27 November 2014

The First Thanksgiving (An Ancient Comedy Sketch)


The following sketch was written in the fall of 1989, when things were oh so different, for the Comedy Company at the University of Michigan.  It is presented here primarily for reasons of personal nostalgia, with the excuse that it is after all Thanksgiving (dammit).


THE FIRST THANKSGIVING
By Jeff Jones and Dan Swanson

Characters: WINTHROP, MILES, PILGRIMS 1 AND 2; ROY, NANCY AND SCOOTER; INTELLECTUAL

[PILGRIMS AROUND A TABLE BOUNTIFUL WITH GOODS, FRUIT BASKETS, ETC. WINTHROP BECKONS FOR THEIR ATTENTION]

WINTHROP
Friends, companions, fellow pilgrims: a few words before our guests arrive. When we first set foot on the teeming shores of this great New World, we were faced with an extraordinary challenge: survival. But we were willing to pay that price, because that was the price of freedom.  We have survived many long, hard winters; and now, at last, our plates are full, and a season of plenty is truly upon us.  To give thanks for our good fortune, on this, the third Thursday of November, we have invited some of our neighbors to the first annual Thanksgiving Feast.

MILES AND PILGRIMS
[RAISING GLASSES]  Here, here!

MILES
Did I hear you right, Governor?  Are you planning to make this an official holiday?

WINTHROP
On this day every year, our descendants will gather with their extended families to a meal of turkey with stuffing and mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.

MILES
Cranberry sauce?!? I hate cranberry sauce.

WINTHROP
Well I happen to love it, and so it will be on the official Thanksgiving menu. I am Governor John Winthrop, ruler of this colony, and I have spoken.

MILES
[TURNS TO PILGRIM1]  Do you like cranberry sauce? Because I sure don't.

PILGRIM2
Here they come!

PILGRIM1
And look! They are bearing gifts!

PILGRIM2
I hope we put out enough chips.

[ENTER AN AVERAGE AMERICAN SUBURBAN COUPLE WITH ONE SON. MOM BEARS A CASSEROLE. DAD IS CARRYING A CANOE PADDLE.]

WINTHROP
Welcome, neighbors. I'm Governor John Winthrop. Of course you know Miles Standoffish, and these are some of the other pilgrims. We're glad you could come over and join us for the First Thanksgiving.

ROY
Well thank you for having us. I'm Roy McDermott, this is my wife Nancy, and our son, Scooter.  We come in peace.

NANCY
I brought a casserole. [HOLDS IT OUT]

WINTHROP
[TAKES CASSEROLE, PLACES ON TABLE]  Oh, that was very thoughtful.

ROY
I hope we're not late, Governor.  I couldn't get the canoe started.

WINTHROP
Nonsense, you're right on time.  What are you drinking, Roy?

ROY
Firewater and tonic, if you got it.

WINTHROP
Coming right up. And call me John, please. Now, let's get to all this good food before it gets cold.
[ALL TAKE THEIR SEATS]
Before we eat, my friends, I think it's appropriate that we all bow our heads and give thanks for this beautiful feast.

ALL
[BOW THEIR HEADS SOLEMNLY, PAUSE, THEN, IN UNISON:]  Thanks.

MILES
[PROCLAIMING:] And now, let the feast begin!  [TO PILGRIM2] Please pass the mashed potatoes.

[ALL BEGIN TO EAT, TAKING STUFF AND PASSING PLATES, ETC. THROUGHOUT THE FOLLOWING]

WINTHROP
[CARVING TURKEY] What can I get you Nancy, white meat or dark?

NANCY
Either one's fine.

PILGRIM2
Can I get the jello salad down here?  [TURNS TO NANCY]  So, where are you folks from, exactly?

NANCY
We live in the great mountains, many days journey to the west.  Scooter, take some cranberry sauce and pass it along.

SCOOTER
Cranberry sauce?  Blecch!

WINTHROP
You eat your cranberry sauce, son, and someday you'll grow up to be Governor of Massachusetts, too.

PILGRIM1
Are you done with the gravy?  [GRAVY BOAT IS PASSED] So, Roy, what do you do for a living?

ROY
I'm in hunting.

PILGRIM1
Hunting?

ROY
Yes, I hunt and my wife gathers.  We live off the land, at one with Nature and the Universe.

MILES
And you're able to make a living?

NANCY
Oh, you'd be surprised.  Our hunting and gathering lifestyle leaves us plenty of free time for our other interests.  Roy coaches a little league team, and I belong to the PTA and several other community enrichment groups.

WINTHROP
[GRANDFATHERLY, TO SCOOTER]  How you doin there, little guy?

SCOOTER
Fine, sir. Could I have some more sweet potatoes?

WINTHROP
Sure, sure!  Hey, get the boy some more sweet potatoes!

