Several years ago, a video popped up on my Facebook feed called the Manitowoc Minute. It was a funny recap of the week’s “news” by a guy dressed in a camo jacket and a hat that said “F*&$ the Bears” (as in the Chicago Bears). The guy spoke with the most exaggerated Wisconsin accent. It was hilarious, and I was sold on the comedy of Charlie Berens, as I came to know his name. Berens has crossed the country with his standup act and become a minor celebrity here in his home state of Wisconsin. Now he’s written a book about life in the Midwest called The Midwest Survival Guide: How to Talk, Love, Work, Drink and Eat… Everything With Ranch (Amazon) (AbeBooks).
“Have you ever had a goodbye lasting more than four hours? Do you lack the emotional capacity to say “I love you” so you just tell your loved ones to “watch out for deer”? Have you apologized to a stranger because she stepped on your foot? If you answered yes to any of these questions, there’s a good chance you’re a Midwesterner—or a Midwesterner at heart.
So whether you’re a born-and-bred Midwesterner looking to sharpen your skill at apologies or a costal elite visiting the in-laws for the holidays, this book will help you navigate the Midwest, with everything from the best flannel looks to dating and mating rituals (yes, casserole is involved) to climbing the corporate corn silo to how to handle a four-way stop—and every backyard brat fry in between.”
I highly recommend the audio version of The Midwest Survival Guide, so you can hear Berens slip into his Midwest accent. I always took it as a source of pride when I first went to college and was taking a diction class and the professor told me I didn’t sound like I came from Wisconsin! I took that as a huge compliment! Berens tells a similar story, but with different results: when he went to broadcasting school, he had a thick Wisconsin accent so he found a voice coach to “cure” him.
Many of the things Berens mentions are completely relatable to a Wisconsin girl like me, like saying bubbler for a drinking fountain, putting ranch dressing on everything, and the 4-hour goodbye for most visits to friends and loved ones. But I can honestly say in all my 49 years, I’ve never played a game of euchre or sheepshead, but have played tons of cribbage (they’re all card games). I’ve also never drunk an old fashioned, except a bottled version, and I don’t like beer, and I’ve never been fishing in my life, so maybe I’m not such a Wisconsin girl after all. I’m not sure how I feel about that. 😉
Even with the audio version of The Midwest Survival Guide, there’s an 86-page PDF enhancement full of quizzes and jokes, glossaries, illustrations, book and movie lists, recipes, places to visit. Berens goes out of his way to include indigenous people and more recent immigrants like the Hmong and Somali. For every ten jokes, there’s also reverence to the original Midwesterners, the many indigenous tribes scattered across the flyover states.
If you’re from the Midwest, a transplant, or just want to know more about the quirks and foibles of those of us in the middle states, you’ll want to check out The Midwest Survival Guide. With a side of ranch dressing, of course.
Be sure to check out Charlie Berens Cripescast Podcast wherever you get your podcasts. I am able to listen through Audible.com.
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