Santa Maybe, Part One

Published: December 20, 2005
Categories: Uncategorized

We sure love our Christmas traditions here at Tough Pigs. In fact, we love them so much that this year, we’re importing them from another country.

As a special Christmas treat, I asked my pal Jogchem Jalink to translate a Dutch Sesame Street album made in 1982 called “Hoor wie klopt daar kinderen” — “Hear who’s knocking, kids!” In the Netherlands, where they call the show Sesamstraat, there’s a long tradition of Ernie and Bert comedy albums. The performers who voice Ernie and Bert are well-known Dutch comedians, and they’ve created a series of Ernie and Bert records that American Muppet fans have never heard. Or if you have heard one, then you didn’t understand it, cause who the heck speaks Dutch, anyway? Well, as it turns out, Jog speaks Dutch, on account of he is one, and he agreed to translate this album for us.

The album is really surprising and strange. Ernie, Bert and Grover have slightly different personalities than the characters we’re used to — Ernie’s calmer, Bert is more childish, and Grover’s just a nervous wreck. There’s a whole different feel to the dialogue, a much looser tone. You’re gonna like this.

Here’s Jog’s introduction to the transcript. Enjoy the show, and happy Sinterklaas!


Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, is a very old and very generous saint who delivers presents and goodies to children, just like Santa Claus. He arrives in the Netherlands in November, and celebrates his birthday on December 5th by giving away sacks full of presents. Every child loves Sinterklaas, and he loves children, especially when they sing a song for him.

Not everyone in the Netherlands celebrates Christmas with presents, so Sinterklaas is like a Dutch substitute for Santa, right before Christmas.

Black Pete is Saint’s helper. He’s black because he goes down the chimneys at night to put a little present in your shoe. Saint has a whole bunch of Petes to help him. They can be a bit naughty at times.

Sinterklaas doesn’t just give presents; he also gives things to eat. Peppernuts are special Sinterklaas candy. They’re not nuts, and there’s no pepper in them. They’re like tiny little cookies. The Petes often throw them all around the room, so that the kids can grab them from the floor. Speculaas is a kind of almond biscuit that comes in many different shapes and sizes. You’ll often find it in your shoe. It’s common to get the first letter of your name made of chocolate. It’s also common to get marzipan, which can be sculpted like clay into shapes like food, animals, or Sinterklaas himself. There’s even Berts and Ernies made of marzipan.

A sur-prise (“sur-pree-se”) is a creative, crafty way of wrapping a present — for instance, inside a paper mache sculpture. Many grownups celebrate Sinterklaas by making sur-prises for each other.

Rhymes are a big part of Sinterklaas celebrations. There’s often a little poem included with the presents, written by Saint or Pete. Grownups spend a lot of time coming up with funny presents to fool each other.

“Hoor wie klopt daar kinderen” isn’t the best of the Bert and Ernie record series, but it has good moments, and I think it’s the best seller.

A lot of the dialogue is improvised; only the songs were written beforehand. I assume there was a rough script, but there’s clearly a lot of ad-libbing going on. Some parts are a bit repetitive, but the Dutch Bert and Ernie albums always give you the feeling that you’re listening to real characters chatting informally with each other. That’s what makes Bert and Ernie so successful here.

Wim T. Schippers performs Ernie, and Paul Haenen does the voices of Bert and Grover. Paul and Wim are successful Dutch comedians; they always push the humorous side, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. You’ll notice that there’s absolutely no mushiness about the holidays — Saint mentions that he’s been drinking, and his helper Pete is constantly nagging that it’s time to leave.

There are some “poo” and “farting” jokes, which are pretty forced on this one. On other albums, they’re a bit more creative with that.

The music is performed by the Guimbarde-Ensemble, led by J.P. “Clous” van Mechelen, who performed Uncle Rudolph on later albums.

On the back side of the Ernie and Bert LP, there were letters from Bert and Ernie:

Hi kids,

Sinterklaas is coming to visit us, and now we’re getting ready. Ernie is going to sing, and I’m reading my book “Beautiful Sinterklaas Poems”. Uncle Rudolph gave me that book. Did Sinterklaas ever visit you? He’s never visited me before. I’d better wait. Waiting sure takes long. Just listen.

A handshake from Bert.

Hello everybody!

Isn’t Sinterklaas fun? I didn’t get anything in my shoes. Maybe you’ll be getting lots of presents now. We’d better sing actively. Bert is all shaky, but I’m not. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get a lot of presents, because having a party is fun too. Bert says it’s time to start the record, so I have to quit.

A kiss from Ernie.

And now, let’s start the record…

by Jogchem Jalink

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