New Jersey Has a Situation

NJ Turnpike Toll
Photo by: Bobby Hindy
NJ Turnpike Toll

New Jersey, one could argue, is the Rodney Dangerfield of America.

The Garden State has been the butt of more jokes than, well, BP.

And now this.

Comedian Rob Ryan and "The Reel Public" have spoofed Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind" in "Newark State of Mind."

The video is not conducive to attracting business or tourist dollars to New Jersey's largest city.

Think Tony Soprano mixed with The Jersey Shore plus lots of garbage. "Garbage so high, it's like a scene out of 'Wall-E'", raps Ryan, while the chorus belts out:

Homeless people, hookers and crack bums,
There's nowhere they won't poo,
Welcome to Newark..."

In the music video, Ryan plays a young man living in Brooklyn who loses his tech job and can only afford to live in Newark, where "even Onstar is scared for its life."

One has to wonder what Newark native Cory Booker, currently the mayor, would say about all this.

Last fall, he banned Conan O'Brien (remember him?) from Newark airport after O'Brien dissed Booker's fine city. The mayor's Youtube channel is filled with videos showing a city "on the rise".

But "Newark State of Mind" sees things very differently. This video goes from bad to worse, or funny to funnier (depending on your perspective), when it shows a (fake) dead guy outside the singer's apartment.

Maybe there's a way to turn this to Newark's advantage, to promote the video as a marketing tool. Certainly there have to be tourists who come to New Jersey to check out sites from "The Sopranos" or determine whether GTL is real.

Why not play that up? People come to Hollywood to see the stars' homes, why not go to Jersey to see where, as the song says, "Killers will take you and hide you, and no one will find you, afraid of Newark"?

Fuggidaboudit, say the locals.

CNBC headquarters is located up the Turnpike in Englewood Cliffs, where I queried a few of my New Jersey-based colleagues about the video.

"Thank God for the Turnpike," says Squawk Boxproducer Rob Contino. He compares Newark "to Compton or Watts...the business area is nicer - slow, but nicer. The Prudential Center is nice, but don't linger." He adds, "Let's just say 'The Situation' would not be so tough in the streets of Newark. (It's) so bad the guys from 'Cops' wouldn't come back."

"This redefines 'The Jersey Swipe'," says producer Meghan Reeder.

Then there's editor and blogger Gloria McDonough-Taub. Hell hath no fury like a real New Jersey housewife scorned. "Obviously (the video was) put together by someone who doesn't live in New Jersey, or a self-loathing Garden Stater," Glo tells me. "Yes, I am a real New Jersey Housewife - I don't toss tables in restaurants or file for bankruptcy or pimp my kids out or spend more time at the spa than at my kids' schools," but she loves the place. While Glo admits, "We've got the highest taxes in the country," she adds, "We are the home of baseball, the 'Chairman of the Board', 'The Boss', and those frickin' New York teams that play on our soil. And, oh yeah, it was those bridge and tunnel guys who rushed to the World Trade Center to help out."

Jon Bon Jovi
Getty Images
Jon Bon Jovi

She's just getting started.

"We are the home of the lightbulb," Glo declares.

"Thomas Edison chose the Garden State to build his lab and factory. Albert Einstein spent his final years at Princeton. We are home to Martha Stewart, Meryl Streep, Peter Benchley — notice he didn't bring 'JAWS' to the NJ Shore. Imagine growing up without Judy Blume, Count Basie, The Red Badge of Courage written by a NJ boy Stephen Crane, WALT WHITMAN, Buzz Aldrin, The ultimate Yankee - Yogi Berra played in the Empire State, but he lives in the Garden State, MILTON FRIEDMAN, Charles Lindbergh, Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf, Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, Aaron Burr ......"

I think she could've stopped at Schwarzkopf.

But, most importantly she adds, "The best hair in the world came from NJ—Jon Bon Jovi. So there."

She makes a valid point, even if the state's reputation is going a blaze of glory.

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