Pop culture icebreakers for Thanksgiving dinner

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon, Bill Murray, and Serena Williams will give them something to talk about. (Photo: Getty Images)

Holiday gatherings can mean spending time with family members you don’t see very often. Given that the news out of Washington, D.C., Hollywood, and just about everywhere has been particularly grim this year, table talk has the potential to get pretty awkward. But it doesn’t have to, because we can all find common ground in what we watch, what we’re singing in the shower, and that one celeb we can’t even explain how much we love, right? Here are a few less controversial albeit silly pop-culture topics to bring to your holiday dinner. They’re almost guaranteed to foster happy thoughts and, hopefully, polite conversation.

If you were making bank like Oprah, which charity would you donate to?
Oprah Winfrey supports education and many other causes. (Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Oprah recently visited the bank for the first time since 1988, as she told Ellen on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She was making a deposit of $2 million, a drop in the bucket for someone Forbes estimates to have a net worth of $3 billion as of this month. With that fortune, Oprah has supported a number of causes, including educating girls in South Africa by opening a leadership academy there.

What’s your favorite Tom Petty song?
Tom Petty performs in July in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo: Mark Horton/Getty Images for ABA)

The follow-up question here should be, “How ever did you decide?” Petty, who died in October at the age of 66 after suffering cardiac arrest, has so many great tunes. Songs like “American Girl” and “Last Dance With Mary Jane” were part of the soundtrack of our lives, even when they weren’t literally part of the soundtracks for big box-office hits. No offense to Tom Cruise, but Petty deserves some of the credit for Jerry Maguire.

Would you rather shake it on Dancing With the Stars or jam out to James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke”?

The possibility of going on shows such as Dancing With the Stars and talk shows is usually limited to, you know, stars. But if it weren’t, would you do it? Dancing is a fabulous way to whip yourself into shape. On the other hand, karaoke is always a blast, and it requires much less of a time commitment.

What’s your reaction to Blake Shelton being named 2017’s Sexiest Man Alive?
Would you turn around for Blake Shelton? (Photo : Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Warning: This question could become seriously divisive in some families, especially if someone’s feelings about Shelton near the intensity of those of his girlfriend, Gwen Stefani. Certainly there will be fans of The Voice who point out that Shelton’s rival judge Adam Levine captured the title a full four years ahead of the country star.

Which celeb would you like to see crash your holiday dinner: Tom Hanks or Bill Murray?

Both men are known to pop up and delight fans, whether it be to photobomb a couple posing for engagement photos in Central Park, check out the opening of a new restaurant (uninvited), or to give White House reporters a lecture about the Chicago Cubs. Both are pretty hilarious. It just might be the most difficult decision of the day … besides which pie to try first.

How does Reese Witherspoon manage to stay so upbeat?
Reese Witherspoon and daughter Ava Phillippe attend a dinner this month. (Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for WSJ. Magazine 2017 Innovator Awards)

The Big Little Lies actress has a smile on her face from the time she happily exits the gym after her daily workout to escorting daughter Ava to another fabulous awards show. A lot of times, she even inspires others. Celebs that could be substituted for Witherspoon are Leslie Jones or Drew Barrymore.

Which celeb wedding would you rather have attended: Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian’s or Pippa Middleton and James Matthews’s?

Both weddings were luxurious, star-studded events — Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, and Anna Wintour were in New Orleans for the tennis star’s New Orleans wedding — while the royals were on Pippa’s side as she swapped vows in May outside of London. Serena’s event also had a fantastic Beauty and the Beast theme, but the presence of Prince George and Princess Charlotte at Pippa’s bash make this one a close call.

Choose a celebrity trainer for the day: Kevin Hart, Khloé Kardashian, or the Rock.


These three already seem to spend a lot of their time at the gym, so they might as well whip someone else into shape while they’re at it. Even though they all share a good number of photos when they sweat, they’re obviously putting in the work too. Just make sure that this conversation doesn’t cross over into whether the Rock should run for political office one day. Then, all bets are off.

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