The most common reaction to “The Christmas Tree,” a one-minute, forty-second YouTube short is “Oh my God, that’s my mother.”
And the big-haired woman who says “Make it nice” and “Pick up all that shit” may be your mother, and your aunt, and your mother-in-law, and your friend’s mom too. But technically it’s the mother (wardrobe included) of John Roberts, a 36-year-old actor and comedian who’s lived in New York since 1989. Filmed last year on his mother’s block in Colonia, New Jersey, “The Christmas Tree” so nails the universal zeitgeist of Christmas in the New York metropolitan area, that it’s often forwarded as Christmas in Long Island.
But it’s not New Jersey or Long Island that gives the video its power. That accent and that attitude can only mean one thing: Bensonhurst. Robert’s mother grew up there and Roberts grew up imitating his mother.
“I’ve been doing that impression of her since I was kid… just her accent and stuff…she loves it…she’s a real ham” said Roberts who was nominated for a broadband Emmy for the “The Christmas Tree.” I grew up in Jersey and I didn’t have that accent. She is so cool about it. My sister’s not so cool about it. So, I had to stop doing my sister for a while.”
More than half a million people have watched the video since Roberts put it up last Thanksgiving. His latest video,“The Phone Call”, which had a special debut at the HBO Comedy Festival last month, is another tribute to his mother. Roberts recalled sitting underneath the dining room table as a child and listening to his mom’s half of hours and hours of phone chatter.
Since Robert’s “The Christmas Tree,” “The Phone Call” and “My Son is Gay?” were all stage monologues adapted into video shorts with their genius intact, Roberts hopes the next step will be a TV pilot.
“Now I’m trying to pitch a show and put of all the characters in to one place,” Roberts said. “Or to just do a mom show or a mom movie… some sort of Carol Burnett meets YouTube.”
Jackie and Debra would approve.