"Now, I make fun of Cleveland because everybody makes fun of Cleveland. I mean, every country has one city that people make fun of. In Russia, we used to make fun of Cleveland."—Yakov Smirnoff with the opposing viewpoint
"We're Not Detroit!"—Mike Polk
Also known as "The Forest City," and – along with the collective region – referred to as "The North Coast."
Known in some circles as "The Mistake By The Lake" or "The/Tha Land", Cleveland is considered to be a Wretched Hive and a Place Worse Than Death, a joke that's been ongoing for years. Many recent polls and news articles only reinforce this image, as it was once rated the most miserable city in America. It was also the original Trope Namer for Aliens in Cleveland, as the city is considered by many the image of mundane mediocrity (at best).
Possibly the biggest reason why this goes unchallenged is because all but the most anal-retentive Clevelanders have a sense of humor about it; they'll tell you themselves how Cleveland is America's Butt Monkey. With the brutal winters, massive urban decay, a river that was once so polluted that it caught on fire thirteen times, several political scandals leading to multiple FBI raids, and the fact that road construction is never finished (also a staple of Ohio in general), most residents have no illusions of being in paradise, and rely often on Gallows Humor. Heck, the city resides on a lake that is Eerie and divided by a river that is Crooked. Its most recognizable building is Terminal, the only daily newspaper is literally a plain dealer, and has a radio station whose mascot is a buzzard. Oh, and Muny Light is not a beer.
Some choose to stay, however, as the city has a low cost of living, a growing healthcare industry (the world-renown Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals), and decent nightlife. It can even be called a mini-Chicago, due to its patchwork of ethnic neighborhoods, midwestern atmosphere, public rail that's both elevated and underground, and division by a major river (east and west in this case, with people on either side almost never going further than downtown).
The West Side Market, in the Ohio City neighborhood, is a historic indoor/outdoor marketplace with family-run stands specializing in ethnic fare and imported foods. The Tremont neighborhood, directly south of downtown, is a thriving art and cultural community that was also used to film A Christmas Story (Ralphie Parker's home in the film has since been restored and turned into a museum). Inner-city suburb Lakewood has a strong gay community often compared favorably to San Francisco; the city even hosted the 2014 Gay Games in recognition of this.
The term "Rock and Roll" was coined in Cleveland, and the city has a proud musical heritage and is home to both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Orchestra, one of America's "Big Five" symphonies. Also, Playhouse Square in downtown – spared the wrecking ball during The Seventies by a group of volunteers and benefactors – is the second-largest theatre complex in the United States, behind New York City's Lincoln Center. The city is also sometimes used as a stand-in for NYC or Chicago in film, due to lower filming costs, since it has similar architecture.
It possesses a surprising number of truly beautiful churches, more museums than a city thrice its size generally has, and two of the best library systems in the country. Cleveland's the home of Case Western Reserve University, one of the more bizarrely named colleges in the country, and Cleveland State University. An hour southeast is Kent State University, a Berzerkley known for an infamous shootout in 1970.
The American Greetings greeting card company has been based in the city for well over a century. During the 1960s, American Greetings employed a group of young artists, some of which became pioneers in the underground comic genre, most notably Robert Crumb (Fritz the Cat) and Harvey Pekar (American Splendor). In contrast, the company would develop greeting card characters Ziggy, Strawberry Shortcake and the Care Bears in the late 1970s and early 1980s, all three of which would become licensing powerhouses.
Its baseball and basketball teams—the Indians and Cavaliers respectively—are fairly solid. Although the Indians have currently gone more than 60 years without winning the World Series, longer than any other team in the Major League Baseball, and, until the 2016 season, longer than any Major League Baseball team that hadn't been cursed by a goat-owning bartender.
The Cavaliers have had a star-crossed history for their first 46 years of existence, going through periods of competitiveness and awfulness. They were a playoff contender in the late 1980s, only to play victim to Michael Jordan's first (of many) career-defining game-winning shot in 1989. Most infamously, the Cavs lost LeBron James, their star player – who was a native of the region – back in 2010; ESPN even aired an hour-long special dedicated to his announcement. But LeBron made an equally shocking return to the Cavs four years later, and the fans rejoiced. You might also have heard of the 2016 LeBron-led Cavaliers overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals against a team that won 73 games in the regular season to win a sports title of any sort by either the Cavaliers, Indians or Browns in 52 years.
And supporting its football team, the Browns, tends to be a lesson in masochism. The city has had a sports rivalry with Pittsburgh for decades. Sort of. Also, never, ever say anything nice about the Baltimore Ravens.
The city was named for surveyor Moses Cleaveland (the first 'A' was reportedly dropped so the name would fit on a newspaper masthead) and has no connection to the English county of Cleveland, or the 22nd and 24th President of the United States (who was only distantly related to Moses Cleaveland).
