Over the weekend I watched “The 206.” That’s a new weekly half-hour show on KING5-TV airing immediately after “Saturday Night Live.” It features veteran Seattle humorists John Keister, Pat Cashman and Chris Cashman in what the station bills as a “local sketch humor show … that takes aim at all things funny about local people, neighborhoods, politics, music and sports.” (For those of you reading this post in Ouagadougou, 206 is the area code for Seattle). “The 206” is a retooled version of “Almost Live!,” another Seattle humor show featuring Keister and Pat Cashman produced on KING5-TV from 1984 to 1999.
Now I have to admire the spunk of the on-air talent and their producers, Erren Gottlieb and James McKenna. It cannot be easy making an artistic go of it in the humor business around Seattle. After all, this is a town known for the Seattle Freeze and where published references to tough audiences hereabouts go back more than 70 years. As I wrote in 2011 shortly after becoming New To Seattle, “My initial judgment is that a collective sense of humor here is m.i.a.”
Unfortunately, nearly two years later, I see little reason to revisit my earlier assessment–even after viewing “The 206.”
“The 206” show I watched did have its funny moments. But a disproportionate number of them came in quirky-but-real commercials for Seattle-based PEMCO Insurance, one of the main sponsors and whose actual slogan is, “We’re a lot like you. A little different.” One spot, for instance, spoofed the windy, rainy, sunless weather of Seattle.
One of the funniest bits of produced humor was a father (Pat Cashman) getting increasingly upset watching his grown son (Chris Cashman, and his son in real life) working on his laptop to put together a memorial video to be played at the father’s funeral sometime in the future. But the sketch had absolutely nothing to do with Seattle. Nor did a faux commercial touting an anti-virus product called ImPrettySureOneOfThosePornoWebSitesInfectedMyComputer.com
Throughout the show, there were some throw-away lines about the area. That the rich folks on Mercer Island put a lid on Interstate 90 so they wouldn’t have to see the riff-raff driving through. Fears that the giant tunnel machine digging the replacement to the Alaskan Way Viaduct might get out of control and take out homes. How, in light of recreational marijuana use legalization, Costco might sell four-pack bongs.
But in my judgment the pokes weren’t funny or barbed enough. And as for that promised political humor: totally absent. I would have enjoyed a decent impersonation or fake interview of Mayor Mike McGinn, Governor Jay Inslee or some bike-lobby zealot wearing a goofy helmet like that atop the Leif Erikson statue in Ballard.
What wasn’t absent, though, were real commercials. I know you gotta pay the bills, but in a 30-minute show I counted more than a dozen of them. I think their volume got in the way.
On top of all this, this latest episode of “The 206” (the third of the year) wasn’t even shot in that area code. Judging from the closing credits, it was recorded before a live audience in a studio across Lake Washington in suburban Bellevue. This is in area code 425.
Now how funny is that?