Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Why Art Carney Loved Playing Santa Claus on TV

Why Art Carney Loved Playing Santa Claus on TV

Some people appear to have been born to play particular roles on the stage and one of those was the great Art Carney. Of course, millions of people know Carney from his time playing Ed Norton on The Honeymooners. But putting on the red suit, a white beard, and yelling “Ho Ho Ho!” proved to be no challenge at all.

Why? Because Carney just loved the character.

On three different occasions, Carney stepped out from his sewer worker character and into wishing people a
“Merry Christmas.”

The first time he played Claus was on The Twilight Zone, MeTV reports, followed by an appearance years later on a holiday special with the Muppets. And the last time Carney took on Jolly Old St. Nick for someone else was December 1984 for The Night They Saved Christmas.

Art Carney Was Last Kid On Block To Not Believe In Santa Claus

“I was the last kid on the block to believe in Santa Claus,” Carney told the Asbury Park Press. That same wonder comes across whenever Carney played Claus. 

Carney grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, and fondly recalled memories of happy Christmas mornings.

“I can remember it just like it was yesterday,” he said. “I was the youngest of six boys. The first thing in the morning, my father would go downstairs. Then he’d turn on the Christmas tree lights, holler upstairs and we’d all come running down. It was indescribable—the joy and the happiness we felt.”

When Carney played Santa Claus, there also seemed to be an element of awe and wonder. He tried to express this in his own way. An interesting twist on the Santa portrayal was in The Twilight Zone. In The Night of the Meek, viewers find a Santa who is down on his luck and drunk. He’s struggling to make everything right again but is surprised along the way.

His Turn on ‘The Twilight Zone’ Proved Interesting

Santa, while out and about, receives a bag with gifts in them. This can help him reach a goal: To bring a sense of fulfillment to kids in need that Christmas by handing out gifts. Santa, as Carney, wants to extend the true Christmas spirit to poor, down-on-their-luck kids.

Back in 1970, Carney once again put on the red suit for The Great Santa Claus Switch. It was a special produced by Sullivan, whose variety show remained on the air at CBS. Also, Jim Henson’s Muppets are along for the ride, too.

Carney never really tried to change his voice for playing Santa Claus. But he brought the character to life, one that still gives kids and adults a lot of joy today and every day.