I have nothing but love for Almost Live and John Keister in general. In my childhood memory, I recall the original Ross Schafer talk show version. And, one of my happiest memories was my first July 4 back in western Washington in 1997. I had been back in the state for only a few days and found myself in an apartment over lake Union waiting for the fireworks, and a rerun of Almost Live was on. It is pretty cliche, but I felt more at home in that moment.
All that said, I really hope The 206 doesn't last long. For years I had pined for John Keister and other Almost Live cast members to make it back somehow. I always thought the show was cancelled unfairly and I really did like the first comeback effort with the John Report with Bob. But, it is hard to imagine that if Almost Live had evolved over the past 14 years, it would've ended up like the 206.
The promos so far seem far too self-knowing that people like Keister and Pat Cashman have been off television locally for the past decade. They seem to reference a need for local comedy that hadn't existed since they were canned. That's not acknowledging the local internet comedy that has sprung up since then. Local Brew is one obvious example (I'll get back to them), and Seattle Untimely was another healthy effort worth pointing to.
I'd be lying if I didn't admit that Keister's ad for Renton still hurts a bit. Its hard for me to know that exists and to be able to hear Keister make fun of another town, if that's still part of his schtick. There's a certain level of authenticity needed to be funny in the way that Keister is funny. And, by making that ad, he lost some of that.
There's also this: Keister has grown out of being the the 90s era local hero and has become an icon 20 years later. You just take icons seriously. We took Emmett Watson seriously and he was funny from time to time. But, we also didn't think he was funny in a way that a clown or local television comedian is funny.
I wish I could find an example to link to, but the KCTS commentaries Keister did about five years or so back (somewhat serious, still funny) were more fitting the back on the heals and wise stature that he has earned.
Now, it all needs to be 1990 again, but it can't be 1990 again.
If you want it to be 1990 (or the year when you were young and funny) you have to go to some place like Local Brew. Instead of putting up vague (and obviously shilling for Cadillac) promos, Ross Asdourian of Local Brew just now successfully raising $10,000 on Kickstarter for the show's second season. That on its face shows the understanding and social connection it needs to produce local and funny content.
But, the best argument for Local Brew and against The 206 comes from the cast of Almost Live:
The city has lost its oddball manner and its regional distinction, he said, in ways that have muted much of "Live's" local flavor. Former "Live" cast member Nancy Guppy agreed. "I don't know if it could exist now," she said.
Everything is becoming more homogeneous, with condos stacked on Subways, luxury markets, Pottery Barns. Said Guppy: "I'm not sure who cares about the local thing -- the Seattle thing."
Or as Keister put it: "Ballard was old Scandinavians. Fremont was hippies. Capitol Hill was gay. Kent was where whites of modest means moved to escape Seattle school busing. Bellevue was the same for the rich.
"Today, you can make a joke about Ballard but it's a bunch of wealthy people who work in the information industry. You make a joke about Wallingford and it's a bunch of wealthy people who work in the information industry.
Fremont? That would be a bunch of wealthy people who work in the information industry. "And Belltown is a bunch of wealthy people who live in luxury condos ... who work in the information industry."Obviously, Keister think there's enough there to make a comeback. But, his comment speaks to a certain element of comedy of living in the moment. Being able to see the authenticity of a place right in front of you and knowing how to make fun of it. Keister mocking Ballard was funny because he obviously loved Seattle and loved Ballard. Keister making fun of the new "information industry" Seattle would be sad.
Keister's assesment of Seattle is spot on. But, he's also the wrong person to make fun of it. Transplants and folks who grew up in that new Seattle certainly can and do mock it.
Local comedy is dead. Long live local comedy.