Monday, December 24, 2018

Please welcome "Christmas with Dennis," your new favorite holiday tradition

I’m going to state with confidence that Dennis Awe isn’t part of your annual Christmas tradition. If you’re in the demographic that’s likely to read this blog, you probably have no idea who Dennis Awe even is. My friends, I’m here to rectify both of those situations.

See, earlier this week I stumbled upon a 1988 video release entitled Christmas with Dennis, and my take on holiday entertainment will never be quite the same again. Christmas with Dennis is a thing of wonder, a weird, hypnotic product both endearingly handmade and impressively professional. I’ll warn you right now: the words and images I’m going to share with you here are going to make you think I’m celebrating this film ironically, but I assure you I am not. I love Christmas with Dennis from the bottom of my heart.
This is Dennis, and he will make your season bright.

A bespectacled man in a frilly, sequined suit exuberantly plays Christmas standards on an electric organ in a faux-living room. The camera occasionally zooms, fades, and/or very slowly dissolves to the dozens of mildly tacky Christmas decorations surrounding him. A toy train circles listlessly in the background. Dennis beams and gyrates and legit kills it on the keys. It is all mesmerizing.

There are puppets in this.

Then 17 minutes in Dennis starts bantering with a stuffed monster puppet and the world explodes. The monster sings a duet. A stuffed yeti wobbles around a rug. Dennis's sister DyAnne drops by in an equally sequined cocktail dress to play a couple of numbers. We watch her feet working the pedals for what seems a very long time. There is an indescribable appearance by Frosty the Snowman. In the final 30 seconds we get some even less describable special effects. It's a downright psychedelic experience.

There is a lot to unpack in this and every frame of this film.

Do not think for one moment that I'm being ironic when I say this is one of my favorite things I've seen all year. I sat down to this movie thinking, "Oh, this'll be an interesting little thing to have on in the background while I do other things" and then stayed riveted to my screen for 70 minutes. My jaw physically dropped more than once watching this.

A classic double-Dennis-exposure.

Strange stuff happens in Christmas with Dennis and it's beautiful. You'd think you can maybe skip ahead during some of Dennis's organ solos (95% of the film is Dennis's organ solos) but you can't because you will miss something remarkable, be it a slow fade to a vaguely discernible field of snow, a slow zoom on a Bing Crosby ornament as White Christmas fades out, DyAnne flashing you a soul-stealing wink the moment you least expect it, or one of the many nightmarish half-dissolves superimposing Dennis's hands over Dennis's face.

DyAnne has got your number.

And it all works because Dennis who still performs and maintains an active web presenceand his crew mean every breath of it. You can call it outsider art if you want, but it's unmistakably a professional production. There's not a flubbed note nor a missed cue to be found, because this is what Dennis does. This is what Dennis is. This film exists at the crossroads where unbridled schmaltz turns the corner into aching sincerity. You can laugh at Christmas with Dennis if you need to. Dennis won't care. Dennis is here to entertain.

Dennis is the realest shit you will ever see on screen.


  1. After watching the performance, I wanted to know why a keyboard is seeded among the tins and coffee mugs under Dennis' impeccably furnished Christmas tree. Will it be (or more aptly, was it) his third deck, his portable unit or his child's gift; or is it simply low-budget product placement sponsored by Casio?

    1. I'm inclined to believe that keyboards simply accumulate wherever Dennis goes. It's both his superpower and his curse.

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  3. Thanks for the read Ira! Dennis is a personal favourite in my family and I feel so happy whenever I see anyone discovering the talent and charm of this beautiful man.