Need A Laugh? Watch “Pittsburgh Dad”

We all need an escape from time to time. And sometimes all we need is a really good laugh. The kind of laugh that leaves you gasping for air, slapping whatever surface is near you, and thinking of one-liners for days.

Now, of course, this “best kind of laugh” is often attached to a joke or funny scenario that you identify with. That’s why some people find certain things funny while others don’t.

For me, my new “go to laugh generator” is the YouTube short film series “Pittsburgh Dad” which is one of those things that I identify so much with that it is simply hysterical.

I grew up less than a mile from the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line, my Mum is from Pennsylvania, most of my family lives there, and PA has really helped define me more than my home state of Ohio has. I root for the Steelers, not the Browns, and I would pick the forested beauty of the Alleghenies over the flat expanses of Ohio any day.

Because I’ve straddled the Ohio-PA border for my entire life and because Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania culture and customs aren’t really that different (remember my cookie table explanation?), so many of the themes, anecdotes, jokes, and countless other nuances that appear in episodes of Pittsburgh Dad are immediately recognizable to me.

Since its debut in October 2011, Pittsburgh Dad has become something of an internet sensation, particularly in the Pittsburgh area. An ever-growing series of of 1-3 minute short films, Pittsburgh Dad is the creation of Pittsburgh-area natives Chris Preksta and Curt Wooten. The character is an exaggeration of Wooten’s own father and talks and complains about typical Dad stuff in a thick Pittsburghese accent. (For more information on Pittsburghese, check out this website.)

The premise of Pittsburgh Dad is simple. Preksta directs while Wooten stars as the title character — the only character to ever appear on camera. There are other characters, but they always remain off-screen.

Every Tuesday Curt Wooten transforms himself into Pittsburgh Dad, complete with Dad glasses, facial hair, and wardrobe.

Pittsburgh Dad appeals to me mostly because of my regional connection to it and my understanding of the Pittsburghese dialect in which the character talks. While I don’t use all the vocabulary or pronunciations that Pittsburgh Dad does, I do use/understand a lot of his words. For example, I call my mother Mum, not Mom. Water comes out of a spicket, not a faucet. You need to wear Tennies (tennis shoes/sneakers) into the woods or weeds so you don’t get pricked by a jagger bush (thorn bush).

But, you don’t have to be a Pittsburgh-area native to understand or enjoy Pittsburgh Dad. The Pittsburgh jokes aside, Pittsburgh Dad is just a funny reflection of real life — of the behavior that we all exhibit, about things we did as kids and things our parents did too.

You just have to watch to see….

Pittsburgh Dad premieres new episodes on YouTube every Tuesday. Currently, there are over 60 videos to watch including dozens of original episodes, outtakes and deleted scenes, and behind the scenes discussions.

Here are some of my many, many favorites:

“Going to Church”

“Family Dinner”

“Going to Gram’s”

“Dad Yelling on the Answering Machine”

“Slumber Party”

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Disclaimer: Pittsburgh Dad is exclusively the property of Chris Preksta and Curt Wooten.

Tackling the Cookie Table: Why Pinterest Has Made A Wedding Tradition Easier

It’s hard to believe that it’s the end of February. It seems like 2012 just started and now we’re already 2 months in. Crazy. I have a lot of things to accomplish in the next 2 months including: decide what the heck I’m doing with my life, finish my thesis, take comprehensive exams, and find something awesome to wear to 2 different weddings (one for the sister of a fellow Dame and one for my cousin).

But a smashing outfit is not the only thing I have to worry about when it comes to weddings, my cousin’s in particular. No, I have time to worry about a dress and shoes. Right now, my main concern is cookies.

Yes, cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.

You see, here in Northeast Ohio (Western Pennsylvania too), we have this tradition at weddings called the cookie table. And it is epic.

This is one example of a wedding cookie table. Cookie tables range in size and arrangement, but a traditional cookie table is laden with dozens of cookie varieties.

While the wedding cake is still a mainstay of the wedding reception, the cookie table is equally, if not more, important. A traditional part of the wedding reception in the Northeast Ohio/Western Pennsylvania region of the United States, the cookie table is truly a force to be reckoned with. No one is really sure of how it got started or where it actually began, but it’s easy to make an educated guess.

Most likely, the cookie table tradition became prevalent from a combination of the high influx of immigrants that came into this region in early twentieth century and their baking traditions, the expense of an elaborate wedding cake, and the hardships caused by the Great Depression. For a more nuanced explanation, one of my history professors (a Youngstown native) explained that the cookie table was (and still is to a certain extent) all about social power and social debt.

Mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends, cousins, etc. spend months before a wedding baking and freezing cookies for the big day. Requests go out – “Can you make cookies for s0 and so’s wedding?” The number of cookies you display and the number of people you can get to bake them for the occasion says something about your social power, but it also puts you in debt to the person baking the cookies. They call in that debt later when they need cookies for a wedding.

As for where the cookie table exactly originated, both residents of Youngstown, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania both claim their city to be the birthplace of the cookie table. We’ll probably never really know, but I’m betting on Youngstown.

Today, cookie tables are different at every wedding. It depends on the bride and groom’s preference, the number of cookies people have time to make in this busy world, the size of the wedding, ethnic and religious traditions, and your family’s past usage/experience with the cookie table. My family definitely adheres to the cookie table tradition, but we don’t have anywhere near as elaborate a cookie table as some others do.

That doesn’t mean the cookies are in short supply though. Recipes won’t just be doubled or tripled. Some will be octupled. (Yeah, I know this might not really be a word. But for my cousin’s wedding 5 years ago, my Mum made 8 times the normal recipe for one cookie alone.) Needless to say, I didn’t eat any of those cookies at the wedding, nor do I have an easy time even looking at them now, 5 years later.

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So, it’s full speed ahead with the cookie baking. And, all I have to say is: Thank God for Pinterest!

Over the next few months, I’m going to be using Pinterest to seek out some new (to me at least) cookie recipes to make for my cousin’s wedding in June.

I’m going to catalog my cookie baking progress on here where I’ll share the recipes and my take on the cookies I try.

First up is Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies.

Here’s a picture of what they’re supposed to look like:

I hope to make them this weekend, so check back soon to see whether they are cookie table appropriate.

🙂