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But Will It Play in Peoria
But Will It Play in Peoria
Published: 2011/03/19
Channel: FrankMustardProject
Sticars: Will it Play in Pawtucket?
Sticars: Will it Play in Pawtucket?
Published: 2008/03/29
Channel: sticars
Vin-T Bikini on "The Big Idea: Will It Play In Peoria"
Vin-T Bikini on "The Big Idea: Will It Play In Peoria"
Published: 2008/02/13
Channel: morebrent
Does it Play in Peoria?
Does it Play in Peoria?
Published: 2014/10/29
Channel: Tanna Holzer
101 Things that Play in Peoria: High Street
101 Things that Play in Peoria: High Street
Published: 2015/04/27
Channel: Journal Star
Will Wateroos play in Peoria?
Will Wateroos play in Peoria?
Published: 2008/02/28
Channel: rjgreenspan
Play it in Peoria - JD & Lesli Hanson
Play it in Peoria - JD & Lesli Hanson
Published: 2014/05/19
Channel: Lesli Hanson
Play it in Peoria
Play it in Peoria
Published: 2012/06/10
Channel: Greg Clark
Peoria Zoo - Kaci
Peoria Zoo - Kaci's Places to Play in Peoria (Episode 14)
Published: 2013/10/28
Channel: Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
First Friday - Kaci
First Friday - Kaci's Places to Play in Peoria (Episode 17)
Published: 2014/09/12
Channel: Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
Top Ten Reasons Why Google Should Play in Peoria
Top Ten Reasons Why Google Should Play in Peoria
Published: 2010/03/10
Channel: HeartlandPartnership
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Malvern Lane
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Malvern Lane
Published: 2015/04/20
Channel: Journal Star
101 Things that Play in Peoria: GAR cannonballs
101 Things that Play in Peoria: GAR cannonballs
Published: 2015/04/03
Channel: Journal Star
Etch-it Cup 93%
Etch-it Cup 93%
Published: 2008/08/01
Channel: EtchCups
The Main Statement - Kaci
The Main Statement - Kaci's Places to Play in Peoria (Episode 5)
Published: 2013/05/09
Channel: Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
Cannabis Education: It Plays In Peoria
Cannabis Education: It Plays In Peoria
Published: 2017/07/13
Channel: Cinebis Film Institute
JDraper Glass - Kaci
JDraper Glass - Kaci's Places to Play in Peoria (Episode 15)
Published: 2014/03/07
Channel: Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
Play It in Peoria - Bober
Play It in Peoria - Bober
Published: 2015/05/02
Channel: John Weidner
Play it in Peoria Bober
Play it in Peoria Bober
Published: 2016/04/15
Channel: vivacepianostudio
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Sully picture
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Sully picture
Published: 2015/05/29
Channel: Journal Star
Undertale, part 4 | Will It Play In Peoria?
Undertale, part 4 | Will It Play In Peoria?
Published: 2016/02/07
Channel: The House Jordan
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Castle
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Castle's Pation Inn cheese
Published: 2015/02/27
Channel: Journal Star
Play it in Peoria, Bober
Play it in Peoria, Bober
Published: 2016/04/20
Channel: vivacepianostudio
Google Plays in Peoria!
Google Plays in Peoria!
Published: 2010/03/10
Channel: SpiritofPeoria
If It Plays In Peoria.......
If It Plays In Peoria.......
Published: 2008/07/06
Channel: RFaureAWS
101 Things That Play in Peoria: Vanna Whitewall
101 Things That Play in Peoria: Vanna Whitewall
Published: 2015/02/13
Channel: Journal Star
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Concrete cactus
