In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: Kyle Kinane hates a lot of things: unsliced pizza, boasting about voting, and those Subway ads where adults talk in child voices. Thus, on the eve of Kinane’s Comedy Central special Whiskey Icarus, The A.V. Club thought it only fitting—and in keeping with the season—to ask the comedian about his least favorite Christmas song.
The hated: “The Little Drummer Boy,” originally written in 1941
Kyle Kinane: Musically, there’s nothing wrong with the song. It’s the lyrics. First off, the song is about not having anything to give to baby Jesus, so you play the drum. You don’t play a drum at a baby. That’s never been a good idea in the history of the world, playing a drum at a newborn baby. That’s stupid.
And then it says, “Mary nodded.” Meaning the new mom is like, “You know what? I just gave birth, I got a newborn, go ahead and play a drum at my kid’s face. That’s what I want right now.” This is a stupid, stupid premise. And half the lyrics are singing drum sounds. You sing, “Pa-rum-pum-pum.” It’s singing drum sounds when there’s a drum in the song. And that’s stupid. You’re singing the sound of an instrument that’s also playing in the song—dumbest song in the world. It’s an entirely unnecessary song.
The A.V. Club: Are there any versions of it you like? There have been a million covers.
KK: Well, yeah, because it’s a Christmas song. Everybody just covers a Christmas song automatically because it’s a cash-grab. It’s just the worst.
AVC: This song also isn’t short. It clocks in at about three and a half minutes.
KK: Because as long as you keep saying “Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum,” as long as you keep singing the stupid sound of the instruments—it’s just… ugh.
AVC: It’s supposedly based on a 12th-century legend about a juggler who juggles before the statue of the Virgin Mary, and then the Virgin Mary statue smiles or throws him a rose.
KK: It’s based on a guy that juggled in front of a statue? Mary got excited about a juggler? Live human beings don’t get that excited about jugglers, let alone statues coming to life.
AVC: This is obviously a religious song, but it’s almost pious to the point of ridiculousness. Mary, the most virtuous woman in the world, and baby Jesus, they’re totally fine with drumming as a gift.
KK: At best, she was being polite, because she knew what she was involved in. It’s like she’s the First Lady or something, and someone said, “Oh, I want to play a drum for your kid.” You’d have to be like, “Ugh, I’ve got to let this happen.”
AVC: Are there any Christmas songs you do like?
KK: For some reason, I like “Winter Wonderland.” I will just randomly sing it year-round. It’s a catchy one. Normally, Christmas songs, I’m put off by, but yeah, “Winter Wonderland” sung in the middle of the summer—not just for irony, but for the fact that it’s a change of the pace of the big summer hits—I enjoy it.
AVC: Did you ever work in retail around Christmas?
KK: No. I think one of the driving factors is that I can’t handle the torture of that repetitive music. [Laughs.] Even just having to walk into retail places and hear all of it, and just see the faces of people that have had to deal with it.