Friday, April 10, 2009

But WHY is Minnesota funny?

A few months ago, I said in this space that in the now 13 months I've lived in Minnesota I've been unable to get over how inherently comic the state is:

I still can't get past the idea of Minnesota being funny, somehow. Like the entire state seems inherently whimsical. It's just a funny state. That perception on my part has made it harder to feel like this is home.

And that's hampered my ability to settle in here somewhat. Not a lot but some. I feel like to some extent I'm living in, perhaps not a cartoon, but a romantic comedy with an absurdist streak. I'm living in So I Married an Axe Murderer (you know, from Mike Myers "funny" period). We all know that me trying to make sense of Minnesota is a big part of this blog. Things are just more comic here. I feel like I should work in a wacky ad agency and Matthew Perry should be there too along with, I don't know, Betty White.

A couple weeks ago I got an email asking to elaborate on that and I've found it difficult. But I'll try. Here's why Minnesota is a comic place to me:

1. The enthusiasm. Minnesotans get excited about things. Plays at the Guthrie, cold, heat, Juicy Lucys, hockey, it doesn't matter. Even music! Minnesotans don't take a cool, detached view of liking something. If they (we?) like it, then they LOVE it. Enthusiasm is funnier than detachment.

2. The cold. It gets so damn cold in the winter here that absurdity enters into it. There's no reason why we as a species should live here and go through that cold yet millions of us do anyway. We dress thickly, we plug in cars, we scamper into buildings, we live here all winter. That is hilarious.

3. The accents. I mean, geez, come on dere.

4. The phonetics of the name. Mi-nuh-SOE-tuh. It's funny. Much funnier than Maryland. Or Kansas. And when you provide a chance for that round Minnesota Oh sound right in the middle? It's like comic opera just giving your address.

5. Sports futility. Now, I grew up rooting for the Vikings until I was 8 years old because the Seahawks didn't yet exist. It was explained to me that we were Norwegians and this team is from a sort of "American Norway" and named after a sort of Norwegian pirate. So Chuck Foreman is Norwegian?

Yeah, let's go with that. Anyway, the Vikings, God love 'em, went to the Super Bowl often back then and lost every time. They haven't been back. Meanwhile the Twins, dear hearts though they are, are stuck with a low payroll and though they sometimes overachieve I can't see them going too far (at least until the new stadium opens). The Timberwolves have a funny name and, man, I don't know when things get turned around. Then there's a team called the Minnesota Wild, which is an inherently comic name too. All in all, scrappy and admirable teams that just aren't all that good. In Seattle, it was similar but often those teams were expected to do well and then they failed, which is not as funny.

6. People have a pretty great sense of humor here. They can make a joke, they can take a joke. They regularly fail to register sarcasm, which makes for some awkward social situations, but generally they don't take stuff too seriously and they have fun. So it's funny and fun too.

If you're Minnesotan, or geez even if you're not, why do you (or do you?) think Minnesota is funny?



Sarah said...

Hotdish and Spam pride!

Emily said...

there are some aspects of minnesota's fabulousness that you're missing, spending so much time in the urban. for instance, in a small town, you can ask a question and count to 30 while you wait for acknowledgment that you've spoken... and sometimes all you'll get is a "ja, i guess," or "nO, i dOn't suppOse sO." my mom was raised in iowa, and is sometimes moved to tell my dad "blink if you heard me!"

Rachel Katz Carey said...

I grew up in Duluth and then lived in St. Paul for 9 years. I've been in Seattle for nearly 15. I miss St. Paul a lot. Especially the neighborhood around Macalester, my alma mater.

Weather, yes. Especially how butch we are about the cold. Funny things about MN: It's fun to push cars out of ditches. I remember gangs of kids looking for cars in trouble. You ALWAYS have jumper cables in your trunk along with some food, blankets, extra mittens and hats, a roll of TP and a coffee can in case you need to "go".

One individual true Minnesota experience I found retrospect: Trying (along with a bunch of other type-a brand new drivers) to get to our SATs on time, in an ice storm, when the testing center was at the top of the highest hill in Duluth. Everyone else in town was snug in their homes listening to the reports of the latest "storm of the century" while we were all white knuckling it up the hill for fear we'd never get into college if we didn't make it. I was sliding backwards and sideways down the wrong side side of the street as the sand truck was backing up the hill in the same lane. I finally beached the car in a snow bank and started walking when we heard the test was canceled. Fun times.

But the best and truest reason Minnesota is funny can be summed up in two words: KEVIN KLING!!!

Anonymous said...

From the way you describe them, I think Marshall on How I Met Your Mother must be a pretty accurate depiction of a Minnesotan.

brzeski said...

I know you asked for comedy, not advice. But in the true spirit of the internet, I won't let that hold me back.

Please tread lightly, John Moe. We Midwesterners have been the butt of the joke for quite some time, and contrary to public opinion on the coasts, we are not so dim as to have it go by unnoticed. It tends to sting after a while. Thinking of your new home as a punchline is not going to sit well with your neighbors. Even if they are too polite to say so.

Think of it this way: What if Minnesota was your sister? She might be funny-looking, but you wouldn't want some fast-talking out-of-towner to say so.

john said...

I refuse to ever stop laughing at/with Minnesota, just as I refuse to ever stop laughing at/with other things I love. I am confident that my neighbors and friends here are capable of having enough confidence to have a sense of humor about themselves.

Minnesota is not a punchline but it is funny. That is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?

Polly said...

Minnesota is awesome and funny, all at the same time! Lived here MOST of my life (in the Duluth area) and I love it when people talk about food (hotdishes and lutefisk), and what nationality they are (FINNISH or Polish or something-or-otherIsh), and traffic (it took me TEN minutes to get across town, ya-sure-youbetcha!) Many of my rellies lived (or still DO live) on "da range", and they're even funnier......they go 'to town' to get a few things, and SAUNA is on Saturday night, and they 'go the hill up' in Duluth. Minnesotans are down-to-earth and DO know how to take a joke....we're not too politically-correct, and don't much are about it!
SKOL Vikings!!!

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Anonymous said...

who are these people? i've lived here for 24 years, have never said "ya sure", do not keep jumper cables in my car, and have proper vocabulary....where do these stereotypical yahoos live?

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