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Concrete cactus
Published: 2015/04/02
Channel: Journal Star
101 Things that Play in Peoria:  Veteran
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Veteran's Pub and Pizza flag
Published: 2015/05/29
Channel: Journal Star
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Easton fountains
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Easton fountains
Published: 2015/04/17
Channel: Journal Star
GOOGLE PLAYS IN PEORIA ILLINOIS.mp4
GOOGLE PLAYS IN PEORIA ILLINOIS.mp4
Published: 2010/03/04
Channel: cityofpeoriail
The Megasonics Play in Peoria
The Megasonics Play in Peoria
Published: 2009/07/27
Channel: megasonics
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Columbia marker
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Columbia marker
Published: 2015/05/28
Channel: Journal Star
Play It in Peoria - Alisha & Mrs. Schmoyer 2-28-12
Play It in Peoria - Alisha & Mrs. Schmoyer 2-28-12
Published: 2012/02/29
Channel: Marshmellowgreen
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Roanoke jumbp
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Roanoke jumbp
Published: 2015/05/29
Channel: Journal Star
Google Plays in Peoria
Google Plays in Peoria
Published: 2010/03/18
Channel: PeoriaChiefs
The Megasonics Play In Peoria - August Tye
The Megasonics Play In Peoria - August Tye
Published: 2009/07/27
Channel: megasonics
Kaci
Kaci's Places To Play in Peoria
Published: 2013/07/30
Channel: Peoria Riverfront Museum
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Bradley gargoyles
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Bradley gargoyles
Published: 2015/02/16
Channel: Journal Star
The Megasonics Play in Peoria - Hypertension
The Megasonics Play in Peoria - Hypertension
Published: 2009/07/27
Channel: megasonics
Dr. Wang knows that Google Will Play in Peoria
Dr. Wang knows that Google Will Play in Peoria
Published: 2010/03/23
Channel: cityofpeoriail
Main Street All-America - I Make America
Main Street All-America - I Make America
Published: 2010/10/13
Channel: IMakeAmerica
Google Fiber Plays in Peoria 4
Google Fiber Plays in Peoria 4
Published: 2010/03/01
Channel: HeartlandPartnership
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Heights woodpecker
101 Things that Play in Peoria: Heights woodpecker
Published: 2015/03/20
Channel: Journal Star
The Megasonics Play in Peoria - Hot For Teacher by Van Halen
The Megasonics Play in Peoria - Hot For Teacher by Van Halen
Published: 2009/07/27
Channel: megasonics
The Megasonics Play In Peoria - Wonderful
The Megasonics Play In Peoria - Wonderful
Published: 2009/07/27
Channel: megasonics
The Megasonics Play in Peoria - Live Wire by Motley Crue
The Megasonics Play in Peoria - Live Wire by Motley Crue
Published: 2009/07/27
Channel: megasonics
The Megasonics Play in Peoria - Spirit Of The Radio by Rush
The Megasonics Play in Peoria - Spirit Of The Radio by Rush
Published: 2009/07/27
Channel: megasonics
Google Fiber Plays in Peoria 6
Google Fiber Plays in Peoria 6
Published: 2010/03/01
Channel: HeartlandPartnership
SNCDCSTERN- Dylan Playing Peoria
SNCDCSTERN- Dylan Playing Peoria
Published: 2016/03/08
Channel: Scott Stern
Google Fiber Plays in Peoria 8
Google Fiber Plays in Peoria 8
Published: 2010/03/01
Channel: HeartlandPartnership
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WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE

