This fired Macy's Santa story seems to have touched something amiss in the larger culture. John Toomey's dismissal by the department store in San Francisco made headlines all around the country, and even insinuated itself into the Canadian media. Last night, when Toomey appeared on Jay Leno, he achieved what was once considered the final rung in the ladder of pop cultural ascension ("The Tonight Show" ain't what it used to be.)
Why such a national fuss? Maybe because the event has somehow encapsulated a broader debate about political correctness and shifting tastes in humor. The fact that this particular incident wraps all that up with an archetypal childhood figure has added an extra charge.
Please watch the Leno appearance below, because I had to sit through Jay's entire monologue to get to the Santa part. To skip the jokes, fast forward through the first two-thirds.
At the risk of encouraging yet another Facebook-generated protest, there's one brewing over the firing of John Toomey, who has worked for 20 years as the Union Square Macy's Santa. Toomey was fired after an elderly couple apparently thought a joke he told them was funny but not "ho-ho" funny.
The joke, from the Chronicle:
"When I ask the older people who sit on my lap if they've been good and they say, 'Yes,' I say, 'Gee, that's too bad,' " Toomey said Monday.
"Then, if they ask why Santa is so jolly, I joke that it's because I know where all the naughty boys and girls live."
Well it's not exactly Conan O'Brien, but a firing offense?
But fear not, Bad Santa lovers. In what can only be described as a Miiracle on Geary Street, the bar Lefty O'Doul's has "offered to double his previous salary if he'll take his Santa act there," The Snitch reports. Toomey told the blog he'll likely take the offer.