Albany is hardly the first municipality made the butt of jokes (see Cleveland, cruelly dubbed the “Mistake on the Lake”).
Other local cities (see Schenectady), upstate cities (see Utica) and even New York City (see Staten Island) take their fair share of jabs.
But Albany has attracted an unusual amount of mocking from luminaries, the rich and the famous dating back more than 50 years.
Here is a list of celebrities — including the most recent — who have dissed Albany over the decades.
Daryl Hall was unimpressed with his accommodations at the Albany Hilton, assailing the downtown hotel from the stage Sunday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Rocker Daryl Hall, who with curly-coiffed sidekick John Oates comprises the septuagenarian pop duo Hall & Oates, put the latest Albany diss on the list Sunday during a concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer slammed the Hilton Albany hotel in downtown Albany as “bad news.” The “Maneater”-crooning singer gave it the “worst review you could ever have for a hotel,” comparing his room to a place one might smoke crack. This critique is from someone who has been touring more than 50 years (and yes, that has included stops in Cleveland).
Cardi B eviscerated the same Albany Hilton, calling an employee a “racist motherf—–“after she was kicked out of the premises, according to video from TMZ.
In 2017, hip-hop star Cardi B, who sings the hit “I Like It,” found something she apparently does not like: Albany. The star eviscerated the same Albany Hilton, calling an employee a “racist motherf___” after she was kicked out of the premises, according to a video from TMZ. Someone lodged a noise complaint against members of Cardi B’s team and hotel staffers claimed they smelled marijuana — something police did not confirm.
“Albany is known for being racist,” she said in the video.
The alternative rock duo They Might Be Giants has a song called “Albany” which describes The Egg performing arts venue in Empire State Plaza as “exciting and old.” In a 2008 interview with AllOverAlbany.com, band co-founder John Flansburgh said: “The whole area is kind of a shrine to Nelson Rockefeller and his vice-like grip on Albany. It’s like being on the set of a bad science fiction movie, you know. It’s absolutely strange. More than The Egg, from the outside, those very large buildings that surround The Egg seem like physical impossibilities the way they’re set up. It’s some crazy-ass modernist architecture.” He also called it a “great place to play.”
Jack’s Oyster House, at 42 State St. in downtown Albany.
In 1970, famed New York Times restaurant critic Craig Claiborne declined to refer to Albany once as a city. Instead he labeled it a “town” — three times. The late Claiborne opined that “there’s nothing to do in Albany but eat” and described the capital city as “absolutely moribund and getting worse.” Claiborne, a native of Mississippi (no slouch itself as the butt of jokes), lauded a half-dozen Albany-area restaurants, albeit under a headline stating: “In Albany and You Hate It? The Restaurants May Help.” And he wrote that it was “not be the gastronomic capital of the world.”
‘The armpit of America’
Jack Nicholson in a scene from “Ironweed” in February of 1987.
In 1988, Denis Blouin, a Quebec-born executive producer for the movie “Ironweed,” described Albany to the Canadian Press as “a terrible place.” He said “parts of the city still look the way they did in 1938. … (Albany’s) the armpit of America.’” To make matters worse, Blouin said lead actor Jack Nicholson had been attacked by a pack of dogs on set. The movie was filmed in Albany and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by William Kennedy, who wrote the screenplay.
Slighted by ‘The Simpsons’
Bart, Homer, Maggie, Marge and Lisa from “The Simpsons.”
The animated satire set in the fictional city of Springfield has poked fun at upstate New York many times over its 31-year-and-counting run, including Albany at least five times, according to Frinkiac.com, a site that chronicles Simpsons episodes. In Season Four, Grandpa Simpson revealed: “I was voted the handsomest boy in Albany, New York.” In Season Eight, Principal Seymour Skinner planned an ill-fated school trip to Albany. In Season 10, Homer Simpson’s co-worker Lenny states: “There goes Albany. Uh-Oh, Spaghettios!” The show has included references to an “Albany Ham Scam,” and claimed the term “steamed hams” is an Albany expression.” In 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo claimed he had never seen an episode, which led Simpson’s executive producer Al Jean to send Cuomo a DVD of Season Four. “You might just enjoy an episode or two when the demands of Albany prove too unyielding,” Jean wrote.
Lampooned by Letterman
Former talk-show host David Letterman.
In 1993, as late-night host David Letterman joked about high-speed trains, he asked: “Why would anyone want to get to Albany in 55 minutes?” It prompted then-recently elected Mayor Jerry Jennings to send Letterman a taped response, which Letterman did not play. At the time, Jennings said: “I’m trying to bait Letterman so we can have a dialogue. He’s always knocking the capital city.” (Letterman was kinder to the city in a 2020 Emmys appearance.)
Late-night talk-show host Conan O’Brien.
In 2008, Huck Finn’s Warehouse and More, a furniture store in Albany, was promising tickets to Late Night with Conan O’Brien for the winner of its “Make-Your-Own-Commercial Contest,” to advertise Huck Finn. O’Brien learned of it, then pitched a make-your-own commercial contest to advertise his late-night show. The prize? A bus trip to Albany to go to the furniture store.
Comedian Bert Kreischer.
In 2019, comedian Bert Kreischer was asked to name which city on his tour was the “biggest dump.” At first, Kreischer declined to answer, then added: “By the way, it was Albany.” On Twitter, a person suggested he not return to the city. Kreischer tweeted: “Albany doesn’t suck the venue did they ran out of beer on the first show and they only gave Everyone two beers each kind of bull—- my opinion.” He did not mention the venue, though he had played two shows at The Egg in 2019.
Castigated by Koch
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.
We’ve kept politicians off the list — with one notable exception. In 1981, just before he planned to run for governor, New York City Mayor Ed Koch uttered perhaps the most notorious dig at Albany when he was quoted in Playboy magazine dismissing such a run because it “requires living in Albany, which is small-town living at its worst.” Koch lost the 1982 Democratic primary to future Gov. Mario Cuomo.