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Sedaris first read the essay on National Public Radio's Morning Edition on December 23, 1992. The piece was well-received, and provided Sedaris with his first major break. Sedaris later published the essay in the collections Barrel Fever (1994) and Holidays on Ice (1997). A much longer version of the piece first aired on December 20, 1996 on the Public Radio International program This American Life. In 1996, Joe Mantello adapted Sedaris' essay for the stage as a one-man, one-act play, which debuted (as The Santaland Diaries) at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York on November 7, 1996. Timothy Olyphant originated the role. Mantello's adaptation has since become a seasonal staple of regional, college and high-school theatre.
TV actor Kevin Chamberlin has said in interviews that he worked as a Santa at Macy's at the same time as Sedaris. (Chamberlin has not said if any specific Santa described in the story is based specifically on him.)
Although Sedaris has claimed that the account is true, fact-checking by This American Life and others in the wake of the Mike Daisey Foxconn controversy have clouded the issue. In 2007, writing for The New Republic, Alexander S. Heard fact-checked various aspects of Sedaris's stories, including SantaLand Diaries, and found that several aspects were exaggerated and manufactured, although Sedaris did work in Macy's during the time period represented. Although some defended Sedaris by stating that his intention was to entertain, not provide accurate information as in the case of Daisey, NPR's executive editor of news programming has stated that, in the future, the story will be referenced clearly as fiction.
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