God Bless Scrooge Parodies, Every Last One
There’s no holiday trope that funny people exploit like the adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge and his three buzzkill ghost nags. Between A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, our culture clearly loves communing with dead finger-waggers around the holidays. The Scrooge parodies are plentiful, but just when you think there’s not another giggle to be squeezed out of the old tale, along comes Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds, caroling it up with Spirited.
Looks fun, but then again, not all Scrooge parodies guarantee guffaws. Here are four Christmas comedy categories where you’ll find plenty of haunted holiday humor. Which parodies can snag the most Scrooges? Find out below.
Classic TV Curmudgeons
It would be easier to list the TV comedies that haven’t done a Scrooge parody than the ones that have. Here are the episodes, both naughty and nice, that stand out.
WKRP in Cincinnati (1980). Station manager Arthur Carlson is zonked out of his gourd thanks to Dr. Johnny Fever’s holiday-themed pot brownies, so it’s hard to know if the Big Guy is really being visited by yuletide ghouls or just suffering drug-induced psychosis. It likely doesn’t matter to WKRP’s radio weirdos since the ghosts convince Carlson to hand out a round of Christmas bonuses. Take it from the ghosts: Weed delivers peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Scrooge rating: 3/4
Boy Meets World (1997). This episode earns points right out of the gate with its title, “A Very Topanga Christmas.” Chef’s kiss. But the episode isn’t a great Scrooge parody. Cory technically qualifies as Ebenezer here, a Christmas grouch because he and Topanga have different tastes in Christmas trees. The Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present apparently have the night off; it’s only the Ghost of Christmas Feeny, er, Future, who arrives to show Cory how much the holidays will suck without his beloved. Smarmy. Scrooge rating: 2/4
The Six Million Dollar Man (1976). The single screen below tells you all you need to know. Scrooge rating: 4/4
Who needs a 30-minute sitcom when you can have a bloated Scrooge feature? At least some of these plus-sized versions of the Dickens classic deliver the giggles.
Rich Little’s A Christmas Carol (1978). Rich Little was the James Austin Johnson of the 1970s, pulling impressions from his fuzzy Santa bag faster than the fat man could fly up the chimney. It’s too bad that he populates his version of A Christmas Carol with so many cliche celebs, including Richard Nixon, John Wayne and W.C. Fields as Scrooge. Ho hum-bug. The only inspired choice is Paul Lynde as Bob Cratchit, which is clearly genius. Scrooge rating: 2/4
Scrooged (1988). This movie is as fun to watch as it was miserable to make. Any Scrooge parody that begins with “Psychos seize Santa’s workshop — and only Lee Majors can stop them!” is the stuff holiday dreams are made of. Working on Scrooged tormented Murray, but isn’t that the point? Sardonic suffering is what makes any Scrooge worth his salt, and Murray might be our favorite one of all. God bless him, everyone. Scrooge rating: 4/4
A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004). Frasier Crane was already pretty Scroogey, so Kelsey Grammar seemed a natural to play the ol’ moneygrubber. If Kels could bring a little of that “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs” swing to a musical version? All the better. But was the finished product any good? Variety pronounced it the “37th best production of A Christmas Carol” of all time (although it’s probably moved lower down the list since 2004). As far as musical versions? The same reviewer ranked it behind movies starring Albert Finney and Mr. Magoo. Scrooge rating: 1/4
An American Christmas Carol (1979). At least Frasier made more sense than Fonzie. You think old-age makeup is unrealistic now? Check out Winkler, looking for a career stretch in his early 30s, slathered in latex as Benedict Slade. This Scrooge stand-in bah-humbugs his way around Depression-era New England, with rubbery wrinkles that qualify this made-for-TV monstrosity as hilarious parody. Scrooge rating: 2/4
Scrooge gave lazy cartoon writers a ready-made plot every holiday season, truly the gift that keeps on giving.
Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962). Why the near-sighted Magoo as a stand-in for the most miserable man in town? After all, the usually lovable character was never curmudgeonly in his other cartoons. Ah, it turns out that Magoo is only an actor playing Scrooge in a Broadway stage play. Which brings us back to our original question: Magoo was never an actor in those old cartoons either, just an old guy who can’t see. What the heck? Why not just retell the tale with Magoo as Scrooge? Only Jim Backus knows for sure. Scrooge rating: 2/4
Beavis & Butthead (1995). In “Huh Huh Humbug,” Beavis dreams of watching pornography when Butt-Head appears to warn him of three ghosts that will come to haunt him that night. Porno actors spirit out of the sexy action to deliver visions of Christmas past, present and future. Why should Beavis mend his ways? If not, there’s a tombstone in his future that reads: Beavis Never Scored. Scrooge rating: 3/4
The Simpsons (2003). Springfield’s titular family has done multiple episodes with passing references to Scrooge and “A Christmas Carol” over the years, but the most on-the-nose version is probably “‘Tis the 15th Season.” If you’re into meta-parodies, this one’s for you, as Homer’s descent into Scrooge-dom begins when he falls asleep watching Mr. McGrew’s Christmas Carol, a spoof on the puzzling Mr. Magoo feature above. (It also features Homer watching Scrooge parodies starring Urkel and the Star Trek crew.) Find this one on Disney+ — it’s from one of the good seasons. Scrooge rating: 4/4
Family Guy (2017). It’s Family Guy so it’s not going to be a spot-on Scrooge parody. But the show’s typical scattershot laughs still deliver some Christmas cheer. Peter is Scrooge, of course, with Patrick Swayze as his Ghost guide (get it?). Can he change his ways to avoid a future where he’s dead and only exists in an aging Brian’s dog farts? It’s Family Guy so don’t expect an actual ending when one more Swayze joke will do. Scrooge rating: 3/4
Do you have any idea how many Scrooge parodies SNL has done? Hint: A lot. But ex-SNLer Tim Robinson has them all beat.
Saturday Night Live: Scrudge (2017). Scrudge never kicks it with the guys anymore, but his roommate convinces him to hang out at a holiday party. Beck Bennett makes an excellent, passive-aggressive holiday crank, with pre-controversy James Franco as the Ghost who suggests it’s not too late for Scrudge to change his a-hole ways. (Spoiler alert: It’s too late.) Scrooge rating: 3/4
Saturday Night Live: Christmas Past (2013). Well, Jimmy Fallon, at least it’s not blackface this time. There’s nothing wrong with doing a sketch about a gay Scrooge, but this bit just gives Fallon an excuse to mince around in a lisping performance that’s downright embarrassing. Let’s hope Fallon’s ghosts haunt him forever with this one. Scrooge rating: 1/4
Saturday Night Live: A Sexy Christmas Carol (2018). Jason Momoa is the ghost with the sexy dance moves that just might inspire Scrooge to reform his ways. It’s a one-joke premise, but Momoa’s bumping and grinding does provide the sweet, sweet medicine needed to cure Tiny Tim’s rickets. Goose for everyone! Scrooge rating: 2/4
Saturday Night Live: White House Christmas (2017). In a vacuum, this Trump-as-Scrooge parody is funny enough. Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush as his Ghost of Christmas Past? We’re here for it. Unfortunately, Alec Baldwin’s weekly turn as Trump had worn out its welcome at this point (even though it would stick around for several more seasons). The Scrooge theme just provided a yuletide backdrop for beating the same old jokes into the ground. Bah. Scrooge rating: 2/4
I Think You Should Leave: Scrooge Encounters a Cyborg from Christmas in 3050 (2019). Perfection. Scrooge rating: 4/4
Top image: Mirage Productions