Sunday, June 3, 2012

I'm soooo not laughing !!!

I like to think I have a sense of humor about myself. After all, as a tubby kid growing up in small-town Oregon, I had to learn to use humor to deflect the constant ribbing (bullying in today’s context) heaped on me by my classmates.

My 42-`year profession as an on-air radio personality involved a lot of poking holes in the balloons of the pretentious and (inadvertently) ridiculous. Movies like Waiting for Guffman and the original The Producers leave me gasping for breath, tears of hilarity streaming down my cheeks and into my mouth.

That’s why I found myself wondering why, while sitting through 6 episodes of Vancouveria, Brighton West’s spoof of life in “the Couv,” I could only produce a few wry smiles and a possible chuckle. (This last is in the process of being verified by the National Board of Giggles and Guffaws.)

Was my humor gland malfunctioning,? Did I need to find a donor for a future transplant?

Here’s the primary reason Vancouveria  wasn’t funny. While Portlandia, the spoof of Stumptown, takes the quirks of its downtown hipper-than-thou crowd and exaggerates them for fun and profit, there’s still a tone of fondness in the humor. Sure, some of the people depicted are absurd and hopelessly woo-woo. But there’s still a sense that what they’re doing is motivated by noble intentions cranked up to 11 on the 10-point humor amplifier.  Sure, they insist on eating free-range chicken that has 50 square miles to roam, but still, free range chicken is a life-affirming concept, right? Allergy awareness parade? Sensitivity gone mad, but even if absurd, still, kind of benevolent.  

Compared to Portlandia’s nudge-nudge wink-wink approach, Vancouveria is, in a hyphenated word, mean-spirited.  The people who live across the river from an “enlightened” Portland are hyper-patriotic borderline bigots who fuel their families on a steady diet of Big Macs and “Bloomin’ Onions”.  They delight in the right-wing propaganda generated by the likes of Lars Larson, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. There is nothing to see and nothing to do in Vancouver. We all drive gas-guzzling SUVs and revel in spewing poisonous exhaust fumes.

Portlandia comes across as local folks poking fun at themselves. We’re laughing with them. Vancouveria feels like a Portland hipster (West?) scolding the sullen masses who dare to oppose plans to build an iconic bridge across the Columbia and foot their fair share of someone’s high-concept vision.

Vancouveria feels mean-spirited and snide. At no point do you sense fondness for its subject matter. I could have overlooked this if one important criteria had been met. It needed to be funny and, with the exception of a few moments, it wasn’t. The jokes were badly crafted,  the punch lines half baked, and the situations reeked of cheap-shot cologne.

Vancouver is still fair game for satire and even ridicule. But simply basing a skit on ugly stereotypes that are, for the most part, not true, aren’t the material of belly laughs. 


  1. Spot on, Mike! A favorite phrase of my grandmother's comes to mind, "there's a big difference between laughing WITH someone than laughing AT them." Mean spiritied is not funny. Susan P.S. They need much better writing too.

  2. I take it that you are talking about a television show? Sounds ghastly. Maybe the writers will move on to bullying some other town soon. Boring, perhaps?