Comedians are known for stretching the truth.
Mike Polk Jr. does it in the title of his book, ''Damn Right I'm From Cleveland: Your Guide to Makin' It in America's 47th Biggest City.'' (Gray & Co., $14.95)
Polk really is a Newton Falls native and 1996 John F. Kennedy High School graduate. But these days he's best known as Cleveland's Internet comedy ambassador. His two ''Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism'' videos have been viewed more than 10 million times combined on YouTube, and his 2011 rant outside Cleveland Browns Stadium - ''You are a factory of sadness!'' - has 1.2 million viewers.
Newton Falls native Mike Polk Jr., author of the humor book ‘‘Damn Right I’m From Cleveland,’’ will perform this weekend at the Funny Farm Comedy Club in Austintown as part of ‘‘The Scumbags of Comedy.’’
So it's not surprising that Cleveland-based publisher Gray & Co. approached Polk to see if he'd be interested in translating his humor to book form.
''As you know by now, I'm not a particularly motivated person,'' Polk said. ''It was totally them. They hit me up, wanted to know if I wanted to do something Cleveland-based. They were very lenient about what the content would be and the due date.''
The scripts of the videos and a couple of other recycled bits are included, but the book contains a collection of twisted, profane and often funny bits from suggested Cleveland bumper stickers (''Cleveland: Pretty Soon You Don't Even Smell It Anymore'') to suggested marketing slogans for Great Lakes Brewing Company's popular Christmas Ale (''Celebrate the Birth of Christ with the Death of Your Liver'' and ''Great Lakes Christmas Ale: Because Who Wants to be Conscious During Winter in Cleveland Anyways?'') to how Cleveland hip hop act Bone Thugs N Harmony can help people avoid danger (mainly by avoiding any street / neighborhood ever mentioned in one of its songs). There also are bar recommendations and helpful hints like ''Four Great Places to Take a Dump While Downtown.''
When You Go
WHO: ''The Scumbags of Comedy'' featuring Mike Polk Jr., Chad Zumock, Joe Howard and Hot Carl
WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday and 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Funny Farm Comedy Club, Mojo's Pub & Grille, 6292 Mahoning Ave., Austintown
HOW MUCH: $20.
Polk collaborated with Chelsea McKee on the book with Polk writing the text and he and McKee collaborating on how to bring those ideas to life visually.
''She's never done anything like this before,'' Polk said. ''She's an occupational therapist. She's done posters for comedy shows around town, and I always liked her eye ... She was down to do it. It could have been a really bad situation. We spent the better part of the summer getting drunk and throwing around ideas. It was an hour of work and then sitting around watching old episodes of 'Breaking Bad'.''
And despite the running joke in the book about padding the content to meet a 100-page contractual requirement, Polk said the manuscript they turned in was about 130 pages, and Gray & Co. pruned it down to 108 full-color pages.
''Gray and Co. was very accommodating and cool,'' he said. ''They've never done a book like this that had the potential to be the least bit controversial. (The items cut) were more of a quality issue than anything. There were a couple things where, 'We don't feel comfortable about doing that,' and they were things that I tried to slip in under the radar. My moral compass isn't very reliable.''
Polk is a master of self-deprecation and downplays the effort and accomplishment that went into writing the book. Last month Polk went to the Buckeye Book Fair, a showcase of Ohio authors. In addition to feeling out of place, he couldn't believe the attitudes of some of his fellow scribes.
''A lot were just pretentious,'' he said. ''They acted like they were on another plane. Guys, it's really not that big a deal.''
For a man who likes to revel in his lack of ambition, Polk certainly is busy. In addition to the book, he's been contributing pieces to FOX 8 in Cleveland, both for its morning show and its Sunday night football wrap-up. The deal also allows Polk to do half-hour comedy specials that mix sketches and standup comedy (The next one is slated to air on Dec. 9).
''The nice thing is the time slots are so bad, they don't expect anything ratings-wise,'' he said. ''As long as I can pull similar numbers to Air Supply when they come on and try to sell you their music, they're happy.''
He performed last week with his sketch comedy troupe Last Call Cleveland as part of the Cleveland Comedy Festival at PlayhouseSquare, and he continues to perform as a standup comedian. Polk returns to the Mahoning Valley this weekend for three shows as part of a foursome of Cleveland comics billed as ''The Scumbags of Comedy.'' The group was organized by WMMS-FM DJ Chad Zumock and Polk, Zumock, Joe Howard and Hot Carl each will do about 20 to 25 minutes.
In typical Polk style, he works to lower expectations.
''I was really hoping you didn't know about that (gig),'' he said. ''We've done it for awhile, and it's ended poorly every single time. It's the drunkenest, surliest group of comedians working up here. I'm kind of the dad of this group.''
Polk could make more money hitting the road by himself as a headliner, but the ''Scumbags'' shows are a lot more fun that playing Snickers in Ft. Wayne, Ind.
''I like doing stuff with people that I know if at all possible ... I still have fun hanging out with these guys and laughing a lot and getting some stories.''