We’re closing out the 12 Days of Christmas episodes with a show that had a limited run on a now-defunct streaming service. And is not technically a Christmas episode. I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do. So let’s check in with everybody’s favorites stars of podcasts and TV, the McElroy Brothers. Your oldest brother Justin, your middlest brother Travis, and your sweet baby brother and 30 under 30 media luminary, Griffin.

My Brother, My Brother & Me – “Candlenights & Vape Ape”

Original airdate: February 23, 2017

So let me explain. The McElroy Brothers host a comedy advice podcast, plus a podcast where they play D&D with their dad, and each of them has a podcast co-hosted with their respective wives and Travis has like six more podcasts. I find them utterly delightful and they got me through some tough times last year. And the year before that.

They made a six-episode TV show for the much-missed Seeso, where they basically tried to carry out the terrible advice they give. And the season finale focused on the holiday known as Candlenights. Candlenights is an all-inclusive holiday they created in the early days of their podcast. Basically, they would do a curse-free episode every December with the intent that you could share that episode with your family who might not want to hear a bunch of swears. It’s open to everybody and can happen at any time. However, they always do a live Candlenights show in their hometown right before Christmas and the trappings look a lot like secular Christmas.

Besides that, I like to close this list out with an episode that means something to me and after eight or so years of Christmas episodes, I’ve hit a lot of the major ones. So Candlenights is close enough to count.

The episode begins with the brothers attempting to answer a question about a teacher who’s interested in vaping when without warning, Candlenights hits. There are weird video effects and when it’s over, the studio is decorated for the holiday and they know they have to put on a show for their hometown of Huntington. Oh, I somehow didn’t mention this earlier, but this episode is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

They attempt to explain Candlenights to the viewers with an animated segment about three brothers (Justice, Trevor, and Gordon) in ancient times, but it gets sidetracked by disagreements over which of those brothers was best at dunking and which had the biggest dong. So then, they take the next logical step and go to see the Mayor.

This is the real Mayor, by the way. First they try to trick him into giving them a shared mayorship, and then ask if they can use the emergency address system to let people know about their show. That doesn’t fly, but he suggests they get the word out themselves and acts like that’s a compromise. You can’t fight city hall. So they drive around a residential neighborhood while Travis and Griffin take turns using a megaphone. But it’s 1 in the afternoon on a weekday, so people are mostly at work. With that, it’s time to split up.

Griffin is in charge of decorating the venue and after he gets a shock from a string of lights, he quits and goes home. This was apparently not a bit. Sometimes they check in with him playing 3DS or napping. In a world where people on TV usually fight for screen time, Griffin just bailed.

Travis has to produce a Candlenights miracle, which is a bit of a stumper. After some soul searching, he heads to a nearby town where “Weird Al” Yankovic is scheduled to perform and asks him for advice. Al explains that love and family and friends are the real miracles which is nice and all, but Travis needs him to say it on camera so he can play it at the show. Travis seems just as freaked out about meeting Al as anybody would be.

Justin is left to produce a Candlenights nativity. Since they made up the holiday, it’s hard to tell what exactly the nativity would be. He really struggles and even calls Lin-Manuel for advice while he’s narrating. Don’t even think about what that does to the timeline. He auditions actors to appear in the Nativity, and the actual McElroy dad, Clint, auditions to play himself and doesn’t get the role. I would like to say two quick things about Clint McElroy. I saw him outside a MBMBaM show last year and I couldn’t bring myself to say anything because once I dreamed that he told me he was proud of me and I woke up crying. There is no way I could look him in the eye after that. Second thing is that last year he Tweeted a link to the Spunky Awards and that was very cool of him. Clint’s a good man!

Show night! Justin’s live nativity consists of three men in biblical robes half-heartedly dabbing near some basketball hoops while their fake dad looks on. Griffin shows off the completed stage which was put together by the set dressers of the TV show. They have time to get nervous before the show and we watch virtually everybody they met over the course of the series arrive and take their seats. We see clips from their show, including Travis playing the “Weird Al” video, which his brothers were not expecting, and a man in the audience proposing to his girlfriend. (They released the audio of the whole show as an episode of the podcast.) It’s a fun celebration, even if a clown in a box tries to steal Justin’s soul at the end.

And there’s a tag, and it’s the reason I picked this episode for Christmas Day, but I’ll get to that below.

 

Best Line: “Well Justin, every first draft has a lot of dongs. Any screenwriter will tell you that.” — Lin-Manuel Miranda

 

Holiday Tropes

Christmas Decorations – As noted, Candlenights decorations look a lot like the most general of Christmas decorations Tinsel, fake snow, big paper snowflakes, strings of lights – we see all that on both their TV show set and the stage where they perform.

Christmas Sweater – Travis has what appear to be embroidered poinsettias on his button down shirt, but those are there before Candlenights sneaks up on them.

Nativity Scene – We discussed that above. Dabbing and dunking sans dongs.

Celebrity Guests – As mentioned, Lin-Manuel Miranda narrates and gives Justin some writing advice while “Weird Al” Yankovic provides a Candlenights miracls.

Learning a Lesson – I’m going to talk about that below, so meet me at the Cheer-O-Meter.

 

Holiday Cheer-O-Meter – First off, let me tell you about the tag. It’s the brothers sitting on the stage after everybody has gone home. They agree that it was a good day and they wish they could spend more time together in person.  Justin tears up and he says something that I think about a lot. “The whole time I worried I wasn’t appreciating this enough. I feel like, for once we did the most we could with something.” And it’s this beautiful, genuine moment of somebody really showing gratitude, and it hits me really hard.

There are two things I want to say, and they’re not especially funny. First, part of the reason I do this every year is that I don’t have much Christmas in my life. My family is spread out and big chunks are estranged. My friends have families of their own to go and see. For actual Christmas Day, I’m going to have lunch with my mom and then see a movie or two by myself. I love Christmas and the holiday season, but when the actual day comes, there isn’t much for me and spending all this time watching and writing about holiday TV makes it a little more special for me.

Second, for the last four years, I’ve been reasonably convinced that each time I did one of these, it would be the last one. Not because I’m dying, but because it’s hard to keep a website going. It’s expensive and it’s a lot of work and sometimes the only feedback I get is a weird dude who’s been harassing me since 2016 because I didn’t like Suicide Squad. If you check out 2015, I was so sure we’d be closing the doors that I did all my bucket list episodes – the Star Wars Holiday Special, the series premiere of The Simpsons, the Baywatch two-parter where Hobie thinks vacationing little people are Santa’s elves. You know, all the greats.

So on December 25, I always feel like it’s the last time I’ll get to do one of these. Either the money or the physical effort or the emotional effort of producing another year of content is going to be too much. And Justin expresses perfectly the way I feel and reminds me to appreciate the surprising number of friends I’ve made through this site and to keep doing the most I can with what I have. And every dang time I think about this episode or watch that scene, Justin makes me thing “You know, I’ve probably got one more strong year in me.”

So my profound thanks to everybody who checks this out and especially those who made it this far. You’re great, the McElroys are great, the holiday season is great and I’m going to  give this a 10.

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