Picture a pair of stockinged feet, propped on an ottoman in a cozy living room. The feet are wearing a pair of novelty socks.
“If you can read this,” the soles read, “I’m watching Christmas movies.”
Until recently, Rachel Dratch wasn’t exactly the kind of person who would wear these socks. But the comic actor was well aware of the holiday programming of a certain cable channel operated by a certain greeting card company.
How could she not be? Over the past decade or so, the “Hallmark Christmas movie” has snowballed from novelty to ubiquity.
Dratch had an idea to parody the genre, which seemed ripe for the picking, like a pair of lightly used socks off the laundry pile. When she learned that her friend and fellow “Saturday Night Live” alum Ana Gasteyer was tinkering with a similar idea, they each put their best foot forward. The result is “A Clüsterfünke Christmas,” a farcical parody that premieres Dec. 4 on Comedy Central.
There seems to be some critical mass behind the concept, says Dratch, on the phone from her home in New York.
“Hopefully it’s right on the wave,” she says. “These movies are crying out to be parodied.” From the beginning, she says, their aim was to make “the ‘Airplane’ of Christmas movies.” Surely the time has come.
To capture the true spirit of made-for-TV Christmas, the two writers brought in actors and producers from the actual world of Hallmark movies. For the script, they consulted with Gasteyer’s friend Michael Murray, a Hallmark holiday veteran.
“There’s all these rules around Hallmark Christmas movies. I had no idea,” says Dratch, who grew up in Lexington. “A Clüsterfünke Christmas” checks all the boxes.
Small town in winter? Check. (The fictitious Yuletown, in uppermost Maine.)
Big-city woman with big-city attitude? Check. (Holly, played by Vella Lovell, shows up in town under orders to buy the Clüsterfünke Inn for her hotel resort chain.)
A meet-cute with a hunky outdoorsman? Check. Frank (Cheyenne Jackson) is the innkeepers’ nephew, a jack-of-all-trades in a lumberjack coat who sees through Holly’s motives.
And there’s romantic intrigue. What will Holly do when her blue-blooded boyfriend — his name is Chancington — shows up to fetch her back?
Dratch and Gasteyer play the Clüsterfünke sisters, the spinsters Marga and Hildy, who run the inn like it’s Christmas every day. According to the unwritten rules of Hallmark Christmas movies, every scene includes at least one reminder of the season. (So many snow globes.)
“Without our traditions,” one of the sisters deadpans, “we’d lose the will to live.”
Dratch often returns to Lexington to see her mother and her old friends. A graduate of Dartmouth College, she recently joined the board of advisers for the school’s Hopkins Center for the Arts.
For getaways, she says, “I go to Vermont every year and to Cape Cod — those are my two spots.” She’s never been to northernmost Maine — “I’ve been to Maine, but I have yet to make it to Yuletown.”
After debuting on “SNL” in 1999, Dratch had her breakthrough with sketches featuring Denise, a heavily accented Boston teenager. She first developed the character with Tina Fey when they performed together with the Second City improv troupe in Chicago.
“Tina does the best Boston accent of anyone not from Boston,” Dratch says.
Another of Dratch’s creations, Debbie Downer, may have gotten more mileage, but her Boston roots continue to serve her well. Case in point: the Hyundai Sonata ad touting the brand’s “Smaht Pahk” feature, in which Dratch appeared alongside fellow Bostonians Chris Evans and John Krasinski. The commercial debuted in February 2020 during the Super Bowl.
She’s proud of her local roots, and she doesn’t mind that she’s still known for doing the accent.
“I’ll never tire of it,” she says, hamming it up. “It’s my bread and buttah!”
She’s on a recurring group chat with fellow “SNL” alums including Gasteyer, Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph; they weigh in on each new episode of the show. (Spoiler alert: Rudolph makes a brief but glorious cameo appearance in “A Clüsterfünke Christmas.”) Dratch says she bumps into Seth Meyers often, and she recently saw Will Ferrell at a party for his new Apple TV+ series “The Shrink Next Door.”
“You’re always excited to see someone you were there with,” she says. “It’s like you were all in the same crazy club together.”
One recent night, she sat down to watch a rom-com. “I don’t usually watch that genre, but was in the mood for something mindless,” Dratch says. Her 11-year-old son, Eli, joined her for a few minutes, then made a prediction: “She’s gonna end up with him,” he said.
It’s that kind of simplistic formula, Dratch says, that makes the stock Christmas movie so spoof-worthy. “It’s sort of comforting to know this whole formula exists,” Dratch says. “It’s super cheesy.”
“Hate-watching” isn’t exactly it, she says.
“I would call it ‘surrender’ watching. You give over to the cheese.”
Email James Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.
A CLÜSTERFÜNKE CHRISTMAS
Starring: Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Vella Lovell, Cheyenne Jackson, Ryan McPartlin. On: Comedy Central, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m.