Best Medicine with Morgan Bost: Comedians offer ways to survive Thanksgiving with your family

THE GRATEFUL BUNCH: Local comic Morgan Bost, top left, is back for her latest conversion with fellow funny folks, clockwise from top right: Page Ragan, James Harrod and Katy Hudson. Photo of Bost by Cindy Kunst; all other images courtesy of Bost

Welcome back to “Best Medicine!” Xpress’ new(ish) monthly comedy column and your holiday endurance guide (remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint). If you’re reading this, it means you’ve successfully survived the season thus far. Yes, I realize it’s still early. Nevertheless, preparation is key.

And Best Medicine has you covered!

This month I’ve called on musician Page Ragan along with stand-up comedians James Harrod and Katy Hudson to see how they’re planning to persevere this Thanksgiving following an election AND a blood moon. (Side note, the amount of times I’ve mentioned the blood moon in professional correspondence this month is … troubling.)

In addition to tips for maintaining domestic tranquility, one of my colleagues presents a hell of an investment opportunity for those seeking something new — though, admittedly, the pitch feels a tad old.

Morgan Bost: The election is over (well, almost), and politics can be a tricky topic for families. What are local stories you plan to bring up at the Thanksgiving table to keep your family from talking politics?

Page Ragan: Some people think that honesty is the best policy, but at a family holiday? I think not. Personally, I can’t recommend lying enough!

“I heard they’re removing all the lanes from Merrimon Avenue and turning it into an autobahn-style free-for-all” is a great jumping-off point.

It’s less about being believable and more about starting a conversation.

“Did you hear they’re turning the Innsbruck Mall into The Lion’s Dentures — Asheville’s first 65 and up nightclub?” Now you have a thrilling discourse that gets Grandma in the mix! (And, upon further reflection, not a bad concept to pitch to potential investors.)

When the inevitable lull occurs, throw out a “Did you know that 95% of the ocean is unexplored? What’s that about? You think there’s anything scary down there?”

If everything fails, and politics still come up, ask each of your family members what a comptroller does. Make a rule that only those who are familiar with the duties of a comptroller can discuss politics.

Katy Hudson: My family is full of people so rude and rambling that we must consider each other to be eccentric geniuses, or else we end up like the Donner Party. There isn’t a single topic that won’t inevitably send someone into a sermon about the Oxford comma or the history of knockwurst.

Consequently, we have a family tradition of how to shut down someone’s monologue: Simply add the phrase “in your colon” to the end of someone’s sentence. Anything vaguely political becomes a poop joke!

“I’ve had it up to here with this inflation!”

“… in your colon?”

“The workers are restless — I’ve heard rumblings of a massive movement.”

“… in your colon.”

“Can you pass the turkey?”

“In YOUR colon? No, that’s impossible, but I expect to pass the turkey in my colon just fine.”

If someone is upset by the bathroom humor, kindly remind them that their dietary privilege is showing. Some lucky few can forget about the other end of their body’s food tube while eating. That’s nice for them, but the rest of us have IBS. We are the silent (but deadly) majority, and we will no longer hold back!

James Harrod: At times when politics come up at the holiday dinner table, I’ve found an easy way to defuse the situation is to start talking about fictional politicians and see if anyone notices. You can slide statements into the conversation like: “I just think Selina relies far too much on her team to get her out of making the big decisions!” Then my Dad will be like: “Son, are you talking about ‘Veep?’” And then I’ll go: “Also, can you imagine the complications of being mayor while having a cheeseburger for a head?”

A family that is discussing Mayor McCheese is a family that is not fighting. If they demand you discuss real politics, start talking about your budding appreciation for long-form, experimental psychedelic rock. In my experience, this usually reveals you to be someone who can’t be trusted, and no one will bother you on tricky conversational topics moving forward. Then you are free to listen to King Gizzard & the Wizard Lizard in your room for the rest of the holiday.

Bost: As a West Asheville resident making the long journey to the east side of town to visit my chosen family, I will likely avoid the topic of the recent mayoral election. While I don’t want tensions to boil, I’ll still want to keep things spicy. What’s a holiday meal without a little spirited debate? I’ll likely steer the conversation toward mounting tensions within the pickleball and tennis communities. Though I have relatively little interest in sports, something tells me that my chosen family, middle-aged residents of Haw Creek, likely have a vested interest in netted competition.

Bost: This holiday season, where are you taking visitors looking for the “authentic Asheville experience?” What are the hidden gems that’ll never make any national list? 

Hudson: I highly recommend watching your local turkey flock proudly strut about North Asheville. Behold the terrifying majesty that is the turkey — a beast of tawny iridescent wings and an imposing aura. These birds must know that they trot on borrowed time in November, yet they nobly persist in their quest to scratch up only that one part of the garden you worked on all morning.

