Black Friday is taking over the Thanksgiving spirit and soon we will get a 15 minute break for turkey and stuffing while we spend the rest of the time shopping.
It hasn't taken long. The big corporations have been moving in for over a century. First, there was the sale items; soon, a stampede mentality -- capable of actually killing people -- has developed into something called "Black Friday." Perhaps that refers to the black eyes and bruises people are getting from shoving and pushing in the crowds.
This beautiful day -- Thanksgiving -- that I didn't even know about when I came here as a teen was so great! One just shared a meal with others! A turkey with stuffing and sweet potatoes and cranberries! And pumpkin pie and apple pie! That's America I said to myself. This was a day that was about the gathering of family -- whatever a family was -- and celebrating that togetherness with a meal of thanks. It was a day to count our blessings and be thankful. What a great idea!
Thirty three years ago, the Laugh Factory opened during a comics strike. We were the first club to pay comics. We didn't have much but that first year, we were grateful. So, we cooked some turkeys and shared with all who were out here: the comedians, those in need, and anybody looking to feel the warmth of a family. A meal of thanks. A tradition was started.
It came as no surprise to me that the comedians were eager to volunteer and perform for those in need of a hot meal and some laughs that could provide a temporary escape from the daily grind. I've been mentoring comedians since the club opened; their compassion, thoughtfulness, and desire to give back, never ceases to amaze me. Tim Allen, Dane Cook, Arsenio Hall, Kevin Nealon, Dom Irrera, and many others have joined, Tom Dreesen, Paul Mooney, and Paul Rodriguez, who have been here since the beginning, serving food and performing. These comics have brought smiles to literally thousands of faces. It is truly a magical event.
Last week in Hollywood, we served over 2,000 people, a complete catered meal with all the trimmings, along with a comedy show. Over the past few years, since the economic crisis, the numbers have increased as we are seeing more elderly people, and more families with children. In Chicago, where we just opened a branch, we started the tradition there with great success.
Volunteering and serving a hot meal should be considered the giving of a great gift and emblematic of a special day. Standing on line to get a good deal on a gift is not the same thing. Family and friends, being loved and cared for, are the greatest gifts of all. These are the gifts that cannot be marketed or bought, and these are the gifts that Thanksgiving used to be, and still should be, about. Black Friday sends a message that is the opposite of this.
We have to protect this wonderful day from the greed of the corporate mentality that knows the prices of things but not their value. Every year this effort to crush the spirit of Thanksgiving is getting stronger and stronger. We need to resist this sales slant to every celebration, so I encourage the comedians and all those in the Laugh Factory family, to boycott "Black Friday" and instead of spending money, spend time with those they love and those in need of love.