Want to put some mojo in your “ho, ho, ho” this holiday season? Look no further than Santa Claus Training at Community College of Baltimore County (Carver Center in Towson). The five-session, $60 class (plus $25 in material fees) is designed for aspiring professional Santas—people who want to dazzle their relatives, bring joy to a corporate function, or simply spread holiday cheer.
Taught by professional clown, magician, and former Social Security Administration employee 72-year-old Marty Kurland (who ironically celebrates Chanukah), the well-rounded curriculum includes where to find employment and how to respond to wish lists (“Don’t promise anything specific, keep it general,” Kurland recommends).
He also teaches his students how to handle wardrobe malfunctions (“Always bring a spare change of clothes in case someone throws up or urinates on you,” he advises) and the Do’s and Don’ts of playing St. Nick. He says, “Don’t say, ‘Merry Christmas,’ say ‘Happy holidays,’ and . . . do give out an authentic, natural laugh.”
Kurland—who worked in the White House as a clown through the Carter, Reagan, and Bush administrations—also covers how to handle those critical questions such as, “Are you the real Santa or one of his helpers?” “I say, ‘What do you think?’ I never give a direct answer.”
The lecturer also advises his protégés to really take time with each misty-eyed moppet. “These parents have been waiting anywhere from a half hour to an hour,” says Kurland, who works the Santa circuit at The Shops at Kenilworth and teaches magic at Krieger Schecter Day School. “It’s unfair when they finally see you to give them the bum’s rush.”
Kurland gets mistaken for Kris Kringle, even out of costume, he says. “I have my own five-inch beard, and my own belly. I never wear a belly pad because kids can feel the difference. It’s a matter of acting and living the role.”