Yeah, but still…: Over-analyzIN’ Aubrey Plaza’s Late Show Appearance
It doesn’t take much for a mention of our state to make the viral rounds in our city’s social circle. A mere hint of the name “Joe Biden” and Twitter and Facebook feeds of everyone from INfluencers to your great aunt go wild with extreme opinions from the widest of angles. Back when the film Fight Club revealed in its dialog its Delaware setting, we all went kinda crazy just hearing our city’s name, even without the aid of social media. Our small size and low population usually keeps us off the map of public interest and that, combined with an obvious identity crisis likely rooted in our proximal Mason-Dixon heritage and an agrarian/corporate economy, has led to a mix of prideful sharing and staunch defense from natives when there is mention of our home. Not to mention those underwhelming census numbers bear an uneasy fruit of a collective Napoleon complex just as aggressively championed and defensed.
So, it’s no surprise to see the latest “Wilmington in the News” item, an Aubrey Plaza appearance on Stephen Colbert’s weeknightly Late Show, pick up steam throughout the digital maw. IN a way, Plaza is sort of something of a folk hero to us. She’s a local who made it big, a Hollywood star, going from TV’s Parks and Recreation and Legion to big roles in independent and, more recently, major studio films. Her sense of humor is fully Delawarean. It’s aggressive and defensive and insulting, but so charmingly delivered and with a self-effacement that says “Yeah I’m counting me in this group too.” She’s with us, even if she isn’t among us, and she knows our flaws because she is born of those flaws. I wonder sometimes if others are like me and fantasize that she brags about us among her entertainment peers.
Regardless, the appearance was hilarious. Community Calendar, a recurring bit of Colbert’s that pokes innocent fun at yokels and their hokey happenings around the country took aim at Wilmington, and set its sights on a slew of events. Right off the bat, a true native would have spotted the appearance of Dover’s Legislative Hall as it erroneously led a vignette of several otherwise well-known Wilmington points of interest, including Rockford Tower. Plaza and Colbert then volleyed a series of hilarious treatments roasting the following: last-week’s Ken Double appearance for the Dickinson Theatre Organ Society, Wilmington Pirate Festival, FatherFest (which actually took place in PA), Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen’s Fine Craft Fair, Old Fashioned Ice Cream Festival, Karaoke at Bar XIII and a Paint Nite at Concord Mall burger joint Grub.
Let’s just start with a complete understanding that this entire thing was all done in good fun. You can’t get upset that a nationally televised late-night comedian poked a little at your favorite regional event—the power of free press is strong with this one (seriously, look at those views). Plus, we’re convinced the Late Show staff knows these are easy targets and intentionally doesn’t try to be too harmful with the tone. It’s softball stuff in TV-14, and no one should take anything personal. Despite our role as champions of the city’s culture and its community, in which we absolutely see the value in producing memorable events and in providing a place to sell one’s well-made wares, we can see plainly the lack of intended harm. Most of the jokes didn’t so much insult the events as use them for the basis of a laugh, essentially a jumping-off point to riff and kill time while CBS sold and aired ads to and for sponsors (but that’s a post not for *this* blog).
So yeah, we get the joke…and on the heels of that acknowledgement, we’d like to take a holistic approach and analyze this a little deeper.
After a short lead-in following an interview to promote her newest work, in some Child’s Play remake or reboot or something, Aubrey begins with a fake motto, the “Wilming-TON of fun” line. It’s completely harmless, unless you consider it as a veiled reference to the quite-false notion that we have nothing fun to do around here. When you’ve just spent the last two weeks eating faces full of gyros and panzarotti and tossing back numerous limoncello wooder ices and red wines, it’s kind of hard to take that belief seriously.
At first it seems like Plaza is firing shots at us. Repeated views show that she’s actually speaking from experience. We can picture her at St. Helena’s Carnival in the early 90’s, or perhaps sitting in the circle thing outside Children’s Place in the Christiana Mall. She knows what she is talking about. With every subsequent deadpan “wow” that leaks from her mouth, you get a shock of remembrance from when mom made family plans for that weekend flea market trip.
From there they tackle last week’s pipe organ performance from Ken Double. Double is known for “dazzling arrangements” and comes highly regarded in the admittedly insular world of pipe organists and their fans. Even still, we think the title of “World’s 4th largest pipe organ” is definitely something to be proud of. It’s a big world out there. Lots of pipe organs. We got one of the biggest. Come at us. (Not to mention, HAVE YOU HEARD THAT THING? It's INcredible. But more on that pipe organ at another time.)
