A Guide To Having Your Parents Over For The Holidays

Happy MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR. The holiday season promises drinking, frivolity, gift-giving, alcohol, turkey specials at Boston Market, booze, you name it! This is when you really get to LET LOOSE.

But OH GOD your mother just called and said she and your father are COMING TO VISIT. What do you do?! Drink bleach to purify yourself? Stop it, you’re being rash. Convince the neighbor to burn down the building? No, that would take human interaction.

You’re going to have to prepare.

A Non-Traditionalist and the Holidays, or The One that Mentions "Thanksplosion"

grinchI wrote a blog a long time ago about how cleaning is my personal hell. Well, I'm currently finding myself in Dante's Febreezed inferno because the holidays are here and I am in a state of panic. The travel, the food, the warmth and love of family and friends, possibly seeing Disney’s Moana or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them--I am not prepared, you guys! The words that follow come from the most honest place of my brain and metaphorical heart: I do not like holidays. Do I like the time off? Yes, give me more of that! Sleeping in and watching episodes of Steven Universe and Tiny House Hunters is my favorite thing. But I do not enjoy the traditions, themes, rituals of many of them, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Fourth of July, and so on and so on. Everyone sing with me! "It's the most horrible time of the year!"

I learned very early in life that I am not a traditional person. I always had a quiet problem with authority and the status quo, but it was for non-essential things like the same dinner we ate every year. Why do you keep complaining that the turkey is dry? Don't make turkey! You do this every year, this is literally the definition of insanity. Also, the distinct lack of All Saint's Day following All Hallow's Eve bothers me. I mean, if you're going to act like an a-hole because you're dressed like Satan or Deadpool, you could at least donate to a charity or something while you deal with your alcohol and candy hangover. (Side note: Of all the statuses in my social media repertoire, my announcement that I hate Halloween is by far my most controversial. I actually got sad faces for this. I didn't even get that many sad faces when my dog's stomach was pumped for chocolate.)

I've been trying to come up with good holiday alternatives for years, and I personally think that they are genius. For example, I've had this great idea for years that I like to call "Thanksplosion." Instead of turkey and pie at the dining room table, you order pizza and beer and watch sci-fi action movies of varying qualities. I am so ahead of the times that no one has caught on to Thanksplosion yet. Maybe that's why I'm posting it on this blog, in hopes that one of you out there will think, "Wow... Thanksplosion. I should make this a thing because the turkey is always dry. And I need to stop the madness."

My work in creating an environment for non-traditional holidays continues. Last year, I started small with bringing a key lime pie to Christmas dinner. This Thanksgiving, I plan to make a marionette out of a wine bottle and have a Punch and Judy type show. My family will realize the importance of my innovations in time. And the holiday season is about hope.

KC Ryan is an improv graduate turned Sketch Writing Level 2 student. When she’s not working at the day job, she is a writer and podcaster for everything that combines feminism, comedy, theatre, and nerdery. She also performs in the puppet improv troupe Empty Inside.

The Best Christmas (Movie) Gift

Reindeer Nostalgia is the pure uncut black tar crystal blue hydroponic heroin (I know nothing about drugs because I’m totally square) of our lives. For real, there is nothing people like more than feeling nostalgic. The distant memory that’s been given a fresh coat of idealized lacquer creates all sorts of warm fuzzy feelings in our hearts. It reminds us that there was once a time when we were actually happy (even if we are remembered only the most rose-colored version of the experience).

Why do I bring this up? Because December is the freaking Super Bowl of nostalgia. Think about it, most major religions have some sort of major holiday in December. So, that puts a lot of people in a good mood. Plus, some of these holidays result in time off work, which makes even more people happy. Also, shops stay open later, which feeds our shopping-addled consumerist addiction to worthless gadgets that we think lends our lives meaning, which makes everyone happy.

Here in America, if you missed the latest reports from the front on Fox News, Christmas is the main holiday, albeit constantly under attack from heartless bastards that insist on saying Happy Holidays. Go back to Mexico you dirty communist hippies! I’m not sure if that’s right. I’m just reading this interesting forwarded email from my uncle in Gun Barrel City. Anyway…

Christmas is a pusher of nostalgia. It’s that shady kid that should’ve graduated like three years ago but is still in 10th grade and just seems to hang out right outside school waiting for you to walk by. “Hey, you ever had nostalgia?…Want some?” High school was a weird experience.

