Despite references to Bill Cowher, the Steelers and the 412 area code, no one's mistaking Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers for a native son just yet.
The next-to-last sketch on Feb. 5's SNL pitted a disgusted host, Paris Hilton, against the ardent advances of a skeevy, mustachioed Meyers at a New York City bar. For added hilarity, Meyers, a Steelers fan and son of a Pittsburgher, decided to write his character as a yinzer.
It escaped being offensive, says local history instructor and bartender Tony Novosel, because it was so poorly done.
Novosel is about as authentic a Pittsburghese speaker as you'll find. He grew up in Duquesne and West Mifflin, spent time as a steel worker and auto mechanic before becoming a history teacher at the University of Pittsburgh. He's tended bar at Chiodo's for the past decade, and his speech is liberally sprinkled with the flattened ow's and dropped th's n'at.
"If you didn't know he was supposed to be from Pittsburgh, all he was was another jerk trying to pick up a girl," says Novosel after repeated viewing of Meyers in action. "It was done so badly that no one would have known what he was doing. It was just a lounge lizard with a fake Pittsburgh accent."
He pronounced "Steelers," for instance, as "Steelers."
At the start of the sketch, Meyers sees Hilton sitting alone at the bar and asks, "How yinz doin'?" Then, he tries to buy her a drink and asks if she wants a shot with her white wine.
"He should have said, 'You want an Imp and Ahrn?'" Novosel says. That's a shot of Imperial whiskey and an Iron City Beer, of course. "The stillworkers favorite beverage!" according to www.pittsburghese.com.
Meyers played his Pittsburgher as a total rube, failing grandly with Hilton and claiming woeful ignorance of popular culture.
"Nobody I've ever seen at Chiodo's acted like that," Novosel says. "That's the kind of guy you see at a club Downtown, any downtown, just a guy who thinks he's better than he is. There wasn't anything uniquely Pittsburgh about it."
Adds Novosel, "These are the kinds of skits where you feel sorry for the actors."