by Steve Desroches
Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. Sandy Claus lives at the Old Colony Tap. While her younger brother gets all the attention, Sandy Claus, Santa’s “older, gayer, drunker” sister has had it and is blowing the candy-cane whistle on what’s really going on in Santa’s Workshop…or should we say sweat shop! But while Sandy has a heart of gold, she’s also got a liver of steel and she can often be seen stumbling around Commercial Street offering good cheer and looking for someone to pick up her bar tab. If Santa can get free milk and cookies, Sandy can get a few rounds and a bowl of pretzels. For those who are still believers, Sandy Claus is very real. But if your parents finally had the talk about Santa, then you know that this Sapphic Santa is the creation of stand-up comic Kristen Becker and her character work as Sandy has become a beloved fixture of the holiday season in Provincetown.
“Ideologically, Sandy is a little bit to the left,” says Becker. “What people don’t know is that Santa is a bit of a bigot. He can be real problematic. There’s not a lot of diversity at the North Pole and here is this old white guy running everything. And Sandy makes sure kids get what they really want, especially the queer kids who often don’t get what they asked for. If Jimmy dreamed of a Barbie doll, he’s getting a Barbie doll. If Susie wants a football, she’s getting a football. Sandy saves Christmas for the queer kids.”
Sandy Claus came into being in 2017 when Heather Reed from PTV, Provincetown’s community access cable station, reached out to Becker to create original programming. After riffing on a few ideas they thought it would be funny to create a lesbian Santa Claus and did some improv work creating shows that were in the same vein as Behind the Music specials (some of which can be found on YouTube). Out of that came the rough around the edges, but lovable Sandy Claus. At first Becker performed as Sandy as street theater in Provincetown, dipping in and out of local bars during the holidays, entertaining and holding court. And she was a big hit from the beginning as the character was quintessentially Provincetown in creativity and commitment; Becker never, ever breaks character while donning her gay apparel as Sandy. Once Becker knew she had some Christmas comedy magic on her hands she began working on a proper stage show, doing pop-up performances at Canteen’s Holiday Market, where again Sandy Claus killed it.
“You know, from the very time I put the Santa suit on I knew I was on to something,” says Becker. “My fan base responded so well to it and then so did people on Commercial Street. When you can immerse yourself in an imaginary world you can go in any directions at all. It’s total freedom. There are no boundaries. And I’ve never seen anyone do a Claus sibling. I mean Santa Claus is tradition in such a huge part of the world, so I thought I had a character people could relate to. A sibling overshadowed by her more famous brother and does her best, but you know, can’t resist a happy hour. And let me tell you when you put on a Santa suit you definitely drink for free, at least Sandy does. And I’m trying to quit smoking, but Sandy’s not. So I say to people, ‘I don’t smoke, but Sandy does.’”
For the past few holiday seasons Becker has presented full-length, fully realized stage shows as Sandy Claus, taking the bit out of Provincetown for the first time when she did a 10-city tour last holiday season. She’s back at this Holly Folly with additional shows planned the following weekend at the Crown & Anchor. Of course you’ll also find Sandy at the O.C. and any other bar where patrons cheer and clap for Provincetown’s favorite member of the Claus family. And this year, Sandy is really going to let it rip and spill the figgy pudding, whether it’s the “elf uprising of 2001” or the workshop’s handing of the #MeToo movement. Let’s face it, Santa can be a real son of a nutcracker. But he’s still her brother, so their feud is much like anyone who’s ever had a drunk uncle that drops a conspiracy theory at the holiday table. Instead of arguing, you just give him another beer and a slice of pie and hope he stops talking. Sandy’s forgiving that way. Santa might blacklist you for a visit on Christmas Eve, but Sandy will show up to do some shots.
“Sandy Claus doesn’t really care about the naughty and nice list,” says Becker. “But she’s the first to say F U if you’re an asshole.”
Sandy Claus performs at the Crown & Anchor, 247 Commercial St., Provincetown, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., December 1 – 9. Tickets are available at the box office and online at onlyatthecrown.com. For more information call 508.487.1430.