Parks and Recreation has done two fantastic sendups of public/community radio. I realize that making fun of public radio is like shooting fish in a barrel – it’s for that very reason that most spoofs just aren’t funny. I think most of these efforts fail because they hitch all of their jokes to the easy targets, such as the (over)enunciation standards of NPR or Pacifica. Or, they try to go for “easy laughs” by trying to skewer the Left, but end up replicating the oppressive sexist structures of corporate radio that NPR exists to stand against in the first place.
At the very least, they aren’t as absurdly, unintentionally funny as community radio can be all on it’s own earnest self. And that’s the key to what makes Parks and Recreations take on it so funny – they get it that the people who do this kind of radio are so deeply invested in a very romantic idea of the power of community radio, with a little ill-considered corporate marketing in the mix just to keep things bizarre and off-kilter, and they know how to take those elements and make them hyper-realistic without being cruel.
Leslie Knope’s appearance on Wamapoke County Public Radio on last week’s episode, “Pawnee Commons,” was pitch-perfect.