This awe-inspiring creature is clearly the McRib of dinosaurs — we’re not sure how the original bones turned into this maroon monstrosity, but it’s tasty and available on Merrimon Avenue (which I hear the city is turning into an autobahn-style free-for-all). How do I know these creatures are tasty if it’s illegal to hunt turkey in city limits? Well, it’s not technically hunting if the critter finds your outdoor selfie mirror and pecks its own reflection to death.

Harrod: Every year I go with a group of friends to the Eliada Corn Maze, and I think this would really work for a family outing as well. You don’t have to hang with your family because, hey, let’s face it, you’re lost in a corn maze. Which means you don’t have to worry about discussing your future because you all have bigger issues on your plate — like the fact that you’ve passed by that same rock at least 50 times.

Ragan: What if I were to tell you that the true Asheville experience hasn’t yet arrived … but could be with your help! Imagine a nightclub that opens at 2 p.m. and closes by 9 p.m. Serving a variety of expired soda, hard candy and warm milks, The Lion’s Dentures will be Asheville’s first exclusive senior citizen nightclub. And with your help, this future authentic experience could become a reality as early as Thanksgiving 2027! Investors inquire within.

Bost: I hesitate to mention the Haywood Road Ingles for a second time in this column’s brief history out of fear they may either sue or sponsor me, but my mom is visiting this holiday season, and if I want to show her my authentic Asheville experience I have to start with a classic 6-inch Ingles sub (that maybe I’ll get for free with my rewards points!). We’ll also grab some cat food and cold brew to really get the party started.

Next stop? Fiesta Laundries on Merrimon Avenue. (By the way, have you heard the rumor that the city plans to turn Merrimon into an autobahn-style free-for-all?) While I may have recently graduated to coin-operated laundry inside my apartment building (brag), it’s important to remember my roots. Many a joke were written to the soothing sounds of the machines and unattended children screaming at the site.

And since we’re on the north side of town, my mom might as well join me for a tour of the MerriMAN CVS — my favorite place to run into exes in sweatpants and no makeup, while buying cat food and a frozen pizza.

What should residents of Western North Carolina be most grateful for this year?

Hudson: Let’s be grateful for finding ourselves in this place to begin with. Mountain life has never been easy with the geographical isolation requiring us to be resilient generalists and harsh winters forcing us rugged loners to make peace with our most crotchety, annoying neighbors.

Take some time to value what it really means to be at home in this place. Be grateful for the idiosyncrasies of your old bungalow, 50-plus-year-old apartment or charming treehouse in the woods. Cherish this place for reasons beyond “it’s technically a shelter and some people don’t have that.” We’re in a place built for all types to discover and carve out their niche, and this is a powerful time to do so.

Harrod: I am grateful I can live in a town where I can mention Tim Curry’s breathtaking performance as Long John Silver in the Muppet Treasure Island and most people will know what I’m talking about. Seriously, though, in Asheville, the creative communities are so supportive and bristling with talent that, often, when I travel to other cities, I forget how good I have it. And it is always nice to know that every holiday, no matter what you are doing, somewhere there is a comedy open mic going on where an overly confident man is demanding a better reaction from an audience. Definitely feel grateful for that!

Bost: Socializing in Beer City can be tough for those who don’t drink, especially for those of us in recovery. As a comic, I’m still often in bars late at night and despite my best efforts, I haven’t gotten fully comfortable dry-dogging conversations with drunk people without a little liquid courage. Luckily, most of my favorite bars, venues and restaurants now carry nonalcoholic options. And for that I’m truly grateful.

While NA drinks and mocktails may not give you a buzz, they can certainly create a nice placebo effect. After two NA beers, I will often start to feel looser and wonder if the drunk person spilling a beer on me is actually getting more interesting or if it’s all in my head (it’s always the latter). Plus, when I’m holding a mocktail, strangers assume the weird comments I make are a result of booze and not just my personality!

Ragan: We should all be grateful to live in the beginning of a new age: Nightclubs for the elderly. I really think this is the next big thing, people, and this is your chance to get in on the ground floor!

I promise you, dear investor, this will be nothing like my last failed startup, Kitty Cosmetics (turns out they don’t really wear makeup). Personally, I’m grateful that PETA has upgraded me from “national threat” to “regional nuisance” and that we’ve reached a settlement on most of the lawsuits. If you’ve never been in legal trouble, I can assure you that that is something to be grateful for!

One of the greatest feelings in the world is the absence of a toothache, and while I may be out millions of dollars, I really believe that The Lion’s Dentures will turn things around. Be grateful for the opportunity to invest! Now!


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