Skip To Content

Why did Sarah Silverman and Seth Rogen make a Christmas show — and why is it so bad?

What if Santa was a Jewish woman? That’s a question no one ever asked until “Santa, Inc.,” a new stop-animation show on HBOMax starring Seth Rogen as Santa and Sarah Silverman as an elf named Candy Smalls.

Of course, no one really needed to ask that question. And even “Santa Inc.” barely addresses it — the show is more concerned with unnecessary raunchy humor and claymation nudity while cramming in a truly impressive number of Holocaust jokes.

The plot is a bit hard to follow, thanks to the copious secondary storylines about casual sexual harassment and drugs and more sexual harassment, but it follows the goings-on at Santa Inc., the corporation that runs Christmas, which is staffed by reindeer and gingerbread men and anthropomorphized ornaments. Candy, Silverman’s character, is campaigning to be the next Santa. (One of the show’s more clever conceits is that each holiday is a competing company; at one point, Easter tries to poach Candy.)

Much of the show seems to be trying to highlight the toxic masculinity and workplace culture that characterizes many large corporations, and Candy becomes part of the very structure she dreams of reforming; she constantly flip-flops between truly wanting to make Christmas a better, fairer company and being completely cutthroat in her attempts to succeed. The political messages are pretty heavy-handed, with a Greek chorus of Candy’s best friends — Cookie, a cookie, and Goldie, a reindeer — frequently chiming in to say that Candy is becoming a bad friend and a bad person as she climbs the corporate ladder, while also complaining about the company’s bad maternity leave policies and sexism.

The more interesting question about the show is why it exists, and why it stars Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman, two of the most visibly Jewish actors in Hollywood today. Silverman, in particular, recently accused Hollywood of “Jewface” and took on issues of Jewish representation in her podcast, taking the industry to task for always casting Jews as hokey sidekicks. You might think that this Christmas series made by two famous Jews would have some greater message about antisemitism or Christianity’s hegemony in the U.S. But instead Silverman, too, has reduced Jewishness to a handful of hackneyed stereotypes in “Santa, Inc.”

Candy’s Judaism is, at best, an afterthought; she would be the first Jewish Santa, which is great for the company’s optics. But there’s no discussion of Candy perhaps feeling conflicted about working for Santa Inc. as a Jew; Hanukkah isn’t even one of the competing holiday companies.

Instead, Jewishness manifests only through the sort of lazy coding we’re used to seeing — jokes about Candy’s overbearing and crass mother, a couple wisecracks about eating treyf food, the Holocaust jokes. I was surprised there wasn’t a line about big noses. The most overtly Jewish moment is a cameo from a dreidel-shaped Jerusalem correspondent named “Rivka Spinster,” which feels derogatory even though they probably just meant to pun on the fact that dreidels spin — but hey, why not both?

Despite these lazy references, Rogen and Silverman seem to be trying to emphasize the show’s Jewishness. A promotional clip posted to Silverman’s Instagram jokes about how most Christmas carols were written by Jews. Rogen has made headlines by claiming that the show’s poor ratings were caused by white supremacists leaving antisemitism-fueled reviews. But, while reading through the reviews does surface some histrionic comments about a woke, Jewish war on Christmas, the majority complain about the crude jokes and unimaginative writing.

“It feels like the writers thought if you throw a swear in a sentence it makes that sentence a joke,” wrote one commenter.

Maybe “Santa Inc.” is just a crass animated comedy that’s more about gratuitous dick jokes than anything else. And that would be fine — not really my taste, but Rogen’s similarly-toned “Sausage Party” did well. But if they’re going to rope in the Jewish community at large, and cry antisemitism because of the show’s bad reviews, it becomes my issue. Rogen and Silverman should have left us out of it.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.