If you were hunting for presents in the Union Square market last weekend, chances are you scored a musical treat: Blending the urgency and humor political street theater, Gays Against Guns wowed unsuspecting shoppers with creatively written, biting, and cathartic alternative Christmas carols, complete with sleigh bells and a grotesque Trump puppet in a king’s crown. A crowd quickly formed to enjoy such tunes as “I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus” and “Grabby Paws Is Coming To Town,” with onlookers braving blustery temperatures to laugh through more than a dozen songs about homophobia, racism, gun violence, and foreign intervention in U.S. elections.
Most New Yorkers would be far less annoyed if the jingles on permanent repeat in every grocery and drug store between Thanksgiving and New Year’s sported lyrics like these new classics from “GAG Nog”:
Donny the Con Man was a nasty, hateful soul
Just an angry man with a spray-on tan
Telling lies about clean coal
Donny the con man did a job Election Day
Telling old white men they’d be great again
If they’d let him have his way.
Mark Leydorf, who wrote the book for the musical Citizen Ruth, also wrote most of GAG’s carols (others were contributed by members Kimberly Miller, Gina DelJones, and Jeremy Tjhung). The organization was founded last summer, after the Orlando shooting. “People were like, don’t fuck with the gays—and it’s true,” Leydorf thells the Voice. “GAG is bringing back some of that ACT UP mojo, exerting pressure on the Congress and the NRA to break the chain of death.” Before the election, when GAG’s members assumed Hillary Clinton would win, their carols focused mostly on gun violence and politicians’ fecklessness in response. “After the Apocalypse, we had to broaden the message,” Leydorf continues. “Our villain, the NRA, spent something like $50 million this cycle, so they’re just as responsible as Putin and Comey for giving us the führer of Fifth Avenue.” He penned “Donny the Con Man” on November 9.
Approximately thirty GAG members have caroled over three weekends, in Times Square, Union Square, Columbus Circle, Rockefeller Center, and at Trump Tower. They intentionally chose touristy spots in the hopes of communicating with Red Staters. “I like activism in which you engage at close range with people. Gag Nog is silly, but we have conversations about guns and Trump and Putin all day long,” Leydorf explains. “People will come up and ask to sing with us, or we’ll make some stranger hand out our palm cards. We keep it fun. I like to think we’re modeling protest for people who’d normally just share memes on Instagram.” He thinks satire and mockery will be key strategies for getting through the next four years. “New Yorkers definitely feel a catharsis with [GAG]. We’re standing there calling Trump out—he’s a Russian whore, an ignorant fuck, an angry man with a spray-on tan—and they love it. Let’s laugh him right out of office.”