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February 13, 2009


I’m currently in Utica, New York where I just performed for a group of students at Hamilton College. Utica is one of those upstate New York cities that is exactly what you would imagine it to be, only less. Upstate New York has undergone some difficult times in the last forty or fifty years or so. I’m not sure why. People may have just decided it sucks up here and left. Or, more likely, industry left and the people followed. So what you get is one of those cities that looks like I think all Earth cities will look about a thousand years in the future when we have finally annihilated ourselves and the only evidence left of our existence are the crumbling husks of our former civilization. That’s Utica – the city of a shitty tomorrow, today.

Actually that would be a pretty good way to draw tourists here. Rather than continually attempting to attract new industry to this impoverished area, just repackage its current decomposition as “Future City!” Most Future Cities are sparkling and clean and filled with ultra-modern whirligigs. But that’s only one version of the future. The post-apocalyptic version? The “bird flu killed everybody” version? That’s Utica! I think if you asked a hundred people which version of the future is more likely: shiny, happy people or the radioactive dystopia? Most people probably would say the latter. Because let’s face it, everybody knows our entire species is going to shit. Why not try to make a buck off that fact?

Here’s what you do. You start a whole tourist thing. “Utica: Nightmare City of the Future!!!” People show up. Everybody gets a Haz-Mat suit and a Geiger counter, which never stops pinging. You pile everybody into an old school bus tricked-out like something from “Mad Max.” Right? You put a bunch of burly guards with automatic weaponry on top of the vehicle. Maybe they have crazy tattoos and robotic laser eyes and stuff. You drive through downtown avoiding the bunch of locals you’ve hired to scurry around in the shadows acting like flesh-eating monsters (Think “I Am Legend”) Once in a while, one of the bus guards “shoots” a monster. Green radioactive monster goo splatters all over everything. Everybody screams. Just when they’re screaming, you take their photo, which you sell them to at the end of the tour. Big money maker.

As the idea catches on, you expand it a little. You open restaurants where people forage through an old 7-11. You make giant animatronic mutant worms like from that movie “Tremors.” You open a log flume and a homemade fudge shoppe. Soon, Nightmare City of the Future is a family destination. Maybe there’s a casino. Maybe there’s post-apocalyptic mini-golf. Maybe you get Kenny Loggins to do a show. The possibilities are endless. Soon people are moving here to work the tourist attractions. Soon Utica is a destination again. All because you didn’t try to fight the fact that this town has nothing to offer anybody, but rather you turn that fact to your advantage. The other option is just to blow-up the entire city. Personally, I think it’s a toss-up.


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Not everyone is interested in sports. Guess what? Other regions with better towns and night life also have houses with backyards... that are cheaper, newer, larger, and more modern. Not to mention better weather, which means you can enjoy that back yard for more months out of the year than you can in Utica. NYC and Buffalo is way too far for the average Utican to either have the time to drive or afford to drive due to gas prices, I-90 toll increases, and low wages for younger people. Besides, Buffalo and NYC is not in the "Utica area."
Michael spent exactly enough time here.... it was just enough to know that he should leave before he's gripped by our welfare-enabling culture.

Also, we do not have any Ivy League colleges in "the area." Stop lying. Hamilton is not Ivy. Colgate is neither an Ivy nor in the Utica area. Syracuse as well. UC, SUNYIT, MVCC, MW are all jokes, and VERY far from Ivy quality in terms of administration and education.

The only way that Michael can be a "nobody" in Utica is when everyone that likes comedians move away. Right now, Michael is getting a bigger fanbase in Utica just for this blog post alone. I'm an example of one.


God bless you and your truthing. Except for the 7/11 bit. We barely have Stewarts/Wegmans here... much less a 7/11.

Michael J. Scialdone

Wow, THAT was harsh. HARSH! I am actually a big fan of Mr. Ian Black, and this is not the first time I have heard a celebrity or other entertainer discuss the shitiness of ole' Utica. I am from there, I don't live there anymore, and I don't entirely disagree with his sentiment.

HOWEVER, what hurts to hear something like this post is the way such commentary subtly dismisses the people that live there. Some of the most amazing people I have known come from there. My family planted down roots there when it was a bustling metropolis. There are also some amazingly talented musicians and artists who call it home.

We tend to make assumptions and judgments based on a limited window when we travel to a new place. While in general, the city of Utica is falling apart, and while in general it could be so much more when its so close to the Adirondacks, there are some truly redeeming qualities of the place as evidenced by the citizens who live there. I am sure if Mr. Ian Black had met some of the folks who call it home, he would have at the very least made it a point not to shit on them for living there.


Utica is definitely not as bad as your I Love the '70s/'80s/'90s series they are getting old just like you!


I'm pleased to see that Utica was, at the very least, a fine enough city to book a performance from your sorry ass. Perhaps the city could attract more tourism by saying "Michael Ian Black once played in Clinton and, shit -- we're nearby!" I can see the investors flocking to Central NY now!

Karl Hungus

Yeah, that is a little harsh. Michael Black is kind of a douche and I may just have to kick him in the nuts if I ever run into him. Oh, and even people in Utica have enough sense to realize that your latest attempt at comedy is again a failure. Come to think of it, you have failed at just about everything I have ever seen you do. But what do I know, I live in Utica...and you are nobody

Michael J. Scialdone

Please, Mr. Ian Black is not a douche, nor is he a bad guy. He's an entertainer looking to make a living. Its what comedians do, they satirize and analyze in such a way as to make light of others, situations, characteristics, and so on. I find him funny, and has full entitlement to his opinions, as do the people who respond to his opinions. Nothing wrecks genuinely good dialog than personal attacks and poorly aimed offensive statements.

My point above was that I didn't like that his rant about Utica was inherently a depreciation of the people who inhabit the city. And perhaps he feels that indeed, those people deserve to be depreciated. I HOPE not, but, I as someone who has spent considerably more time there, would like to point out that there are many good, amazing, talented, and wonderfully sincere people who call it home.

I am sure Mr. Ian Black is not going to apologize, and I am not offended by that. Whatever his intentions are, he deserves his right to say what he feels, as do we. But it does everyone a disservice to attack someone for expressing their opinion.


I'm with Pat. Get out and explore Utica because although it's not the city that it used to be it still has a lot to offer.


Wow, there's a lot of people from Utica who apparently have both giant sticks up their asses and no senses of humor.

Lighten up, kids. He's a comedian. He makes jokes.


Haha... He needs to write more about Utica, and get a column in the OD. Yes, we call our newspaper the "Utica OD" which is great considering the extremely high use of marijuana and other recreational drugs in the area. It's gotten so bad that Rome cops have unofficially stated that they're not planning to give out too many speeding tickets because they're so busy fighting drug dealers.
Anyone reading these posts... the "positive thinkers" are the ones with heavy blinders on... All the normal people from here with a wide world view have mostly left... the rest of us are trying to leave before things implode even further...

And for those who think that we're being too harsh... think of it this way... the more harsh we are, the more likely a visitor will come through your town and say, "Well, it's really not THAT bad....sort of."


It's funny he wrote Utica should be a post apocalyptic future. He should come when we have the Zombie Walk.


I think he got lost and is actually describing Detroit.

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