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Our Sense Of Humor Is One Reason To Love Upstate NY

Last Sunday The Simpsons aired an episode titled “D’oh Canada” which featured Homer singing a parody of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” that poked fun at Upstate New York. As Homer sang the lyrical wisecracks, he stopped in realistic cartoon depictions of Utica, Buffalo, Niskayuna, Rochester. Jamestown was spared. The chicken wing and beer references were endearing. The truck crashing into a pothole and Buffalo being engulfed in snow were all too familiar. Homer’s line about getting on disability accompanying a leg line with a lottery ticket and opioid pill was humorous in a dark way.

In characteristic self-loathing fashion, many local media upstate picked up the story with reactions from outrage to amusement as if to say, “Look, the Simpsons’ writers know we exist!” Of course local TV news jumped at the opportunity for a Upstate New York relevant story not requiring bland courtroom footage or pills on a conveyor belt. A spokesman for Governor Cuomo and a few Republican legislators sniped back defensively at The Simpsons. Hopefully they weren’t being serious.

Even the thin-skinned will admit it was a funny skit. We make cynical jokes about ourselves all the time–might as well welcome the Simpsons’ in on the mocking. All told, it was only a tiny bit at the beginning of the show that no one outside our state would even understand or care about. Sort of like our historical landmarks.

Upstate New York has always been an easy target for jokes. The skyscrapers in New York City cast a big shadow over our farms, forests and tiny cities. Those who have been here long enough have reasons to appreciate it even if the rest of the world doesn’t know New York is actually a whole state.

The weather is dreadful eight months of the year. We have little to boast about in the way of culture or entertainment compared to the glamorous Big Apple. We cling to our sports teams who have been consistently pitiful for the better part of 20 years. Our beloved Buffalo Bills, are famous for OJ Simpson and losing four Super Bowls in a row. We’ve been hit hard by America’s industrial decline over the last half century. Our population is aging–people and jobs are leaving for better cities with gentler winters.

But it’s not all bad. Homer sums it up well with his final lines, “Can’t make it anywhere, but I can make it there.” There are many reasons to love Upstate New York. Our sense of humor is near the top.

Derek Smith is a Frewsburg native.

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