It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
That’s the tale of two cities as viewed by a couple of former Casa Grande residents who are now professional entertainers, in their videos.
Danny Vega, a New York comedian who grew up in Casa Grande, recently made a video where he goes around town poking fun at the vacant buildings and lack of culture in the community.
Austin Lawrence, a musician who moved away from Casa Grande five years ago, has returned to the community to make a music video at the skate park in Carr McNatt Park.
Both men said they have fond memories of Casa Grande.
But the contrast in their approach does draw a distinction we thought was interesting enough to do separate news stories on. Both stories appeared on Page 1 of Wednesday’s Casa Grande Dispatch.
As reported by staff writer Kevin Reagan, the 29-year-old Vega is seen in his two-minute video visiting various landmarks and delivering his brand of ironic commentary. He points at housing developments that were never finished, restaurants that closed and highlights how Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is not located in Casa Grande.
In staff writer Heather Smathers’s companion story, the 35-year-old Lawrence, who now lives in the Phoenix area, says his band, Lawttery, has just finished recording an album and he is seeking extras for a music video to be filmed at the skate park.
He notified city officials, who helped him schedule the shoot before the skate park is shut down for a planned upgrade at the park.
City officials declined to comment on Vega’s video.
Vega’s video is part of a series he calls “I’m Walking Here,” where he tours various places and points out all their flaws. He’s already poked fun at Penn Station and LaGuardia Airport in New York. His format is satire on the way communities, like Casa Grande, promote themselves in their own videos.
A few years ago a comedian’s sarcastic music video trashing Cleveland so unnerved tourism officials that they asked residents to fire back with videos of their own showing the city is not really the “Mistake on the Lake.”
Mike Polk, a hometown comic, insisted his music videos were all in fun.
“I don’t really believe all of the fish in Lake Erie have AIDS,” Polk was quoted by The Associated Press in discussing one of the lines in his songs.
So what did the city do to get back at Polk? They asked him to judge the mostly feel-good videos in the contest. And Polk was happy to do it.
Sometimes laughing along with your critics is the best option.
If Casa Grande were smart, they could team up with Vega on a series of promotional videos that would allow him to poke fun at some of the city’s idiosyncrasies while talking about some of the things he and his friends like about the community.
Vega told Reagan he’s not much on “positive comedy.” I have no idea what that means. All I know is when Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson did a Weekend Update routine with Texas Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw, whom he had poked fun at in earlier, it was funny. And it was positive because Crenshaw, who is a combat veteran who lost an eye in Afghanistan, was able to make a pitch for coming together.
Comedy is comedy.
Better yet, maybe Vega and Lawrence could get together and produce a music video about Casa Grande. Lawrence considers his band heavy metal, so who knows what the two could end up with.
But I doubt it will be as embarrassing as city officials continuing to promote PhoenixMart for eight years.
As Charles Dickens might say, Casa Grande is in an age of wisdom, and an age of foolishness.
So, let’s make the most of it.
You can contact Andy Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org.