The point is we love that idyllic Christmas-card setting of the snow-flecked house, the warm fire, the beautifully decorated Christmas tree, mom and dad resting on the couch in loving embrace while Junior and Sally unwrap gifts. On some level, we all want that. That’s why that image is shoved in our face by corporate America every day starting sometime around July at this point.

Then why (Why?!) do our Christmas movies portray pure chaos?

Think about all your favorite Christmas movies. They’re about a lot of things going wrong right up until the moment at the very end when everyone somehow miraculously makes up, solves all their problems, or finally reunites with the child they inexplicably keep leaving behind.

I’m gonna run down some of my faves, and we’re gonna check out this pattern.

ElfElf - I don’t care what you say, A Christmas Story sucks. If you didn’t see it for the first time when your were five, it’s not good. That’s nostalgia for you. You’ve convinced yourself that’s a good movie even though reason and logic tell you differently every year when it gets a 24-hour marathon for some reason. Ooh right, this is about Elf, my favorite Christmas movie. This is a movie that begins with a child abduction, but it’s presented in a sweet and delightful way so we’ll look past it for now. But soon, Christmas is in trouble because no one believes in Santa anymore. I’m seeing it now. I think there’s some allusion to religion here. Anyway, if that wasn’t bad enough, you add in a fish out of water story in which everyone thinks the main character is psychotic and then Santa almost gets arrested by the cops. Thankfully, Zooey Deschanel is there to save the day with her beautiful face and voice. Seriously, had almost anyone else started singing Christmas carols in that instant, they would’ve been pelted by snowballs or worse. But, when Zooey does it, everyone is all like, “Look at that precious angel from heaven singing/I think I’ll join her.” That, and Santa had to expose himself as real to a whole bunch of people. So, child abduction, psychosis, existential ennui, and potential incarceration. Then Santa outs himself. Nuts. Still my favorite Christmas movie, though, which I swear is only mildly influenced by my crush on Zooey.

It’s a Wonderful Life - Capitalism is evil. That’s basically the moral of the story. Look, I don’t entirely disagree, but damn. And if that’s no enough, the main character essentially goes on a bender and then commits suicide. And, the world in his absence is like Biff’s 1985 from Back to the Future II bad. So, the main character becomes a dick, then basically makes it to where he never existed, which creates this terrible mid-1940s dystopia.

But it’s OK, because everyone ends up crowdfunding his savings & loan shop and they all sing Christmas carols while he holds the daughter he screamed at like 30 minutes ago.

A Christmas Carol/Scrooged - Again, the protagonist - who is also a total asshole - dies, but not before he’s force fed a big heaping helping of nostalgia for the past, then made to feel guilty about what a shitty guy he is now. Seriously, the big turn of events is him waking up from a nightmare in which he was certain that he was dead.

But it’s OK, because thinking he died and everyone hated him made him go out and buy a goose for his lowly employee, which totally makes up for all the years of abuse and the fact that the employee’s son is probably still going to die soon anyway.

Home Alone - Oh my god, that kid just killed two men! Sure, they were breaking into the house he’d been abandoned in by his family, but they only wanted to steal the TV and other stuff that could easily be replaced. That’s a big house. There’s no way Kevin’s dad didn’t have homeowner’s insurance. Hell, they probably would’ve replaced all the stolen crap with much nicer new stuff. So really, Kevin cost his money family. Especially since he turned their house into his own version of H.H. Holmes’ murder mansion.

But, it’s OK. His terrible mother realized pretty early on just how terrible she is and went to unnecessarily complicated lengths to get back home to her psychotic, murderous child.

But, the best movie of all when it comes to this particular article is…

Christmas VacationChristmas Vacation - Here is a movie in which the protagonist, Clark, desperately wants to have that classic, idyllic, nostalgic, happy family Christmas. And he works so hard to make that dream a reality. And, what does he get for all his effort? His boss treats him like shit and stiffs him on the Christmas bonus (“Capitalism is bad” is also a very common theme in Christmas movies, but that’s another article). His kids are typical bratty teenagers who drag their feet and complain about absolutely everything. The grandparents, for the most part, are a nightmare of meddle. And, his brother shows up with his ratty camper and weird family, mainly, so he can empty his septic tank in Clark’s gutter. The brother than also kidnaps Clark’s boss, which prompts the police to come to Clark’s house to arrest him.

But it’s OK, because he finally gets his insane christmas light display to work, his boss gives him the proper bonus (so that he can keep fantasizing about cheating on his dutiful wife, by the way), and everyone makes up to have a merry, if not perfect, Christmas. And, he realizes that the perfect Christmas doesn’t necessarily have to look like the one in the advertisements as long as you have family. And egg nog. Lots and lots of egg nog. Preferably in glasses that look like moose heads. Or something like that.

