It’s April Fools’ Day. We here at The Urbanist understand division of labor as vital for the creation of vibrant cities. And we know when to stay in our (protected bike) lane. So we’re sticking to the insightful news we do well and leaving the pranks to others.
But our fine city of Seattle has been the brunt of some quality comedy and satire over the years. Here’s a couple of the best. Let this serve as a reminder that Seattle’s got a lot to laugh at when we’re not being too serious about ourselves. And be wary (warier) of what you read today.
Seattle’s early 90’s talk show/sketch comedy produced canned bits that landed solid punches on neighborhood stereotypes. They’re awkward and biting in a way that only a loving local could write. They produced the infamous “Space Needle Collapses” prank for April Fools’ 1989. Today, the skits are mostly seen in the comments sections of Facebook Neighborhood groups to illustrate how the city has gone downhill since such good old days.
As Canada’s leading disperser of quality castor oil and occasional satire, The Beaverton has dinged Seattle a few times. It’s mostly issues call-outs to our largest figures, taking casual swings at Starbucks or Amazon. But our friends to the north do it best when they stick to their wheelhouse: hockey.
The joke is on anyone who believes Babylon Bee is funny. Really just tiki torches and khakis with a Friends laugh track. Moving on.
At this point, having been once printed on physical paper, it’s The Old Gray Lady of satirical comedy. In all that time, The Onion perfected one thing better than everyone else. They hit running gags. From Uncle Joe Biden to the quasi-demonic royal child, The Onion can return to the same exhausted vein and find something new to exploit. Which is exactly the theme of their Amazon coverage.
Interesting thing about reading a lot of Seattle-targeting satire is how it neatly packs into a couple themes. Computers, killers, and cannabis, which is exactly the script of Anthony Bourdain’s Seattle visit for his food tour show. The tropes are wrapped in a very well photographed and movingly scored outfit, but they’re still tropes. The upshot of the entire episode is a lazy caricature of the city. He gives us kudos as a food town, something most residents don’t. But Bourdain’s constant returns to techbros, weed, the Green River Killer, and a weirdly impassioned rant about coffee doesn’t veer far from many others on this list.
The Seattle Times has an opinion cartoonist on staff that is the pinnacle of oblivious satire. David Horsey pitches a lot of right down the middle boomer takes that aren’t out of place in r/forwardsfromklandma. The best is when he accidentally skewers his own employers, like his recent missive about overpriced housing. It’s not like Horsey’s corporate overlords sold their old building to developers for three times its assessed value.
The Daily Show
Before it became a cultural fixture and Jon Stewart grew into his collars, The Daily Show did a lot more on-the-scene interviews. It’s our loss that their camera doesn’t get pointed at squirmy officials and oblivious CEOs nearly as often. Seattle showed up in a few episodes. Fair number of jokes at the expense of Bill Gates and the Seahawks. But really, nothing gets to the city’s id closer than Bumvertising.
Of course, we did save the best for last. Over the past year and change, The Needling has come into its own with some quality headlines that cut straight to the bone. They parcel out roasts from Yakima (actually nothing like Palm Springs) to Oklahoma City (already home of the Kraken). But local electeds get the hottest end of the poker, and we’re all better for it.
Ray Dubicki is a stay-at-home dad and parent-on-call for taking care of general school and neighborhood tasks around Ballard. This lets him see how urbanism works (or doesn’t) during the hours most people are locked in their office. He is an attorney and urbanist by training, with soup-to-nuts planning experience from code enforcement to university development to writing zoning ordinances. He enjoys using PowerPoint, but only because it’s no longer a weekly obligation.