To hell with Thanksgiving: Sandwich Night is here to stay

Folks, Thanksgiving has lost its way and must become abolished as a holiday. When and how, you ask? How can such a wonderful day of family, friends, feasting, and football have no place in American culture? Ask the Native Americans who were slaughtered at the hands of colonists back in the 1600s. Oh, hold up. You can’t.

Eleven years ago, comedian Chris Gethard founded a new holiday almost by accident, one which surpasses Thanksgiving on every single level. (Shut up, AmericanPatriot1776 on Twitter. I know your blood vessels are about to burst. Whatever.) This holiday was, is, and will forever be known as Sandwich Night, and I write this post to continue spreading its legacy far and wide, much like one spreads mayonnaise on a piece of toasted wheat bread.

I present some historical context, which you’ll find much easier to digest than realizing that our turkey traditions sprung from spilling the blood of those who once walked this native land.

In 2011, Gethard was running a comedy television show on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, a public access station based out of a studio on West 59th Street in New York City. In just five months of broadcasting the show, he and his friends had produced over twenty episodes, and The Chris Gethard Show‘s clout had grown via word-of-mouth, the vast world of underground comedy and art, and across the Internet where the show also livestreamed. Fans called in from all around the world, and many visited the studio to watch the show live week after week, with some becoming familiar faces and even recurring characters.

The show aired on Wednesday nights at 11:00 p.m. Now on the week of Thanksgiving, this presented a problem for Gethard. Most of his crew had gone home for the holiday, so the show would have just one camera to work with. He asked his friends who worked with him on the show what they should do, and they decided on what would become the foundation of all future Sandwich Night celebrations: Just have people bring sandwiches, chill out in the studio, and take some calls in the meantime.

Sandwich Night was born. Gethard talked about it on Twitter, expecting the evening to turn out low-key since most people would not want to come to the show the night before Thanksgiving. The event did not turn out low-key at all. Dozens of audience members arrived at the MNN studio for the first Sandwich Night, bringing all kinds of sandwiches. The basic peanut butter and jelly was present, as was the turkey-apple-and-brie, along with the infamous pickle loaf.

From there, the festival became a true celebration of friendship and community. Over the next several years of The Chris Gethard Show‘s existence, more fans and friends brought their own sandwiches and stories to share. Even when the show left public access television and moved to basic cable, and then when it became a podcast, the Manhattan Neighborhood Network lent its studios to Gethard and his friends so that they might continue to celebrate Sandwich Night as it was observed in its earliest years. When COVID kept us all in our homes, a Zoom call allowed all Sandwich Night revelers to join each other from afar, just as those who couldn’t make it to New York to celebrate in person did for many years, whether it was over the phone or through Skype.

I attended one Sandwich Night in person, the seventh annual celebration at the MNN studio. My now-wife Becca came with me; we had been dating for just five months at the time, and our relationship still felt new and scary. But we had gone to other tapings of The Chris Gethard Show during its run on TruTV, and I had attended many live airings of the public access show back in its heyday. So while I felt a little frightened bringing Becca into the chaos of the public access studio during one of its rowdiest nights, I knew that she would hold her own. Plus, the power of the sandwiches helped ease my shakiness and my rumbling stomach. That Sandwich Night went off without a hitch; we made new friends, reunited with old ones, and our love for each other grew even stronger.

So what does one do on Sandwich Night? You don’t need much to celebrate. On the fourth Wednesday of November, go down to your local deli or supermarket and pick up some bread, as well as your preferred fillings and condiments. (For example, I like a nice pumpernickel bagel with a thin strip of mayo, a hefty amount of greasy pastrami, some melted Swiss cheese, and maybe a pickle or two. I also enjoy a messy chopped cheese from the bodega on the corner, or – in a pinch – a good old-fashioned BLT will do.) Then that night, meet and revel freely with the company of your choice, whether it’s your biological or chosen family, your friends, or a group of total strangers joined in a common love for sandwiches and new experiences. That’s all!

You may say that Sandwich Night doesn’t have the pull of Thanksgiving. You might say the traditions of Thanksgiving have ingrained themselves so deep into America’s roots that to abolish them would rend the fabric of this country apart. But I say bully on that. Forget the turkey, the stuffing, the overblown parade with pop stars no one knows. Chisel this holiday’s horridness into the annals of this country’s history and memory hole it into non-existence. Sandwich Night can be celebrated cheaply and casually, and it has no problematic ties that would heavily dilute the spirit of sharing a sandwich spread. Everyone across America can celebrate Sandwich Night, and if folks would rather sit around a table in awkward silence and eat a dry bird and honor a group of smallpox-ridden settlers who took part in inglorious genocide of the native people, then it’s their loss.

No jingoistic Americana mythos or obscured historical horrors burden the story of Sandwich Night. Slice it however you want, but Sandwich Night exists out of pure joy and love for humankind. If you can put ingredients between two slices of bread, you too can celebrate Sandwich Night, as long as you have love in your heart and a hungry stomach.

(Disclaimer: I will be observing Sandwich Night somewhat early this year. We will be on the road to visit family, so I will have to enjoy a Sandwich Lunch instead. It’s not about what time you celebrate, though. It’s about the spirit you have while celebrating.)

(Other disclaimer: Many old fans of The Chris Gethard Show will argue that backstage drama would contribute to a problematic air poisoning the joy of Sandwich Night. While that is certainly valid, I would argue that behind-the-scenes issues pale in comparison to, say, the killing of thousands of natives and the destruction of an entire culture.)

(Third disclaimer: Any of you trolls on Twitter with names like LibertyTrump45 or WesternMomma1488 want to step to me about this, I’m ready to go. Molon labe my sandwiches, assholes.)

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