Image: Cleveland
Mark Duncan  /  AP
The Cuyahoga River flows past downtown Cleveland.
updated 5/28/2009 11:39:09 AM ET 2009-05-28T15:39:09

Come to Cleveland, where the economy is based on LeBron James, the streets are filled with drifters and broken-down homes can be had for the price of a VCR.

A comedian's sarcastic YouTube music videos trashing Cleveland have so unnerved tourism officials that they asked residents to fire back with videos of their own showing the city is not really the "Mistake on the Lake."

But take it easy, Cleveland. Mike Polk, 31, a hometown comic and video producer, said his two videos — which also maligned the city for such things as its abandoned buildings and polluted waters — were all in fun.

"I don't really believe all of the fish in Lake Erie have AIDS," said Polk, whose YouTube contribution to Cleveland's inferiority complex landed him a job judging the mostly feel-good contest videos.

The winner of the contest sponsored by the city's travel promotion agency, Positively Cleveland, will be announced Thursday.

Entries had to cost $2 or less to produce; be 2 minutes long, tops; and highlight favorite spots and the "unexpected side of the area about which tourists may not be aware."

The winner gets a Cleveland travel package, including a stay in a downtown hotel, dinner and passes to attractions.

Polk's favorite spots? The Playhouse Square theater district and corner music clubs.

But there's another inescapable part of Cleveland, including a dwindling population, shrinking manufacturing base, a high poverty rate and rampant foreclosures. Polk hits on many of the anti-highlights in the bare-knuckle video:

  • Its manufacturing might? "Here's the place were there used to be industry," the song says against a backdrop of urban desolation.
  • The resilient blue-collar population? "Cleveland leads the nation in drifters," the video warns.
  • The city's economy? It's based on the Cavaliers' James, Most Valuable Player in the NBA.

Positively Cleveland played off Polk's "Hastily Made" video title with a "Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video Contest" and paid homage to Polk and "this video making the rounds out there. ... You know who you are, funny guys."

Samantha Fryberger, who promotes the city as director of communications for Positively Cleveland, said there were no hard feelings about Polk's video ribbing.

"We thought we would not get defensive about it," she said Wednesday. "We're not mad about it; we're just going to have a little fun with it."

Clevelanders unhappy that Polk knocked the city are silly to suggest he shouldn't point out shortcomings, he said.

"I love the city and or else I would have left a long time ago," he said. "But I'm also realistic and I'm not going to pretend like there aren't a lot of negatives around here."

Still, Polk offered Cleveland a glimmer of hope, ending one video with the chant: "We're not Detroit."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Inventions & Motown

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  1. Art work

    The sculpture "Transcending," located in Hart Plaza, is dedicated to working men and women. (Paul Sancya / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 'And Still We Rise'

    An exhibit at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History entitled "And Still We Rise" recreates a slave auction. (Paul Sancya / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A big hand for the Brown Bomber

    The Joe Louis fist sculpture in the heart of downtown Detroit during a Labor Day parade. Commissioned in 1987 with a $350,000 grant from Sports Illustrated magazine, the 24-foot bronze monument was created by sculptor Robert Graham and came as a gift to the city as a tribute to Detroit's great boxing hero. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Motown Museum

    A woman walks past the Motown Historical Museum on West Grand Boulevard. Berry Gordy lived upstairs and operated what became known as the Motown Record Corporation downstairs, which he christened "Hitsville U.S.A." (Paul Sancya / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Tiger town

    A view of the Detroit skyline seen from the Detroit Tigers' home, Comerica Park. (Jeff Kowalsky / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Renaissance Center

    Detroit's elevated people mover moves past the Renaissance Center -- the most recognizable feature of the city skyline. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Cool zoo view

    Visitors to the Detroit Zoo's Arctic Ring of Life Exhibit get an up close and personal view of a swimming seal. The 4.2 acre, $14.9 million exhibit is the largest polar bear exhibit in the world. (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Urban escape

    Campus Martius Park is a centerpiece of the city's downtown revitalization efforts. (Paul Sancya / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Wienermobile mania

    A 1952 version of the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. Oscar Mayer created the original Wienermobile in 1936 to transfer the company spokesperson from store to store. The original was a 13-foot-long metal hot dog on wheels with an open cockpit in the center and rear, so the hot-dogger could pop up. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Rosa's way

    A tourist takes a picture of the Montgomery city bus Rosa Parks rode when she refused to yield her seat at the front of the bus to a white man, an event that touched off the Civil Rights movement. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Postcard perfect

    Detroit's skyline at dusk. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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