The Traditional Turkey Piñata of LA
My relentless quest to create a new tradition for Thanksgiving. Plus recs for Wendy MacNaughton's drawings, the real Nathan Fielder, and Rachel Phua on public funds and private equity.
I love eating food. I love talking. I love traditions. For me, Thanksgiving is the ideal holiday.
When I first moved to LA though, it felt like something was missing. Thanksgiving here is never going to feel like it felt back on the East Coast growing up. For one, if I put on a cozy Fall sweater, I’ll pass out from heat stroke. For two, my family doesn’t live here. For three, when I pull out the canned cranberry sauce, people ask questions like “does that contain preservatives?” and “are you supposed to be able to see the ridges of the can in the sauce itself?” to which the answers are “yes” and “obviously, yes.”
I’ve found that the solution to pretty much any “it’s not the same as it was on the East Coast” problem is to just create a new tradition and lean more in the LA-ness of it all. That’s how, several years ago, I found myself downtown buying a giant turkey piñata and driving it over to our friends Cat and Will’s house for the meal.
Now here’s the thing with doing something like bringing over a giant turkey piñata to your friend’s house. If you do it once, it’s a bit. But if you do it every year, it’s a tradition. So I knew I needed a new turkey for this year.
I talked my friend Zach Sherwin (talented comedian and host of The Crossword Show) into walking to the piñata market with me. Zach is a vegan, so I sold him on the angle that a piñata is one of the only vegan ways you can show up for Thanksgiving with a full turkey.
As we were walking home, a tourist asked to take a photo of us, a security guard yelled “stuff those birds!”, and multiple cars honked while someone screamed “pavo!” (turkey in Spanish) out the window. It was our very own Thanksgiving Day parade.
The next day, I loaded the car up, we got to Cat and Will’s, and we hung our traditional turkey in their yard.
One big lesson that I learned from last year is that filling a piñata with candy doesn’t go over well when everyone is an adult and you’ve just eaten a giant meal. So instead, I filled the piñata with a single can of cranberry sauce. There’s nothing like the satisfying thud of cracking the piñata open and one solitary metal can of jellied berries hitting the turf. It’s a sound I’ll remember for my lifetime. Or at least until next Thanksgiving, when I force it to happen again.
My projects and upcoming events:
No more live events schedule in 2023 but you can always listen/watch to past shows!
PODCAST: How to Be a Better Human (TED/PRX) - Season 3 just ended! We’re taking a break for the holidays and Season 4 will start mid-January. In the meantime, you can listen to all the past episodes here (or wherever you get podcasts)
VIDEOS: Wrong Answers Only (LabX) - Watch all our previous episodes and live shows here
This week’s list
I am a huge fan of Wendy MacNaughton’s work as an artist, as a teacher, as a writer, and as whatever else she decides to do. Her creativity and joy are infectious. I especially love how hard she works at making her work accessible and lowering the bar to entry. Whether it’s encouraging people to stop worrying about whether they’re “good” at art and just start noticing what’s in front of them or creating a long-distance art school, she’s always trying to get people to loosen up and make art. She recently wrote about how she loves to draw while watching TV. It’s a very fun idea that I’d never thought of and her examples are great. Netflix and Draw, Baby
Nathan Fielder is one of the funniest people on the planet. I still laugh out loud just thinking about the premises of several Nathan For You episodes. I thought The Rehearsal was wild and completely unique. Even when he’s an executive producer, like on John Wilson’s How To, I know it’s going to be great. I haven’t yet gotten started with his new show, The Curse, but this late night appearance he did with Emma Stone to promote the show killed me. It’s so funny. Jimmy Kimmel loses it at the end. Emma Stone & Nathan Fielder Can’t Stop Thinking About the New York Times Review of “The Curse”
The best investigative journalism often involves digging into the data, sifting through mind-numbingly boring piles of numbers to find the big story hiding in plain sight. In this year of increased union activism, Rachel Phua has a very timely and important piece. Maybe I’m naive, but I was genuinely shocked by the intersection between public pension fund investments and the gutting of the industries that those pension funds supposedly support. This is a big story and I hope it will provoke systemic changes at these investment offices. “Billions of dollars in public pension fund money flow to private equity–owned firms that union-bust, violate labor laws, and put workers’ safety at risk.” Workers Funding Other Workers’ Misery
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Desperately searching for more holidays that I can incorporate a piñata into,
This has been Bright Spots, a newsletter.
…wait, who are you?
I'm Chris Duffy, a comedian, TV writer, podcast host, and both a former fifth grade teacher and a former fifth grade student. I’m currently writing a nonfiction book about humor for Doubleday.