“Have a Holly Jolly Christmas”. “Silent Night”. “Walking In A Winter Wonderland”. These are just some of the great Christmas songs of all time. But for those in the know, there’s another Christmas ditty that is just as beloved… “The Twelve Days of Guido Christmas”. Joseph Summa and Carmine Famiglietti are the two paesans behind this hilarious Italian-oriented Christmas ditty that is sure to leave you laughing…and have a hankering for four fresh cannolis.
How did youse two meet?
Carmine: [laughs] We met in 1992. We were two actors; New York thespians if you will. We did a show together in the Catskills, and the creative energy between us was great. Later on, I was producing another show, and the actor got sick. At the time, I thought, “The show must go on!” So I called Joe to help me out.
Joe: I couldn’t learn all of the lines in one night, so we figured it was just better if we improvised. Carmine knew I liked to sing, and he plays the guitar. At the time, I had broken up with my girlfriend. I figured the way I would win her back was by writing a song.
Carmine: He came to my house, we ordered Chinese food, watched Jaws and fell asleep! [laughs]
Joe: We performed the song at Caroline’s Comedy Club in NYC, but a producer who was supposed to be there didn’t come. She wanted to see a tape of the show, but the tape didn’t come out.
Carmine: It blew up, went on fire, who knows, but now we were in a desperate race to get it to her. We decided to spice things up a bit and write another song.
And that’s how “The 12 Days of Guido Christmas” came to be.
Carmine: Right. We wrote the song in 1998, an hour before another Caroline’s show, and finished it while we were driving.
How did you pick “The 12 Days of Christmas” to play with?
Joe: The song is over 100 years-old, so it’s public domain. We knew we could monkey around with it and not have to pay anyone! And once we got that first line, we had the song. You can do 2 this, or 3 that, but to say “On the first day of Christmas, my paesan gave to me, a ride in his Iroc-Z”, that was it.
Carmine: Ten days later, [the NYC radio station] 103.5 KTU put us live on the radio. It was incredible.
What was the response like after you played it live on KTU?
Joe: It just took off. It was December 17th, a week before Christmas. People wanted to buy the song, but I just had it written down on a piece of paper!
So basically, had that original tape come out, you never would have written the second song, which was “The 12 Days of Guido Christmas”.
Carmine: No, we wouldn’t have. Gotta be honest, the two of us…a little lazy!
Joe: We went to record the song, and we made a CD. We made the second song, the “How Ya Doin’” Song, which then became “How Ya Doin’ Yankees”.
Carmine: It’s Shakespearian. It’s the Guido’s answer to Macbeth. [laughs] And the only reason we did “How Ya Doin’” was because we needed a bonus track. As children of the 70’s, well, there has to be a B side. [laughs]
What would you say is the appeal of the song?
Joe: It’s really funny. It hits Italian Americans all over, but especially in New York. It’s stuff we can all relate to. It’s a little generational, with the Iroc-Z, the Piazza jersey, the Sergio Tacchinis. Young kids now do get it, though.
Carmine: It’s pretty cool. We carved our little niche into a very broad genre.
Do you find that Italians get insulted by the song?
Joe: Well, we made the Italian American Anti-Defamation League’s list of 20 things not to endorse. #1 was the Sopranos. We were #20.
Carmine: We fluctuated. Sometimes we were #18. [laughs] It’s silly if you can’t laugh at yourself. They didn’t like the term “guido”, but we looked it up, and a “guido” was a Renaissance Italian artist. Sure, we did stereotype it up a bit, but there’s nothing violent or malicious about the song.
What are you working on now?
Joe: I’m working on a screenplay.
Carmine: I had a movie out at Sundance called Lbs. Then I had a movie in the Tribeca Film Festival called Amexicano. I’m working on a horror film now.
Joe: We appeared together in a film called Chooch. And we did another Yankees song this year, the first one in five years. It was the impetus for us to do something together again. I’m missing doing live entertainment.
Carmine: Me too.
Would you ever write a sequel to “The 12 Days of Guido Christmas”?
Carmine: No, we’ll probably leave it alone. There are other songs, though, like “Auld Lang Syne.”
That’s a beautiful one.
Carmine: It’s so depressing.
Well, it is the suicide season, after all.
Carmine: How could you kill yourself, when you hear a guy singing, “Nine balls a-grabbin’?” Life isn’t that difficult. You owe the credit card company $18,000, your kid is going to get kicked out of school….don’t worry about it. Nine balls a-grabbin’. That’s it.