Secret Santa

For the 5th Christmas in a row, we’re going door-to-door caroling with the neighborhood. Our musical mystery guest returns this year for maximum holiday cheer!

Meet Johnny Chobani – the man, the myth, the mistletoe! An alias, of course, because — like Saint Nick — Johnny’s an undercover dude. We’re coaxing him into the limelight, though, to accompany EFL readers with Metro Presby, St James School, and St Bridget’s parishioners when we sing thru the neighborhood Thursday December 20th.

Why, he’s a radiant beacon of holiday spirit! May this festive Fallser’s answers to our Christmas Questions bring you yuletide joy.

How cuckoo are you for Christmas?

I absolutely love Christmas. Every year I host an event called the 24 Hour Christmas Movie Marathon (now in its eleventh year!) where, as you would probably guess, I have Christmas films playing for an entire day. People stop by to eat food, play with dogs, and enjoy the general merriment.

So as a Christmas movie aficionado, which are the real stand-outs for you?  

I could talk about Christmas films for far longer than anyone would care to listen.  Strictly based upon nostalgia, the Rankin/Bass animated Christmas films will always be among my favorites. The Year Without a Santa Claus is still perfection even after seeing it well over a hundred times. It’s a Wonderful Life is another favorite that still makes me mist up during the final performance of “Auld Lang Syne.”

BTW, a Christmas film that no one seems to notice that I implore everyone to see is Arthur Christmas — it has a superb British cast of voice actors (including Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, and James McAvoy), and it has everything in it that’s wonderful about the holiday.

Favorite Christmas carols?

I’ll give you something new and something old for favorite Christmas Songs. In the new category, Phoenix appeared in A Very Murray Christmas and played their version of a song was written for the Beach Boys’ 1977 Christmas album, but didn’t make the cut. The song is called “Alone on Christmas Day,” and it’s terrific.  As for something less-obscure, I adore Judy Garland’s  “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” from Meet Me in St. Louis.

You wrote a Delco Christmas musical that you released serially last season, like an Old Time-y radio show — which you’ve brought back for 2018. What’s the deal with all this?

Midlife Christmas focuses on people in their 30s-60s.  It’s a collection of all the things and people that we hate/love about Delaware County, and most of those observations were made about our elders. We tried to populate this audio town with characters that represent all of the people we knew growing up – power-hungry bigots, politically conservative goth-kids, tired mothers, and working class adults who are wondering, “What now?”

Our target audience for Midlife Christmas is literally anyone who will give it a chance — it’s bizarre and off-putting, so we couldn’t possibly be picky with the audience! Listen here: iTunes, YouTube and SoundCloud.

What’s on your Christmas list this year?

Have you ever eaten something that makes you question how you went so long without it?  That was me discovering stuffed-olives last month. This is the only thing that I have asked for Christmas this year.

Would you say East Falls has a lot of Christmas spirit?

I have seen some decorations around East Falls, and people seem to start taking up the Christmas Spirit, but I have to say, Manayunk has us beat with their decked-out lamp posts.  Please don’t hurt me for saying so.

What’s a good Holiday gift for an intellectual-sorta guy? Asking for a friend.

I will recommend the book that I always buy people who have any interest in history/current events for Christmas: Lies My Teacher Told Me. It basically analyzes the most commonly-used history text books in the U.S., and in doing this, points out many of the flaws in studying American history, especially at a grade-school level.

How will you ring in the New Year?

I’ll spend New Years in East Falls with Mrs. Chobani, our dogs, and some friends playing board games and eating too much cheese.

So who are you, really?

My wife Sam and I live at the bottom of the hill on Indian Queen Lane with our two dogs (Lemony Sniffit and Frijolita). Sam and I are high school sweethearts, and have been going steady since July 20, 2008, so if anyone has any great decade-anniversary-gift ideas, I am all ears.

Speaking of high school, I work in one.  I’m a history teacher, which is why I’m using an alias. I live in perpetual fear of my students finding me on Facebook which would allow them to dig up pictures of me when my hair was down to my back.

Sam attends Drexel University College of Medicine, and I am a Master’s candidate studying History at Villanova. We really love living in East Falls. (And I actually do eat a lot of greek yogurt.)

One of my favorite things here is the Schuylkill River Trail, which my friend Brendan Detweiler, who lives on Vaux, persuaded me to buy a bike, and ride with him for much longer than I am physically capable of.

As a three-year Fallser, any advice for newcomers?

My advice for any new arrival: get acquainted with Mr. Chu at Conrad Laundry. He is one of the most interesting people I have ever met, and you’ll have plenty of time to talk to him while you wait for that spin cycle to conclude.

Also, dive into all of the food available here! One year on my birthday, Sam bought me a pizza from every pizza shop in East Falls. It was divine. She presented them to me sans labels, so I had no idea where each one came from. After doing a blind taste-test of plain cheese pizzas, Slices took the cake for me. (Oh, get over it, In Riva — I can’t afford to develop a habit for your food, I teach in a public school, after all.)

Best advice you can give us, overall?

My personal mantra is “Be kind, damnit,” which is applicable to everyone and every thing all of the time.  A runner-up quote would be something my grandmother frequently says: “Humans are overrated.”  She’s great.

When you’re not playing Christmas carols, you’re 1/3rd of the punk/rock band “Sweet Moves,” whose Facebook description is “Like if The Strokes cheated on The Cribs and had a baby with The Cure.” Care to elaborate?

I had no idea that this was written on our profile, so it must be the work of my brother. We definitely love these bands, but I would not say we sound like them, really.

We’ve been together for about a year, but we’ve been playing music in some capacity together our entire lives. My brother, Pete plays drums, which is something that he taught himself to do after our previous drummer decided he didn’t want to play music anymore, and my best friend growing up, Dan, has been playing guitar with me in bands since we were pre-teens.

We will play just about anywhere that will have us, so people can follow us on our Facebook page to find out when/where that is. We also have some performances from previous gigs up, and in January we’ll have a demo people can listen to and download for free.


Thursday, December 20th — Door to door caroling thru the streets of East Falls. After-party upstairs at Cranky Joe’s. All ages, all abilities welcome! Sign up on Facebook for details and to get in on a practice session where we’ll learn a short fun song list we’ll be belting out while Johnny and his buddy from Manayunk strum along in acoustic style.

INTRODUCING…. Jingle Truck! Our good old Chevy pickup. It’s a stage, it’s light source, it’s gonna help us reach more houses with less walking.

**Please note: this is a secular Christmas event — all welcome!**

Know someone who needs some holiday cheer? Email and we’ll add their address to the list.

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