Haywood Turnipseed Jr. is one of D.C.’s best stand-up comics. Regularly performing at the DC Improv, opening for big name acts and garnering accolades from The Washington Post, City Paper and others, he’s a stalwart comedic presence all 12 months of the year.
During a small fraction of those months, Turnipseed Jr. is also an occasional Santa Claus, donning the big red suit, granting kids’ wishes where possible and occasionally doing his best to shut down a drunk audience.
We had a chat with one of the best laughs in the business (literally, his laugh is quite identifiable) about the similarities of going up on stage and letting people sit on your lap.
InsideHook: How much of your standup background influences your Santa?
Haywood Turnipseed Jr.: I use more of my improv skills, a “yes and” mentality — staying open-minded and whatnot, that sort of thing.
What’s a tougher crowd: an unruly kid or a drunk adult?
A drunk adult. An unruly kid doesn’t want to be there usually, so I wouldn’t force it, recognizing their feelings. A drunk adult really, really wants to be there and it’s hard to get them to move on, so that others can enjoy the moment too. Sometimes, drunk adults wet themselves. Unruly kids just pout.
Has being a Santa changed since COVID?
This year will be my first time doing Santa in-person since COVID began and I am mindful of that. I’m vaxxed and boosted and will be testing myself before and afterwards. I’m mildly concerned about any flu and COVID hybrids that may pop up.
Do you dry clean your suit? Normal washer dryer cycle? Got a preferred detergent?
Dry clean. People can be nasty; sometimes the costume has sticky spots that I can only hope come from candy canes.
Has your weight fluctuated? Do you find yourself struggling to get into the suit or stuffing the suit to keep it big?
My weight has gone up this year, but I’m able to get into the costume, I just don’t need to use as much padding as I used to. The hardest part of the costume for me is the hair: wig and beard. I have a good amount of hair that I must hide, and it gets hot when sitting under lights. Like hot hot. It feels like peeling off layers when I need to change out.
What’s the best kid request you’ve heard?
One kid was sweet and asked for a gift for his sister who was sick. He asked if I could help her get better. I just said Santa would help her feel better and that he could help by being an honorary elf and giving her presents. He loved that idea. I loved his response, it was a moment.
The best moment was this kid who just jumped in my arms and would not get down, he was seriously going to stay with me all night. Being a dad myself, I didn’t even realize it and carried him around for at least 10 minutes.
Does Santa get heckled more than non-Santa Haywood?
That depends upon the audience, but I can say that Santa gets heckled by teens who are forced to attend, until Haywood makes a joke that they get. So, I guess I do use my stand-up skills, to kill any audience I’m faced with. Waka-waka-waka, or in this case, ho-ho-ho!
This article was featured in the InsideHook DC newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Beltway.