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COVER STORY : No Joke : The Valley is a laughing matter.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

From comedians to cynics, everyone pokes fun at the Valley.

But why?

Sure, there’s plenty of material, from the incessant traffic delays to the unhealthy-air alerts to the teen materialism epitomized by Valley Girls.

“This place isn’t hip,” said Barb North of Tarzana, who, along with her husband, Steve, used to host a cable show from the L.A. Cabaret in Encino. “It’s not tied into the Beverly Hills thing or the Hollywood thing, and so people like to make fun of that.”

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However, Chaytor Mason, a human factors/psychology professor at USC, said that the humor grows from a deeper sense of self-hatred.

“That’s what leads people to a dislike of things connected to them,” Mason said. “If they don’t like themselves, then they will find things that they don’t like about the place they live, which is really a projection of themselves.”

Announcer Gary Owens, who made a name for himself as the emcee on NBC’s “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” from 1968 to 1973, has a much different view.

“If you love the place where you live, you joke around about it,” said Owens, who lives in Encino. “George Burns made fun of Gracie Allen, and yet it was a love affair.”

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You have to really love the place you call home, Owens said, “otherwise, you wouldn’t live there.”

Comedian and Valley resident Shelley Berman said the fact that the San Fernando Valley is the butt of jokes is not unique.

“You can really make fun of any place,” said Berman, who lives in Bell Canyon. “You just look for what’s obvious and then elaborate on it. In Texas, you can make fun of the dialect and get a huge laugh. People know they are being teased.”

Sam Longoria, a producer at the Wild Side Theatre in North Hollywood, said the inclination to joke about one’s place of residence is quite normal.

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“Everybody denigrates the place they come from,” Longoria said. “That’s what causes people to leave. It’s a natural thing. I know a girl who grew up in Reseda and lived there for years, and then said she had to move to Encino,” which Longoria feels is not much different. “To me, the Valley is the Valley, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her.”

Regardless of motivation, jokes about the Valley go back a long way. In more recent decades, Johnny Carson made fun of “beautiful downtown Burbank,” and Frank Zappa put down Valley Girls.

But we wanted to find out what’s new in Valley jokes. We polled celebrities, comics, comedy writers and contestants in the “Funniest Person in the Valley” contest, which concluded last month, asking them to take their best shot at the Valley.

Some came up empty.

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“I can’t think of anything funny about the Valley,” Berman said. “I’ve called up people who give me jokes all the time, and they didn’t have any.”

Others were more successful.

Here, in no particular order, are the Top 25.

The Jokes 1. The temperature is always at least 10 degrees higher in Woodland Hills or Canoga Park--from the blow-dryers. --Lew Sall 2. Shrewd investors are making fortunes out here. When I first came to the Valley, you could buy property by the acre. Now you have to buy it by the square foot. And I’m not selling. --Bob Hope 3. Let’s take a look at Burbank for the weekend. It’s 190 degrees, and we are getting reports that farmers are growing steamed vegetables throughout the Valley. --Fritz Coleman 4. Today in the Valley, we are going to have a 16th-stage smog alert. That’s the equivalent of inhaling iron filings. --Fritz Coleman 5. I walked into a Valley hotel and asked the receptionist, “Excuse me, do you have a Jacuzzi, spa, or a sauna?” She started looking through her guest list. --George Smilovici 6. I had a gun when I lived in the Valley. Not so much because of any crime. I just hated paying for stuff. --Howard Feller 7. I hate coming to the Valley because every time I do they stop me at the border to check my Galleria card. --Bobby Pollack 8. I shop in the Valley ‘cause the stores are more personal. I hadn’t been to the May Company for a month, and they sent someone over to my house to see if I was OK. --Terri Brooks 9. I’m a little upset about the education in the Valley. My daughter flunked Labels 101. She thought Gucci was something you said to a baby. --Terri Brooks 10. I used to live at the beach, but the air there is too clear, so I moved to the Valley. I like to see what I’m breathing. Lately, I’m starting to chew as well. --Richard Dyer 11. Where else can you find 400 tanning salons and a 95-degree sun shining brightly above? It’s like God is saying, “Hey, I’ll give you the sun for free!” and we’re saying, “No thank you, we’d rather pay for it.” That’s like bringing your own kiddie pool to the beach! --Bernie McGrenahan 12. A big Saturday night in the Valley is to go to Carpeteria and feel pile. --Mike Barrie and Jim Mulholland 13. There are lots of things to do for tourists in the Valley, like the glass-bottom bus tour of the speed bumps of Van Nuys. --Mike Barrie and Jim Mulholland 14. What do you get when you cross a Valley Girl and a real estate agent? Someone who hasn’t existed for 10 years and hasn’t sold anything in five. --Steve and Barb North 15. What’s the difference between the Valley in August and hell? One is a burning inferno of torture and punishment. The other is where people go after they die. --Steve and Barb North 16. As a struggling screenwriter, Sylvester Stallone was living in Encino and working on a script about a boxer named Rocky. He saw the sign Balboa Boulevard, and that’s how it became Rocky Balboa. I’m glad he was living in that neighborhood. If he was living a few blocks away, maybe the movie never would have worked. “Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, the Italian stallion, Rocky Winnetka!” --Bruce Fine 17. Universal Studios is adding a new attraction--the San Fernando Valley Adventure. For half an hour, the tram stops dead, and everybody gets their nails done. --Paige Scurti 18. In the Valley, all gas stations sell vitamins at the counter. Now are these the guys you want to look to for nutritional guidance? “Excuse me, sir, Pump 4 unleaded, please. Also I’ve been feeling a little run-down lately. Can you recommend some supplements? Yeah, let me try the ones in between the condoms and the Slim Jims.” --Bruce Fine 19. Valley Girls are big fans of the philosopher Descartes. Their life philosophy is, “I shop, therefore I am.” --Phyllis Hamlin 20. A study of Valley high school students this year showed they knew more about beer brands than Presidents. This is true. I can just imagine the political dialogue on campus: Who is running against Bush? Bush Lite? --Carl Wolfson 21. Because of the inversion layer, the Valley has some of the dirtiest air in Los Angeles. Last month, I took my car to the carwash, and the guy gave me an estimate. --Carl Wolfson 22. When the police pull you over in the Valley, the first question they ask is, “How do I look?” --Lew Sall 23. This girl, like from Sherman Oaks, like saw me perform like, live comedy, like on stage. And like, after the show, like she like, came up to me and like, said, “Like, you’re really, like real funny and would you like, like to like, go out with me?” And I said, “Like, no.” She said, “Like, why not?” And I like, said, “I don’t like, like you.” --Danny McCabe 24. The Ventura Freeway is one big parking lot. They should close it, set up tables on the shoulder, and call it the San Fernando Swap Meet. --Bernie McGrenahan 25. I’m into the Valley car culture. I have a telephone and television in my car, and in the back seat, an emergency manicurist. --Terri Brooks

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