NANCY
Careful Scooter, don't eat so much you get sick.

WINTHROP
Ah, nonsense.  It's the First Thanksgiving!  Let the boy eat.  Here, boy, would you like some popcorn?

SCOOTER
Popcorn?

WINTHROP
Yes, popcorn.  What you call popmaize.

[LIGHTS DOWN THIS SIDE, LIGHTS UP OTHER SIDE ON INTELLECTUAL]

INTELLECTUAL
[SEATED IN NICE CHAIR, READING FROM LARGE TOME]  And so it went at the First Thanksgiving; perhaps the most famous party in American history started out a rather dull affair, as the Pilgrims and their guests exchanged pleasantries and ate their fill from baskets of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and, yes: cranberry sauce.  Eventually the new neighbors got better acquainted, and the many gallons of wine and mixed drinks began to have their fabled effects.  By the time everyone had finished eating ...

[LIGHTS DOWN, BACK UP ON FEASTERS, MOSTLY DRUNK AND IN GOOD HUMOR]

WINTHROP
Fascinating! Sometime Roy, you'll have to tell me more stories of your adventures hunting caribou.

ROY
Oh, I've got a million of 'em, John.

[OTHERS GATHER AROUND NANCY AS SHE CHUGS FROM ONE OF THE PILGRIM'S HATS]
ALL CHANTING
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go .... Hooray!

[NANCY FINISHES, PUTS HAT ON HER HEAD AND LAUGHS DRUNKENLY TO THEIR AMUSEMENT, BEFORE COLLAPSING.]

WINTHROP
Haw!  Looks like you're wife got a snootful there, Roy old boy!

ROY
She'll be okay, just let her sleep it off.

PILGRIM2
Hey, does anyone wanna go skinnydippin' down by Plymouth Rock?

PILGRIM1
I'll go.  [GETS UP TO LEAVE WITH OTHERS]  Anyone else?

WINTHROP
You kids go ahead, live it up.  We'll be okay.
[PILGRIMS EXIT, LEAVING THE MEN ALONE FOR SOME FULL-SCALE MALE BONDING]
Here, try on my hat!

ROY
Oh, come on!  Okay.

WINTHROP
Haw! Does that thing look as goofy on me as it does on you?

ROY
Worse.

[BOTH LAUGH. ROY NOTICES MILES SLUMPED OVER, WASTED, POINTS IT OUT TO WINTHROP]

ROY
Look at him.  He's cashed.

WINTHROP
What do you say there, Standoffish?

MILES
[VERY DRUNK] And so this lady says to me the other day, she says, "Miles", she says, "That's rude. And you call yourself a Puritan."  [COLLAPSES FACE DOWN INTO HIS PLATE]

WINTHROP
Haw! He's as drunk as a monk! Well, Roy, looks like we're the last two.

ROY
Boy, I'll say!  Everyone sure had a lot of fun tonight. You know, we should do this every year.

WINTHROP
Are you kidding? We should be doing this every day. Now, how about another ale?

ROY
I don't know, I do have to paddle home.

WINTHROP
Come on, it's the First Thanksgiving!  Let loose a little.

ROY
Sure, why not!  [TOASTS]  Happy Thanksgiving, Governor!

WINTHROP
Happy Thanksgiving, Roy; now drink up!

[BOTH CHUG]

ROY
[NOW A BIT OVERPOWERED] Wooph!  That ...  really ...  hit ... the ... -- [COLLAPSES]

WINTHROP
Haw!  Looks like you got a snootful there, Roy old boy!  Roy? [SNAPS FINGERS TO WAKE HIM. CHECKS FOR CONSCIOUSNESS BY LIFTING ROY'S ARM; IT DROPS LIMPLY, ROY IS OUT]  Haw! I drank 'em all under the table!  [HOPS UP ON THE TABLE AND CRACKS ANOTHER BEER, MESSILY KICKING FOOD ASIDE TO GIVE HIMSELF A STAGE]  My fellow Pilgrims, honored guests: at this time I have a few thoughts to share with you all at this time.  [TAKES ANOTHER SWIG AND, AS HE COLLAPSES]  Never mind.

[LIGHTS DOWN ON FEASTERS, BACK UP ON INTELLECTUAL]

INTELLECTUAL
And as Governor Winthrop fell to a crashing thud, so too did the First Thanksgiving.  What started out as a pious feast of Thanksgiving, a celebration of the Pilgrim's newfound freedom, concluded in a joyous mess of drunken merriment.  But maybe, in a way, that's what the Pilgrims were all about.  Maybe, just maybe, America was founded not only on ideas such as freedom and democracy, but on a more basic philosophy:  party 'til you drop.  It's just a thought.  Anyway, that's all for now.  Good night.

[FADE]
END



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