My relationship with Jeff Corwin is special and weird. I once had an argument with him about a hypothetical situation in which one of us was born a woman, I wanted to know if he thought we would be romantically involved. We’ve known each other for almost 10 years, and for only 6 months of that time have we even lived in the same city. From his moves to London and then San Francisco, to my move to Germany, we’ve perfected the art of being stupid on the phone and over the internet.
Jeff is one of the most naturally musically talented people I’ve ever met, and we’ve worked on songs together over the years, always arguing bitterly about lyrics. Some day we will be locked in a room together and write the worst musical of all time.
But now let's go back to 2010. I was in a dark, cold place. Romania. It was December, and I was feeling very cut off from the world, I finally got on the hotel wifi, I loaded up Facebook to see what everyone was doing, and there was a video from Jeff. A quick 90 seconds of him belting out “Oh Holy Night” on the Kazoogle, an instrument he’d bought in Austin that’s like a Kazoo with a Bugle horn. It’s loud, it’s annoying, it’s perfect.
Watching the video made my heart break, my life was all hotels and tourism, and I wanted to make a christmas video after watching Jeff’s, but I didn’t. Not that year. I just kept watching “Oh Holy Kazoogle” over and over and laughing.
A year later, with my feet firmly in Austin, in secret, I took Jeff’s original video, recorded some whistling, and re-edited the video into a duet. I remember so clearly listening over the phone as he watched my creation for the first time, not knowing that a tradition was being born that night.
Now we each take turns, alternating years. In year 3 Jeff did the sensible thing and added his lovely singing, and a cameo from his wife, Stephanie. The video stayed at about 2 minutes, and I remember feeling a lot of stress about how I would respond.
Year 4 I embraced my inferior singing abilities and went full out on the strange third verse of “Oh Holy Night” the video doubled in length, and the reality of the video itself began to break down a little bit.
Year 5 Jeff introduced a new conceit that I know was intended to open up the possibilities for expansion in a way beyond layering more performances on top of the previous year's video, and in doing so really tore down any of the remaining coherent world of “Oh Holy Night”
So here we are, year 6, my turn. I was tempted to go out to the Christmas markets and leverage the incredibly Christmassy atmosphere of my new home, but that’s not where my mind is right now. Most days my mind is trapped in this room. So that’s what year 6 is about.
If it weren’t for Jeff, and his extremely delicate digestive system I wouldn’t have a ukulele. He was being held hostage by some pizza we’d had the night before, and I was left in his apartment with his ukulele and to entertain myself I figured out the chords to “Apache,” and I fell in love with the little four stringed nuisance. Here we are 3 years later, and I’ve found its one of the things I can’t live without. I moved all the way to Germany, leaving my ukuleles behind, and I made it only a few months before I had to go and buy one. Some things stay with you, like Jeff and how close we are despite the incredible distance, and these videos which I hope we do until we are both dead and making annoying music together in the afterlife.