Think of some of the lesser movies. Christmas with the Kranks, Jingle All the Way, Four Christmases, etc.

Pure madness. But, why? *drumroll please*

Here’s where I try to be clever. Fingers crossed…

This is the nostalgia factory. This is the warehouse outside Medellin. Think about how these stories will be told 20 years after they happen.

Wistfully. The answer is wistfully. With a small chuckle and a smile. And, there it is. Nostalgia.

It comes from the madness of everyday life. In the hindsight, we pick through the mundanity, madness, and existential dread to find those happy moments and cherish them. Christmas movies are basically a how-to guide in the nostalgia-making department.

So, here’s hoping you all make some nostalgia this year. You’ll thank yourself later.

Happy Holidays.

Kris Noteboom is a Level 2 student at DCH. He is working on his PhD, with a focus comedy. He went on a mini tour this summer performing his comedic one-man show, And Then I Woke Up.

(Image: Sandor Weisz/Creative Commons)

The Quirky in Dallas: The Uglier, The Better

uglysweater3The journey of the ugly Christmas sweater has been an interesting one. What started out as the endearing holiday wear of kindergarten teachers and grandmothers everywhere somehow morphed into a hipster trend and ultimately a mainstream obsession. From office holiday parties to family gatherings, the ugly Christmas sweater has become a seasonal staple. Fans of tinsel and pompoms once had to scrounge through the racks of thrift stores and Buffalo Exchange hoping to find that one perfect Rudolph sweater. But all that has changed, with the mass production of the ugly Christmas sweater (I’m looking at you, Wal-Mart and Forever 21) the festive outerwear has become incredibly common.

I think there is still something so much more charming about purchasing a pre-owned sweater that no one else is going to have. Evidently, I’m not alone because a store has popped up on Lovers Lane right next to the Inwood Village movie theater that exclusively sells ugly Christmas sweaters—appropriately named “That Ugly Christmas Sweater Store.”

Even if you wouldn’t be caught dead in anything with Santa’s face on it, you might still want to visit the shop as you scramble to buy gifts. You know those people in your family who are particularly difficult to shop for? Well, fear not. This place has something for all of them.

For the family member who can’t make it through the day without telling a dirty joke:

This bright red one features a picture of Betty Boop and the words “Santa Baby xoxo” (except the o’s are hearts). It’s cartoonish, and it’s creepy.

For the family member who has a “Don’t Mess with Texas” bumper sticker:

This one isn’t a sweater technically, but rather a sweatshirt (which might be more practical for your duck-hunting, pickup-driving uncle anyway.) It features a snowy scene with an adorable snowman dressed like a cowboy. So go ahead, buy it for your loved one who knows all the verses of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”

For the family member who is just a little… off:

uglysweater1You know that classic holiday tradition of peeking in your neighbors' windows to see what they’re up to? Well, this sweater celebrates your nosy family member’s urge to creep without the risk of unsettling the neighbors. This bright blue piece is adorned with numerous windows framing different scenes: a Christmas tree with gifts, a curled up kitten, some stockings hanging, and more. They can peek away and no one will call the police.

For the family member who hates the holidays:

uglysweater2Shopping for the Grinch? You’re in luck. This one is unique for numerous reasons: first, it’s short sleeved. I’m a little confused as to what kind of weather this item is intended for. When is it cold enough to merit a sweater but warm enough for short sleeves to be acceptable? Regardless, this sweater lacks anything holiday themed. Instead, it depicts a lighthouse, some sailboats, and an American flag. Why is this in a Christmas store? What climate-confused person is going to purchase it? These are all questions that I’ll be pondering throughout the season.

For the family member who REALLY loves the holidays:

uglysweater4This sweater vest practically screams “SANTA!?!!!? I KNOW HIM!!” It’s got everything the reindeer-loving, carol-singing, hot cocoa-chugging Christmas-obsessed person could ever want. I’ll be more specific: Tiny ornaments? Check! Christmas stockings? Check! Red and green festive fur-lined sleeves? Check!

The store is open through December 27, but I suggest you hurry before the ugliest sweaters are gone.

Hayley Waring is a level 5 improv student at the Dallas Comedy House training center. If the world was a perfect place she would spend her days writing poetry with Alexander Hamilton while sharing an ahi tuna tower.