Real Alaskans poke fun at themselves

Elise Patkotak

Every once in a while we need to find our courage and stand up for an Alaska icon who has been sorely used by the forces of the liberal media. No, I'm not speaking about Sarah Palin or her many relatives, offspring and dance specialists. I'm speaking about Alaska's own national -- OK, maybe statewide -- treasure, Mr. Whitekeys.

Yes, poor Whitekeys was apparently fired from Alaska Magazine via email (ouch!) for writing a column that did not celebrate the state in a manner that Alaska Magazine deemed appropriate. Given that the magazine is part of Morris Communications and Morris Communications is actually headquartered in Anchorage, you'd think that they would have had a clue what they were getting into when they hired Whitekeys to write the column. Given that Whitekeys has subsequently written that column monthly for the past five years, you have to wonder how Morris Communications could have had any doubt at all what they were getting. I mean, this is a man who has made Spam and Skinny Dick's Halfway Inn the trademarks of Alaska for more visitors than Alaska Magazine probably has readers. Surely Morris Communications knew they weren't getting cute dancing moose and bears spouting Robert Service.

I recently went to the Whale Fat Follies and found them to be, as always, pretty hysterical. Classic material that we have all grown to know and love, and would resent if removed (such as the song about how every time someone does something dumb, an Alaskan does something dumber), are still part of the show. And they still cause whoops of both laughter and rueful recognition on the part of Alaskans in attendance. New bits about Anchorage's recent catapult to fashion fame as the worst-dressed city in the country bring even greater gales of laughter as many of us hunch over our drinks and hope no one notices what we wore for our night out on the town.

Yep, if you want to celebrate Alaska and Alaskans, do it with laughter and people will remember. I've had company -- or, as Whitekeys refers to them, houseguests from hell -- who remember their night at the Whale Fat Follies as a highlight of their visit. They got to laugh at things that they weren't sure Alaskans knew were funny, things they thought we took seriously, like combat fishing.

But here's the thing that Alaska Magazine apparently doesn't get. The same people who laugh at Spam jokes will remember that amazing railroad montage with Whitekeys on the harmonicas doing the William Tell Overture. They'll remember the grandeur of Denali, the breathtaking beauty of the drive to Homer and the breaching whales in Prince William Sound. Most people have the ability to tell the difference between satirical humor poking fun at our foibles and the reality of the magnificence of Alaska. They're actually that intelligent.

It seems to me that this inability to just laugh at how silly we all are sometimes gets played out on a national level in devastating ways. The grimmer life becomes, the more critical are the humorists in our midst who can bring a smile to our faces and show us the absurdities of life. It's something we seem to have forgotten.

We are all so intent on taking ourselves seriously that we cannot allow ourselves to step back for even an instant and break into a smile at the sight of how ridiculous it can all be in the grand scheme of things. Instead of laughing, we take umbrage. We rage. We rant. We declare the other fellow to be a dastardly deceptive doofus who must be stopped before he destroys our country.

Now all that may be true. Many politicians may truly be dastardly, deceptive and complete doofuses. But if we just took a deep breath and allowed a little laughter into the conversation, maybe we could deal with those doofuses without causing ourselves a stroke.

So have at it, Mr. Whitekeys. Keep us laughing at our own inanities and insecurities. Point our how silly we all are sometimes. It's a gift to our public discourse to have someone with a skewed viewpoint and the talent to make us all enjoy what he sees.

Think about it. Will Rogers is still being quoted long after most big names of his day have been forgotten.

Elise Patkotak is a writer who lives in Anchorage. Read her blog at