The Thanksgiving holiday gives us an opportunity to step back, relax, and give thanks for all the good things in life. Things like renaissance-fair-style turkey drumsticks, mulled wine, and the unconditional love of family and friends. Not to mention obnoxious second cousins, manic holiday travel, drunk uncles and recipes gone horrible awry.
So to get you ready for the adventures ahead this Thanksgiving week, we went out and spoke with 7 of the most hilarious comedians out there about their most memorable, embarrassing and wild tales from Thanksgivings past. Many thanks to our presenting sponsor Samsung.
Get excited. Happy Thanksgiving y'all!!
Last year my girlfriend and I were supposed to spend our first Thanksgiving together with her family in Virginia. Only I booked a job doing interviews at the Thanksgiving Day parade in NYC so couldn't make the trip. She was disappointed but understood.
On Thanksgiving, I finished the job around 2pm and headed to my parent's house in N.J.— they were out of town but I figured being alone for the day would be more comfortable on their couch than in my tiny apartment. Upon arriving, I decided to Skype my girlfriend and wish her family a Happy Thanksgiving. After all, I had a nice outfit on— heck, I was even wearing TV makeup— might as well capitalize.
The call scored major points. I complimented their lovely dinner table and promised to make up for my absence the following year. My girlfriend said I looked adorable. I closed the computer, turned on football and opened a beer.
Normally I love traditional holidays but I quickly saw the benefits of a Thanksgiving with no obligation. Not making small talk or eating food just to be polite– this wasn’t bad at all. Just a man, a beer and some football.
Among my dad’s odd habits, he doesn’t like leaving food in the house when my parents go away. So my search for any morsel of food in their kitchen came up empty– not even a can of tuna. My college roommate used to joke “there’s a sandwich in every beer!” (noting the barley and yeast ingredients). So I decided to honor him by opening another and watching more football.
This trend continued until the games were over at which point I realized I was very hungry. Being Thanksgiving, no stores were open (not that I would have driven). But I remembered another of my dad’s quirky traditions– every year, regardless of where he spends Thanksgiving, he cooks a turkey so he can have leftovers. I checked the freezer and, sure enough, a frozen turkey.
I put the bird on the counter to defrost. After 20 minutes it remained hard as a rock– I had no idea turkeys took days, not minutes to defrost. I ran hot water over it, nada. It was 9pm on Thanksgiving night and all I had "eaten" was beer. I needed this turkey.
After a brief brainstorm, I concluded if I could somehow immerse the turkey in flames it would likely defrost and cook all at the same time. And my dad had a portable fire pit in the garage…
Using random wood, an old chair and other flammable-looking items, I built a scorching fire in the backyard. Then I took off my nice clothes so as not to ruin them, grabbed a pitchfork and impaled the turkey.
The flames were intense but I was focused enough not to care. The fire snapped and roared as I rotated my pitch fork turkey like a rotisserie. When my arms finally began to tire, I used a large tongs to rip a hunk of flesh off the carcass and try it… delicious! Well, charred and chewy but cooked.
And there I stood, in my underwear, in front of raging fire eating turkey off a pitchfork. And who walks around the side of the house? My girlfriend. She felt so bad seeing me alone on Thanksgiving she packed a dinner and drove 5 hours to surprise me.
The fright and confusion she felt was captured in her tone when she simply uttered "Michael… what's happening?”
And I, standing in my underwear, proudly beamed: "I cooked a turkey!"
Somehow, we are still together for our second Thanksgiving. I will be in Virginia.
Two years ago, it was my first Thanksgiving living in LA and I was eagerly preparing a scrumptious apple tart for a Friendsgiving potluck. Though I'm not an unsocial person, this was the first time in my life I'd been part of a group of friends who consistently hung out with each other (and I was totally The Ross). Thus, I was eager to please. I was so lost in a reverie of what other "tv friend" I was in the context of my group (The Miranda? The Niles Crane?) that I barely noticed it when I sliced off the tip of my finger with a hand blender. My boyfriend was at an improv practice because doing improv is a requirement by law if you live in Los Feliz, so I was forced to call up one of my new friends to drive me to the emergency room. As he drove, I vacillated between crying, calling myself a dumb idiot and asking him if I was going to die. I ended up going to the potluck and trying to act normal, but people could barely stifle their nausea every time they looked at my bloody, bandaged finger, even though I drew a happy face on it! I'm SUCH a Trixie the prostitute from "Deadwood."
I was in 7th grade living in an apartment in Maryland with my two brothers, sister, and both my parents. We were all waiting for my relatives visiting from Virginia to come over. My mom was cooking up something amazing. I was playing N64 in my room (or ogling women on Telemundo). Finally, my relatives showed up happy to see us.
“The game on?” one of my uncles asks while looking for the remote.
After dinner we all gather in front of the TV to watch the football game. I notice that my aunt is drinking something brown in her cup. So me being the connoisseur of delicious juices you’d expect a 13 year old to be, I ask "Whatcha’ drinkin’ Auntie?”
“Uh. Iced tea.” She replied as she tried to watch the game.
“I didn’t see any iced tea in the fridge.”
She is beginning to get annoyed about the interrogation.
“That’s because it’s not in the fridge. I brought it from home.” She shoots back.