Next followed Plaza’s intro of the upcoming Wilmington Pirate Festival, along with an over-the-shoulder graphic featuring our very own website’s listing of the event (are we INfamous?!). Plaza joked about scurvy, a condition that afflicted pirates and seafarers long ago due to a vitamin C deficiency. Considering the solution to that was adding citrus to their casks of beer and thus introducing the world to the IPA, we can be thankful for scurvy. So jokes on them. Also, have you seen the Kalmar Nyckel up close? It’s pretty cool. Like, really really cool.
Last week’s FatherFest was next to take a jibe, in the form of a riff on the dangers of combining alcohol consumption, “middle-aged despair” and helicopters. Dangerously true and sage advice, yes. But the fact that the location of this event was West Chester, Pennsylvania (the otherwise impressive and pretty cool American Helicopter Museum & Education Center), let’s avoid anything other than pointing out their easily fact-checked error and move on.
Next, in reference to the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen’s Fine Craft Fair, a pass was made about craft fairs, and not even THIS particular fair, and REALLY not even about craft fairs at all, but esoterically about the things we do to fill our time. “It’s the perfect place to pick up a souvenir that you will look at years from now and say ‘hey, where’d we get this?’ and your wife will say ‘at that thing we went to, remember?’ Well, this is that thing,” jokes Colbert. Except THIS thing happens to be a massive showing of some of Pennsylvania’s best, over 100 artisans to be more specific, for two full days of shopping at the Chase Center. We get some of our best tchotchkes from craft fairs, but we’re not just talking about tchotchkes here—we’re talking clothing, jewelry, pottery, handbags, home decor, furniture, hats and accessories—haters are unwelcome. NEXT!
Ah, the Old Fashioned Ice Cream Festival joke. We can get down with this one. We absolutely LOVE the annual festival at Rockwood. We go every year and it’s a hallmark city event, offering something for everyone in the family. It’s also a wonderful reminder of the varied weather that summer can bring, from wet and cold, to hot and muggy, to plain old perfectly suited for a day at the park... Still, kids and ice cream can make for volatile parent moods and whether they are yours or someone else’s, just a spoonful of sugar for a tot is enough to tip the scales one or t’other.
Yeah we’ve had a wonderful and memorable time at the Ice Cream Festival. We’ve also screamed…and screamed…and screamed….
Next to take the slings and arrows was Bar XIII’s Karaoke Monday. It’s easy to poke fun at karaoke. But in addition to this regular night of music appreciation, the venue hosts one of the most raw open mic comedy showcases in the country, risqué burlesque, regular kink-friendly events and seriously underground but respected metal bands. We think they can take the abuse. IN fact, they probably relish in it, tbqh.
They wrapped up with a crack at "Paint Nite: Fireflies and Daisies Twinkle Lights Wine Bottle" at Grub Burger Bar in the Concord Mall. We admit, we LOL'd pretty hard at this one. Like, coffee out our nose... Two facts here: that title sounds ridiculous and Grub regularly partners with local entertainment company Yaymaker to host Paint Nite (yup, just "Paint Nite"). And any Paint Nite where we can purchase bourbon milkshakes sounds like a fantastic paint night to me. The one on June 19th, just so happens to teach you how to paint fireflies and daisies on a cute lil twinkle lights bottle.
Things wrapped up with another motto from Plaza. “Where there’s a WILL-mington, there’s a WAY-ming-ton,” she says, falling off a little at the end, an expression of doubt over the statement’s veracity and a lack of conviction in the delivery as part of the joke.
It’s kind of the most ironically apropos reference in the whole routine, though, when we think about it. If there’s one thing that people who produce these events have, it’s conviction. They believe in what they do. Take the Pirate Festival for example—from the volunteers who staff and organize it, to the fanatically dedicated troops of costumed pirates who relish in appearances like these and even to the face painters, who we personally know add a little extra unicorn dust to everything—everyone takes their jobs and what they do seriously and love it with every ounce of their being.
Whether your passion is pirates, pipe organs, making or buying handcrafted goods, ice cream or singing other people’s songs, this city is a place to do that. And so much more.
Plaza’s joke, albeit likely hastily tossed off in a writer’s room on the 75th floor of a New York skyscraper, carry some hefty weight when coming from her lips. We know there’s a waymington because she already TOOK that waymington to get there. While *we* likely didn’t have much to do with it, her success is our success and we relish in it because it brings our home notoriety and credibility. With every rung of the ladder she climbs as an actress and personality, we sit below, holding it steady and cheering on her ascension.
We’re pretty proud of our waymington. And every time we hear or see these types of humorous jests on our waymington, we have to take it in stride and know it for the well-meaning big-city condescension that it is, but we chafe a little too. Thankfully, we have the amazing Ms. Plaza there to represent us and sling us our own medicine. She gets us. And we get her. Now if we can just get her to appear on our billboards (come on home girl, do us a solid)…