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"Will it play in Peoria?" is a figure of speech that is traditionally used to ask whether a given product, person, promotional theme, or event will appeal to mainstream (also called "Main Street") America, or across a broad range of demographic and psychographic groups.

Origin[edit]

The question derives from a theme repeated by characters in Horatio Alger, Jr.'s novel Five Hundred Dollars; or, Jacob Marlowe's Secret, which was first published in 1890. Alger was an immensely popular author in the 19th century, especially with young people, and his books were widely quoted. In the book, a group of actors play in Peoria, occasioning utterances such as "We shall be playing in Peoria" and "We shall play at Peoria" (p. 218, etc.). Appropriated as symbolic of reception by mainstream America, these declarations were alluded to in paraphrase, eventually resulting in the question, "Will it play in Peoria?", with the particular intent it now carries.

Peoria as a metaphor[edit]

Peoria's Madison Theatre, which hosted both vaudeville and film in the early 20th century

Peoria, Illinois, has developed quite an unusual reputation over the years—such that a kind of folklore has grown around the name. The famous catch-phrase about "playing in Peoria" has origins buried in vaudeville or burlesque. Don Marine, professor of theatre at Illinois Central College (East Peoria), commented:

If one were to choose the city in the United States most victimized in jokes and anecdotes by theatrical personalities, the selection of Peoria, Illinois, would be a popular, if not likely choice. Two of the more popular quips are: "Say, I hear you got married. How did that ever happen?" "I was playing a split-bill in Peoria—and it rained!" and "Have you ever played Peoria?" "Peoria? Oh, yes—I spent four years there one night!" The widespread appeal of this verbal maligning by comics, actors and other performers suggests Peoria as a paramount example of the dull, banal, and provincial theatrical road stop. But the popularity of the "put down" suggests as well that the city possesses a theatrical heritage of considerable longevity.[1]

Marine judged Peoria the way Peorians in the late 20th century usually seemed to judge themselves—that is, dull, banal, and provincial. Historically, however, whiskey, gambling, and prostitution gave the city a reputation as being "wide open". Only since the 1950s was the lid put on Peoria; but the reputation, and thus the gibes, has existed since vaudeville.[1]

A 1945 comment in American Notes and Queries offers a different point of view:

Peoria (Ill.) has been an old stand-by with comedians for years—but not only because of the "O" sound. Nor because of the four vowel sounds that give it a nice noisy resonance. But largely, I suspect, because of the fact that it is a whiskey town and a river town and not particularly famous for what is known as the genteel tradition.[1]

The phrase originated during the vaudeville era and was popularized in movies by Groucho Marx.[2] The belief was that if a new show was successful in Peoria, a main Midwestern stop for vaudeville acts, it would be successful anywhere.

Old booklet: How to Enter Vaudeville

Jack Mabley, writing in the Chicago Tribune, concluded that "if it plays in Peoria it has good taste," but a more apt meaning is, according to James C. Ballowe, former dean of Peoria's Bradley University graduate school, that "Peoria is a tough audience." In other words, "it bombed in Peoria" or "it was great in Peoria" had recognizable meaning from one coast to the other.[1]

The phrase subsequently was adopted by politicians, pollsters, and promoters to question the potential mainstream acceptance of anything new. Currently, the stereotype of non-humorous people has been around for many decades.

Although vaudeville left Peoria many years ago, the slogan was revived in 1969 when John D. Ehrlichman said to a newsman, "Don't worry, it'll play in Peoria,"[1] in reference to a decision by President Richard M. Nixon that seemed calculated to upset Easterners.[3] Peoria, Illinois, cashed in on the free publicity with a successful advertising campaign to lure new business to the city.[1]

Peoria as test market[edit]

In America, Peoria has long been seen as a prototypical American city, because of its representative demographics and its Midwestern culture, which is commonly perceived as mainstream. As a result, it has traditionally been one of the country's leading test markets. In the 1980s and '90s, comedians like Sam Kinison and musicians such as Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, Metallica and Phil Collins all perfected and launched concert tours in Peoria. During presidential campaigns, major TV networks would visit Peoria to "take the pulse" (gauge the response) of everyday Americans on national issues and candidates.[4]

However, demographic changes have made the city less representative of America as a whole, and therefore less attractive as a test market.[5] Its successors as leading test markets include cities such as Boise, Idaho;[6] Albany, New York; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Santa Barbara, California.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Scheetz, George H. "Peoria." In Place Names in the Midwestern United States. Edited by Edward Callary. (Studies in Onomastices; 1.) Mellen Press, 2000. ISBN 0-7734-7723-3
  2. ^ Marx asks the question in A Night at the Opera
  3. ^ Safire, William (1985-09-29). "On Language: Playing in Pretoria". The New York Times Magazine (edition Late City Final). p. section 6, 8.  Note that Safire attributed the origin to Ehrlichman, but was corrected by a letter the next week — see Remer, David H. (1985-10-03). "Playing In Peoria". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  4. ^ Groh, Amy. "The Phrase That Put Peoria on the Map". peoriamagazines. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  5. ^ Steve Lohr (1 June 1992). "Forget Peoria. It's Now: 'Will It Play in Tulsa?'". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Mark Warbis (24 November 1991). "Forget Peoria—will they buy it in Boise?". Deseret News. Associated Press. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 

External links[edit]

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