The holiday season is fast approaching, which means many of us will be heading home to spend some quality time with friends and family. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to come up with subjects to chat about with all the various friends, family, and random acquaintances you’ll be running into back on the homestead. But hey, you live in the Golden Age of American television. If you catch up on the right shows, you’ll be a conversation kingpin from Christmas Eve all the way until Martin Luther King Day (January 9th) .
Grandpa Who Won’t Talk To You Unless You Mention A War Of Some Kind
It’s usually hard to tell if Grandpa’s listening to you or if he’s just fallen asleep with his eyes open again. If you ask him about sports, weather, or aunt Erin’s tendon surgery, he’ll just stare at you like a stoned sea turtle, but if you mention the names Ghengis Khan or William Wallace, ol’ Granddaddy turns into a living Ken Burns documentary. To stand any chance of holding a conversation with the old man over the holidays, you should probably start catching up on Vikings. The historically-rooted original drama combines everything Grandpa loves — old sea vessels, powerful empires, and people dismembering each other. Show him two minutes of the first episode and Grandpa will be talking your ear off like a six year-old kid on a sugar high. And if he gets too excited, you can just calm him down with unfamiliar words like “podcast,” “Venmo,” or “Arianna Grande.”
Your Cousin Who Doesn’t Understand Why You’re Taking Improv Classes
So you’re home for the holidays and being grilled by your older cousin Mitchell about how you’re spending all your time and money these days back in the big city. Someone (thanks, Mom) has let slip that you’ve been taking improv comedy classes, performing most weekends with your improvisational comedy troupe, Cat Pajamas. “Comedy, huh? Tell me joke.” Mitchell says, almost suspiciously. After explaining that improv “doesn’t work that way” (and starting to seriously question your own life choices yourself), you remember that Amy Poehler is a very successful comedic actor who got her start doing improv, and who’s famous enough that even an older cousin who races ATVs and owns his own roofing business might know her name. “You know that show Parks and Recreation?” you ask, knowing that this is your only chance to add an air of credibility to your passion for pretending to be robots and wizards on makeshift stages in the basements of sports bars. “Amy Poehler is a big improv person, she basically, like, brought it to New York City. …What’s that? Have I ever met her? Well, no, but I did walk by Aubrey Plaza once at the theater and I’m pretty sure we made eye contact.” If that doesn’t get him off your back, now would be a good time to break off and grab another drink — after all, they’re free and you’re not doing so hot for money right now.
Your Recently Divorced Uncle Who You Think Might Suffer From Depression
Say your mom’s funny brother got a divorce this year. He’s raising his two daughters joint-custody now, and he’s more sad than usual, even though to you he’s always been a “funny uncle”. If you think about it, he has a lot in common with Louie, the protagonist in Louis C.K.’s comedy TV series Louie, and you’re not just saying that because you really like that show! If you’re feeling nervous about talking to your funny-but-sad uncle this holiday season, a good way to prepare would be to do a close watch of the first three seasons of Louie, a show you really like, all the while keeping an eye out for any moments you suspect your uncle might find relatable given his current state. It’s important to remember, your uncle might not have seen all of Louie yet — he’s been down, so maybe he can’t be bothered to watch entire seasons of TV online, but remember he also might be so sad the only thing he can do is watch entire seasons of TV online! It’s hard to say, and safest to be prepared for either possibility. The two kinds of phrases you’ll need to have at the ready are ones that invoke memory (“Remember how Louie looks when his daughters say they love their mom more than him? You remind me of that!”) and ones that offer the series up as a suggestion for something to do (“You should watch the Season 3 New Year’s Eve episode where Louie’s really lonely, I think you’ll get it more than I do, if that makes sense.”) Especially watch that last one because it is the most thematically relevant this time of year. Try to put yourself in Louie’s shoes, which will help you put yourself in your uncle’s sad, divorced (maybe unhappy with his body as well??) shoes. You’ll be glad you did!
Your Aunt Who Wants To Know Why You’re Still Single
After getting stuck sitting at the kids’ table again, despite being a 27-year-old copy editor whose boss has all but guaranteed him he’s up for a promotion “sometime in the new year, we just need to see how everything shakes out,” you’ve finally had it. Exhausted, you scream out “I’m not a wittle baby. I wanna sit at the big kids’ table wif Mommy and her new hoosband Walter.” And just like that, after a few brief apologies, there you are sitting right between your Aunt Sheila and your kid sister, Jane, who already made the move to the main table after she got married at 24 like a “normal” person.
“So, you seeing anyone?” Aunt Sheila asks.
How do you explain to her that you’re just trying to focus on your career right now? You think quickly and BOOM it hits you.
“Hey, so what’s up with Porsha flip flopping for money on Real Housewives of Atlanta?”
“OH MY GOD! YOU WATCH THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA? I LOVE THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA!” screams Aunt Sheila, in a sound you didn’t know was even produceable by the human voice.
"NeNe! Kandi! Georgia! Bravo! Ya’ll be trippin!” are some other words you think you hear.
At this point, Aunt Sheila will keeps talking until Uncle Mike grabs her coat and says it’s time to go home “if we’re gonna watch Home Alone before bed.” Feel free to shut your eyes. Just don’t leave the table, because who knows if you’ll be asked back.
Your Grandmother Of 10 Who Has Dozens Of Shitty Grandkids
You’re talking to your grandma and she asks you what your favorite show is these days. You say “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and she says, “What the fuck is that show?” (your grandma is the fucking best).
You say, “Well, you know how Brian smokes crystal meth sometimes?” She says, “Yes,” and you say, “Well, you know how Michelle makes money by walking in front of public buses every once in a while?” “Uh, huh,” she says.
“And Mark, how he claims to be a magician but it’s really just bouts of stealing and huffing sparkle paint?” “Oh yes,” she murmurs.
“And Travis, you know how he’s an alcoholic and looks exactly like a younger, sicker Danny DeVito?” “Of course,“ she says.
“Well it’s just like watching all of them hang out and get into trouble, but never go to jail for their actions!” Your grandma nods with understanding, gives you a hug, and reminds you which prison Brian’s currently "rooming at.”
That Kid Who Doesn’t Talk A Bunch And Wears A Lot Of Black
Oh God. Your Mom just asked you to say hi to Morgan cause he’s “all alone on the couch.” You try to explain that he clearly wants to be alone but she’s not buying it.
“Hey, Morgan. You watchin’ the parade?”
“My name isn’t Morgan. It’s MORGUE- an.”
Despite those names being clearly the same, you get what he means and BOY IS THIS BOY SPOOKY. And don’t bother asking him why he’s concentrating so hard on the parade. He’s trying to make Al Roker explode with his mind and it’s better to just avoid that conversation entirely. Here’s how you win him over:
“Man, sure wish this parade were AMERICAN HORROR STORY.”
(Expect a brief pause here while he sizes you up and trying to figure your angle.)
“You … watch AHS?”
“Hell yeah. I don’t know if I prefer Murder House or Asylum though — what about you?”
Morgue-an tells you he had no idea that “normies” (aka normal folks) watched American Horror Story. You explain to him that while he watches for the shocking amount of blood and gore allowed on television, you watch cause it shows a lot of attractive people’s butts. Morgue-an stops you right there.