Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann can’t remember who first suggested the concept of an annual Christmas tour eight years ago. But it started as a little joke that quickly grew into a regular set of December dates with Ted Leo (her bandmate in The Both) that now includes videos, comedic sketches, traditional carols and a revolving cast of guest stars, like Liz Phair, who joins the revue this year. “I’m friends with so many comedians, so I like exploring the intersection of comedy and music,” she says. “And I like the idea of a variety show. But mainly, I just like having my friends around.”
How did you celebrate the season as a kid?
We had a typical suburban Christmas: tree, Santa, presents, bicycle. And Hot Wheels. That was what I always wanted, Hot Wheels. I was more into dude stuff, because dudes had all the fun toys. I don’t know — what do you do with a doll? I never understood that, never got how that was supposed to be fun. But, my God! Hot Wheels! Me and my little brother, as a joint Christmas present, got one of the Hot Wheels service stations, the multi-tiered one, and it was just the greatest thing. And my favorite model was the El Camino, the one with the surfboards in back.
What was your coolest gift, ever?
When I was 14, I got a tiny little amp and an electric guitar, so that was my Red Ryder BB gun. And I was very excited about it. But I was not a lead player. I kind of realized that “I don’t really know what to do with this.” And an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar? I didn’t really understand the difference. And I didn’t have people around me who were playing, so I couldn’t figure it out on my own.
And your worst Pink Nightmare-awkward gift?
You know, trying to get me to play with dolls, and dolls only, was what I was always trying to fend off. There was a clear wave of disapproval coming toward me with every unacceptable, gender-specific request that I made. I really wanted a pair of Chuck Taylors, but this was the ‘60s and only boys were allowed to wear them. And even at eight, I thought, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of! They’re cool! Let me wear them!”
Has Christmas gotten too commercialized?
Well, of course. But it’s been that way forever. But for kids, having a day where you get a bunch of stuff is still legitimately magical. And that always translates to a feeling later that something is going to happen. And I think that’s still possible.
IF YOU GO
The Aimee Mann & Ted Leo Christmas Show
with Jonathan Coulton, Liz Phair and special guests
Where: Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus Ave., S.F.
When: 8:30 p.m. Dec. 6-7
Contact: (415) 474-0365, www.ticketfly.com