now formed a band, not exclusively for holiday themed records, but largely for holiday themed records.

FRED SCHNEIDER: Well it’s our first full length. The first album we released was just an EP, The Superions, with three songs and four remixes.

JESSE THORN: What were your fondest holiday memories? What did you draw upon when you were writing and recording this record?

FRED SCHNEIDER: We drew upon a lot of glasses of wine. I can write songs - - they just come to me. The song “Chillin at Christmas” I said let’s do some music in this genre, sort of loungey. It was sort of reminiscent of a Grace Jones track, slightly. The melodies are original and all that. Then I just came up with the words. And “Under the Tree,” was the one sort of inspired by a Grace Jones track, and “Chillin” was, I don’t know, we wanted a song about an avalanche.

JESSE THORN: Why wouldn’t ya?

FRED SCHNEIDER: We have the abominable snowmen, avalanches, sleigh bells, Christmas tree, I mean, it’s - - it’s a multi-faceted holiday album.

JESSE THORN: What are the important topics that you haven’t yet covered when it comes to Christmas?

FRED SCHNEIDER: I have to mention Hannukah and Kwanzaa, and Solstice.

JESSE THORN: Sure. My aunt in Oakland celebrates the Winter Solstice.

FRED SCHNEIDER: There ya go, she’s cool.

JESSE THORN: I think she thinks Christmas has something to do with the patriarchy or something, I don’t remember.

FRED SCHNEIDER: It’s all based on paganism, I say go with the pagan part, it’s more fun. I do thank a certain person for the having their birthday on the25th that made this record possible.

JESSE THORN: Well Fred, thank you so much for taking the time to be on The Sound of Young America, it was a pleasure to have you.

FRED SCHNEIDER: Thank you! Great being here.

JESSE THORN: Maybe before you go we should have - - you’re probably one of the most legendary declaimer in the history of popular music, is there some sort of holiday themed declamation that you might make for all our listeners out there in holiday land?

FRED SCHNEIDER: Give me presents!

JESSE THORN: Fred Schneider is the frontman of The Superions, their new holiday album is Destination Christmas.

JESSE THORN: This is a holiday special, right? Not a Christmas special. I feel kind of guilty for interviewing two people about Christmas stuff, I don’t know if it’s enough to overcome that guilt, but here’s Tom Lara with his holiday classic hit, “Hannukah in Santa Monica”.

JESSE THORN: It’s the Sound of Young America Holiday Special, I’m Jesse Thorn. I’m joined now by Tasha Robinson and Kyle Ryan from The AV Club. Our friends from The AV Club visit us every once in a while to sift the wheat from the chaff of popular culture, so we thought we’d invite them to our holiday special to give us some ideas for great cultural gifts for all the folks out there who need a good idea or two at the holidays. Tasha, Kyle, welcome to the Holiday Special.

KYLE RYAN: Hello.

TASHA ROBINSON: Hi, and thanks for having us.

JESSE THORN: Of course. Kyle Ryan, let’s talk about the new three CD, three DVD box set of Bruce Springsteen’s The Darkness on the Edge of Town. That is an astonishing amount of media, what all is on there?

KYLE RYAN: You get the digitally re-mastered CD for Darkness on the Edge of Town, then you get two discs called The Promise which are B-sides and unreleased stuff, then several DVDs of live performances. Really the thing that makes it so cool, especially for people of a certain age, basically people who bought CDs and still love the physical product of CDs, is that the big box set comes with this incredible spiral bound notebook, and when you flip through it each page is essentially high, high quality color copy of Bruce Springsteen’s notebook; so you have lyrics, and notes, and coffee stains, and smudges, and everything. When we got it at the office we all gasped by how cool it looked. It’s just really something to behold. Beyond the cool crap you’ll have to put on your bookshelf, even though The Promise has a lot of B-sides and stuff, it has a lot of really great songs on it; some that are kind of surprising that didn’t make the final cut. Springsteen essentially wrote a whole album’s worth of material and then ditched it and re-wrote again, so there’s a ton of stuff on there that’s worth diving in to.

JESSE THORN: Let’s hear one of those tracks from The Promise, previously unreleased from the three-CD, three-DVD box set of Bruce Springsteen’s The Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Now Tasha, I have to admit that the other day I was taping the television program I host - - The Grid, on IFC Thursday at 7:45 EST, 4:45 PST - - and we did a segment on The Goonies 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray, and I was savaged by my colleagues for never having seen The Goonies. I had to defend myself by saying that I’d seen Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and The Princess Bride a lot of times. What’s so great about this new Blu-Ray edition of the beloved 1980’s family film?