Now, I’m getting suspicious. What’s so great about her iced tea? Why’d she bring it all the way from home? Why the hell can’t she just wait to go back home to drink it? Is this mystery drink anything like the juice from Space Jam? But, right before I continued my interrogation my Aunt Shorty murmurs “…it's from Long Island.”
She read my mind and answered my question before I asked it, must be that damn tea.
I was fascinated. So, the next day I tried to recreate the drink. I ran to the dollar store and bought all types of tea; Brisk, Arizona, Lipton, and Nestea. Then I giggled my way back home and mixed it all together. Sadly, I wasn't able to read minds. How could it not work? I bought everything! What was I missing? At that very moment my Mother walks in the kitchen and screams,
“Jermaine, what are you doing?!”
“TRYING TO MAKE LONG ISLAND ICED TEA!” was the response I chose. My mother was not happy to say the least.
My parents are both Indian immigrants, but my older sister and I were both primarily raised here in the US of A. And so all American holidays would be presented through a filter of good intentions trying to blend the best of both cultures. That's why one year, when my sister and I wanted a "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner like we were promised in the hand turkeys we made at school and the cranberry sauce legends, my dad decided to appease us. But everything came out Indian-ified. And not that kind of Indian. So. Mashed potatoes became aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato curry). Sour cream became raita (strained yogurt). And the bird of honor, the turkey, became a baked tandoori chicken that somehow ended up in the oven too long and ended up being a burned, fiery red symbol of despair that sat in the center of the dinner table as some kind of futile warning. Luckily, Costco brand pecan pie cannot be tinkered with. Small miracles!
Ah yes, Thanksgiving is finally here! The holiday where we put food inside a bird and gravy in a boat. Good times. I love this holiday because there's nothing I like more than free food and Thanksgiving is like the Woodstock of stuffing your face. I grew up in New Orleans with very open minded parents. My folks would invite ANYONE and I mean ANYONE to come eat with us. If you didn't have a place to eat, you were coming to our house. You could be a teacher of mine or the weird newly divorced dad who also shopped at the same grocery as my mom. Either way, you were welcome. So every year our house was filled with family, kids, weird foreigners and strangers. If you looked around our giant table during dinner it looked like a class at a community college. Some old people, a few teens and many immigrants.
One year in particular my Mom invited over a random, older man. He was very proper and respectful, except when it came to women. When he first arrived, he was extremely pleasant and giving lots of compliments to everyone but once the food was served he believed men should do nothing. He was completely normal before but something about the food made him go all "barefoot and pregnant" on us. If I got up to get more stuffing he would say "Mark son, sit, sit." Then he would point to my cousin Michelle to get the stuffing for me. The room went silent. The whole table was confused and uncomfortable. The most he did was pass the rolls to my uncle, that was it. My dad tried to rectify the situation by saying "In this house we all help out." Our friend just nodded and kept going. "Mark son, you need water? (Pointing to my aunt) You, more water!" The table was tense and awkward, no one knew what to do. Finally my dad stood up and said "Look, I realize you have your traditions but in this house…" Just then my grandmother walked in with an exhausted look to her, she was panting. "What's wrong?" my mom asked. Grandma explained to us that half a block away she had jumped a curb and blown a tire and had to move the car over to the side of the road and run here. Everyone felt badly and we got her a chair and some water but not our old friend. He briskly stood up, took his sports coat off and walked outside and changed her tire with out saying a word. After that, he had no problem getting served.
Patel family Thanksgivings were always full day affairs full of 20 or so 20-something cousins and no parents. They were always concluded with heavy doses of wine/vodka and food comas induced by Indian spiced turkey and jalapeno-cheddar biscuits that make exact recall hazy. But as the set of cousins has gotten older and busier with adult lives, each turkey day has had fewer and fewer in attendance. One particular Thanksgiving, a cousin — then in the first year of his orthopedic surgery residency — was on call and thus had to stay at his hospital, or so we thought. We decided we would record our grace (everyone had to say one thing they were thankful for) and send it to our cousins that were MIA.
This guy is a surgeon
I concluded grace with our cousins' family tradition: "We are thankful for food, family, friends, and beautiful women who are not family or friends. Amen." As we began to feast, there was a ring at the door. It was our cousin who we thought was too busy to attend. He was in a full shiny black body suit, his wife's phone blaring Mo Money Mo Problems as the soundtrack to his entrance. His younger brother who was in attendance had texted him the perfect moment to ring the doorbell to surprise us. We've since added to our grace: "And we are thankful that we don't have any money so we don't have any problems. But we'd like some money, so we are thankful that Sujal is going to be a surgeon. Amen." This year, we're having Thanksgiving at his place.
Ed's note: Kate Berlant didn't submit a traditional Thanksgiving tale and instead chose instead to express herself through the following nostalgic, Thanksgiving recipe poems.
THE HEATHER (A COCKTAIL)
tragically peel an un-spiced orange
place orange in a torn halter
TIME HEALS (entrée)
8 peeled almonds
12 lemon-soaked croissants
4 tsp institutionalized mediocrity
Mixed together despite the bitter wail of a pre-teen
1 cup re-fabricated salsa rinds
1/2 inverted carrots tossed irreverently over a sense of change
2 cups softened calzone
Blend continuously for 8 hours
Serve over ice