His Brother’s Keeper

Don’t mention Kevin Kringle to Sorta Claus. He won’t be amused.

Sorta Claus is the creation of Carmichael Lynch’s Lee Lynch. He’s Santa’s green-clad brother, and Lynch has been playing him for 15 years. Each holiday season, staffers at the Minneapolis agency bring in their kids, who get to sit on Sorta’s lap and tell him the real truth about what they want for Christmas—freed from the anxiety of having to face the great and powerful Santa himself. “The amazing thing is, kids aren’t afraid of Santa’s brother. They spill their guts,” says Jack Supple, the shop’s chairman and chief creative officer. Adds Lynch: “A lot of them complain that they didn’t get want they wanted [in past years]. They wouldn’t tell that to Santa.” (Sorta covers for his brother’s failings, saying he’s got a bad ear and you have to make sure you sit on his good side.)

This year, the kids are stopping by on Dec. 17. Lynch’s wife will make an appearance as Kinda Claus. (“Sorta Claus sometimes sorta smells like scotch,” Supple claims.) Lynch says he doesn’t recall how the tradition got started. But he does remember having a really bad costume in the early years, and the kids sometimes believed he was a fraud. So he had the Guthrie Theater in town make him a better one. He also takes the routine to hospitals and schools. He says the most common question that kids ask is: “Do you know Jesus?” (Answer: “Yes. He’s a great guy.”) The second-most-asked question: “What does Santa eat?” (Answer: “tofu and herring.”)

And what about Kevin Kringle, that other supposed Santa sibling, created by Best Buy? “It’s a shoddy commercialization of a tender thing,” Lynch says. “Sorta is the real brother. Kevin’s a fake.”