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Comedian Charlie Berens' 'The Midwest Survival Guide' explores what it means to be a Midwesterner

Midwest Survival Guide Cover
The Cover of 'The Midwest Survival Guide' by Charlie Berens.

Milwaukeean Charlie Berens has become an icon of Midwestern culture. He’s perhaps best known for his work on the Manitowoc Minute but his new book, “The Midwest Survival Guide,” has yet again put him on the map as a New York Times bestseller.

The book covers everything Midwest, from recipes and how-to guides, to quizzes that test your own Midwestern chops. To start Berens had to figure out what would be considered the Midwest, which is not an easy task given its controversy among the Great Lakes states and the Great Plains states.

"It is: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin — in alphabetical order so no one gets their feelings hurt," says Berens.

The book covers the ubiquity of ranch dressing and junk drawers, a tradition Berens vehemently defends in light of decluttering trends, and dissects the sometimes inscrutable way Midwesterners talk to one another. He also gives tips for out-of-staters who hope to speak like a Midwesterner.

He explains, "Sort of relax your face and, aw geez, you know, only move the bottom part of your jaw, there. You know, and if you just talk like that and talk through your nose...Now the reason you're just talking through the bottom part of your jaw is, it's really cold here, so just imagine the coldness, and you're trying to conserve movement as much as possible."

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
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