TASHA ROBINSON: Well I have to tell you if you have not already seen The Goonies at your age it is too late, you must give up on that part of your life. This is not something that you should perhaps purchase for yourself in order to finally experience the wonder that is The Goonies. It’s really something that you should buy either for people our age who knew the film and loved it and want to see it again in spectacular Blu-Ray with all the extras, or for people who have kids who would be experiencing this for the first time. The 25th Anniversary package is an amazing little package that comes with a Goonies-themed board game, it comes with a 64 page book full of interviews with cast and details about the production.

JESSE THORN: Tasha, when you get one of these things, do you actually engage all of these extras? Are you organizing a game night around The Goonies board game that came with the Blu-Ray?

TASHA ROBINSON: I don’t know that I’d organize a board game party, but I did look through the book which is pretty slick; and I would absolutely listen to the commentary, I’m really interested in what these kids made of the experience of being in this film when they were so young and then going on to be famous for, in some cases, just about nothing else.

JESSE THORN: Kyle Ryan, this seems to be the Hollywood gift guide about over-comprehensive media products. And perhaps the ultimate over-comprehensive media product is this new book called Simpsons World: The Ultimate Episode Guide, which is literally almost nine pounds of recaps of Simpsons’ episodes. Why does anyone need this book?

KYLE RYAN: Well, you know, in theory you don’t; especially because a huge chunk of it is stuff that’s already been released in the episode guides that were first started to get published in 1997 and came out every few years. I think the last one came out in 2005. So it’s very much a gift for hardcore Simpsons devotees like myself who are still sticking with the show and still watch it all the time. It’s really cool looking. Again, I keep coming back to cool packaging. It’s this book that looks like it was designed by USA Today designers on a Red Bull binge. It’s super bright and colorful and every page just has so much going on on it. It’s this cool bright red hardcover book and it comes in a hardcover case, and it has all sorts of silly things in it, like the words to every jingle and song that have been on the Simpsons. There’s typical stuff like every couch gag, everything that Bart wrote on the board. Anything that was written on the church sign by Reverend Lovejoy every week; it’s a pretty hardcore compendium of everything that is The Simpsons.

JESSE THORN: It’s also a good way to get a lot of good value out of that all books $25 and over are free shipping on Amazon offer.

KYLE RYAN: Exactly. The publisher actually overnighted this to us, and it is seriously a nine pound brick. I don’t know how much shipping costs to them; but it wasn’t cheap.

JESSE THORN: Kyle, do you have an all time favorite Simpsons episode?

KYLE RYAN: Oh, geez…

JESSE THORN: Pick one, just one.

KYLE RYAN: Maybe the one where they open the Mr. Burns’ casino. For some reason watching Mr. Burns turn into Howard Hughes endlessly entertains me.

JESSE THORN: Let’s hear a clip from it!

Okay Tasha Robinson, now that we’ve played our Simpsons clip, one of your favorite holiday picks is the DVD called The Secret of Kells. This is a movie that just barely snuck into theatres, and snuck right out shortly thereafter; but then surprised a lot of people by being nominated for an Oscar. What was so lovely about this film?

TASHA ROBINSON: The funny thing is it was nominated for an Oscar before it had really even had a theatrical release in America. It had played a couple of qualifying screenings in LA, and that was really about it. When the nominees were announced it was The Princess and the Frog and Up and a couple other movies that you had almost certainly seen, and this film which there was no chance that you had seen and nobody had heard of. It was a resounding what, and The Secret of What?, but when it actually started making it into art houses here, it is a spectacular movie. This movie is not a nine pound brick, it doesn’t come in a special packaging with a copy of the Book of Kells and your own pet cat or anything like that. There’s nothing huge and special about it, it’s just a beautiful terrific film. The animation is spectacular. It cannot be described, it has to be seen.

It’s the result of a decade-long labor of love by this Irish filmmaker who went through a lot of different iterations. There’s a bunch of great stuff on the DVD showing the iterations that this film went through. Really when it comes down to it it’s just this fantastic beautifully told fable, it’s something that kids can watch and enjoy and adults can marvel at at the same time.

JESSE THORN: Well, Tasha Robinson, Kyle Ryan from The AV Club, thank you so much for taking the time to show us through the world of media and picking out a few gems that folks might be able to purchase as a holiday gift.

TASHA ROBINSON: Always a pleasure.

KYLE RYAN: Yeah, thanks.

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