Cleopatra Records

8 Campy Christmas Albums to Play at Your Holiday Gaythering

Here comes Shatner Claus.

By this point in December, we’re all heartily sick of the same holiday standards getting piped through malls, cafes, and public thoroughfares ad nauseam. So why not switch it up with some truly offbeat, truly delightful takes on the dusty old classics?

From Babs to John Waters to the latest from Randy Rainbow, we humbly present our top picks for the campiest, weirdest, and downright filthiest Christmas albums this side of Gayville.

  1. Barbra Streisand, A Christmas Album (1967)

    Quick: You’re arguably the world’s most famous Jewish woman on the brink of global success. You’ve just filmed Funny Girl and sung a televised duet with Judy Garland herself. What’s your next move? A Christmas album, naturally! And not just any Christmas album, but one of the least secular (and best-selling) Christmas albums of all time, featuring such classics as “Ave Maria,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” and “I Wonder as I Wander.”

    FUN FACT: Babs was preggers with Jason Gould while recording it.

  2. Flatulina, Flatulina’s Fabulous Holiday Spectacular (2003)

    The mysterious artist known as Flatulina (no, not that one) has one of the best Amazon artist bios ever written, along with a few, um, hot takes on some tried-and-true holiday gems. If you’re not sold on a Christmas album that’s essentially one long fart joke, you might just change your mind when you hear her stirring rendition of “Sleigh Ride,” replete with a bubble chorus.

    FUN FACT: Spoiler alert: This is an album full of farted Christmas songs.

  3. John Waters, A John Waters Christmas (2004)

    Only a heartless Grinch with no Christmas spirit whatsoever would fail to include the Pope of Trash here. In his spirited compilation of holiday music, Waters puts on a show that’s as filthy as it is delectable, even sans Divine. Little Cindy’s “Happy Birthday Jesus” and Rudolph & Gang’s “Here Comes Fatty Claus” are instant classics. The Vince Guaraldi Trio is shook.

    FUN FACT: Waters has been touring his Christmas show for the past few years, sprinkling in a few topical references to keep the act fresh. In his own words: “I may be the only comedy Christmas show that has a joke about Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle.

  4. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The Lost Christmas Eve (2004)

    The goth-rock band specializing in moody, emo Christmas symphonies may not have any actual trans members (if only), but they do have some serious jams. Their fourth album is also the final installment in their Christmas trilogy, and boy, is it a doozy. A mix of ballads and curios (“What Is Christmas?” is a favorite), this is the perfect soundtrack for anyone who wants to explore the dark side of the solstice.

    FUN FACT: The track “Christmas Jazz” is a spiffy riff on the old standard “Good King Wenceslas.”

  5. Bob Dylan, Christmas in the Heart (2009)

    Putting aside the fact that this album sounds like it was sung by Jack Sparrow in one of the later movies in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Christmas in the Heart is actually kind of sweet. Still, while it was intended as a tribute to Bing Crosby and the wave of Christmas songs written during or after World War II, it had fans scratching their heads and desperately wondering, Is this some kind of sick joke? It wasn’t.

    FUN FACT: Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo plays accordion on “Must Be Santa.”

  6. William Shatner, Shatner Claus (2018)

    Of all the celebrity Christmas albums out there, this might be the one with the highest production value. And the cameos! A duet with Henry Rollins? Check. The dulcet coos of Judy Collins? You betcha. Iggy Pop? It wouldn’t be “Silent Night” without him. Captain Kirk is living proof that people who can’t sing can still put together a genuinely wonderful collection of music. Perhaps one savvy Amazon reviewer put it best: “What occasion can’t this album enhance? I haven’t found it.”

    FUN FACT: Shatner’s manic rendition of “Jingle Bells” includes the sound of real horse hooves as a backbeat.

  7. Ana Gasteyer, Sugar and Booze (2019)

    The former Saturday Night Live goddess is taking a tip from Bridget Everett with her new album, Sugar and Booze. An earnest, heartfelt romp through some underappreciated X-mas staples, this nutty celebration features several songs written by the lady famous for playing Gayle Gleason herself. Gasteyer can belt out a tune with chutzpah, and her unironic love letter to cookies, cocktails, and Bing Crosby is a true gift to the gays.

    FUN FACT: “He’s Stuck in the Chimney Again,” the Cy Coleman demo Gasteyer covers, was found in a trunk shortly after the songwriter died.

  8. Randy Rainbow, Hey Gurl, It’s Christmas! (2019)

    Randy Rainbow has certainly given us a lot to be thankful for, especially during these grim years under the Trump regime. His latest offering: a Christmas album, complete with a rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” with special guests Kathy Griffin and Alan Cumming. That alone is worth the price of admission.

    FUN FACT: Musical guest Lorna Luft, who joins Randy on “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” is the child of Judy Garland and Sidney Luft. Now that’s gay!

Henry Giardina is a writer living in Los Angeles.
@punkgroucho