Not to be confused with Cleveland, the name of the area around the mouth of the River Tees in the UK including the cities of Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees. Or Cleveland, Tennessee. Or Cleveland, Georgia. And so on.
- Antwone Fisher
- Howard the Duck – both the comic and movie (the latter of which was a George Lucas-disowned Box Office Bomb) take place in Cleveland.
- American Splendor – the underground comic memoir of Harvey Pekar's life; later adapted into an Oscar-winning feature film
- The Fortune Cookie
- Major League – which took on cult film status in Cleveland because the Indians' then-status as baseball's butt monkey was turned up to eleven, then subverted.
- The Drew Carey Show – whose one-time theme song is the Trope Namer, used in full irony here.
- Funky Winkerbean – originally a gag-a-day newspaper comic about high school students that has since evolved into an episodic strip replete with recurring story lines about illness, death and other tragic events, takes place in the fictitious suburb of "Westview." Spin-off comic Crankshaft is also based in a similar suburb of "Centerville."
- Calvin and Hobbes never referred to when the strip took place by name, yet the winter landscapes and occasional shout-outs would reflect Bill Watterson's youth and residence in Northeast Ohio.
- Overton from Living Single
- Marvel superheroine Dagger (of Cloak and Dagger fame) is from Shaker Heights, a wealthy suburb in the East Side.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer – passing references are made to a Hellmouth in Cleveland. Robin is shown to have moved there with his own squad of slayers.
- How I Met Your Mother – the main character of the show, Ted Mosby, is from Cleveland, namely Shaker Heights. Series creator Carter Bays (he based Ted’s character off of himself) also hails from Shaker.
- Ted’s best friend from school, Punchy, still lives in Cleveland with his fiancée. In season 6, he asks Ted to be the best man at his wedding, which may or may not lead to a major turning point in the series.
- 30 Rock – the episode "Cleveland" portrayed Cleveland as an idyllic paradise, albeit through the eyes of harried New Yorkers.
- The Escapists
- The opening scene of Air Force One was filmed from the roof of Severance Hall.
- Fat Freddy of The Freak Brothers was briefly elected mayor (after trying to replicate Dick Whittington's adventures and become Lord Mayor of London, Cleveland was reckoned second best). People mooned him and threw bottles during his inaugural parade.
- Portal takes place in Cleveland, according to information in Half-Life 2: Episode Two. Later retconned, Portal 2 takes place in a salt mine in the state of Michigan, though both settings could have been used.
- Welcome To Collinwood – an independent film by Joe and Anthony Russo that also took on cult film status. And had George Clooney along for the ride.
- The Soloist
- Stranger Than Paradise
- Kappa Mikey main character Mikey Simon is said to be from Cleveland
- Not fiction, but a number of Cleveland's restaurants have been featured on TLC.
- Several books/movies based on the Torso Murderer such as Butcher's Dozen or John Peyton Cooke's novel Torso.
- Criminal Minds had an episode with a serial killer in Cleveland. Unfortunately, real life has been just as shocking.
- Blood and Rust by S. A. Swiniarski – a book that contains two vampire stories set in Cleveland.
- Route 66 – several episodes take place in Cleveland, despite the fact that the famed U.S. Route never passed through Cleveland.
- The short story "On a Clear Day You can See All the Way to Conspiracy" by Desmond Warzel.
- The Infocom game Leather Goddesses of Phobos includes a small area of Cleveland, where it is compared (unfavorably) to the slime pits of Venus and sandstorms of Mars.
- A few Get Fuzzy strips mention Cleveland such as the one that rates it the smelliest city in America.
- In View From The Top, Cleveland is the hub of Royalty Airlines' commuter-class sibling, Royalty Express, and serves as the setting for the middle third of the film.
- Hot in Cleveland – exactly what it says on the tin. And Betty White.
- The short story "Fields" by Desmond Warzel takes place in Cleveland during the final days of humanity, after most plant life on Earth has been choked out by genetically modified wheat.
- In Little Shop of Horrors, Audrey II eats Cleveland.
- In Kids Next Door Numbuh 1's history report describes the founding of an adult paradise, and "they named it Cleveland."
- In Deadpool's ending in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, he accidentally destroys Cleveland during a drunken party aboard Galactus' ship.
- Carl Sandburg's poem "Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio" seems to paint the Cleveland of the first half of the 20th century as a happening jazz and blues scene, albeit with a darker undertone of hedonism and disappointment for the common worker (in keeping with Sandburg's socialism).
- Les Roberts's series of detective novels featuring Milan Jacovich (fifteen books as of 2011).
- In Skin Horse, the transgenic convention takes place in Cleveland.
- In a darkly humorous twist of fate, Cleveland is left as the largest city left standing in North America within the AlternateHistory.com timeline, Protect and Survive.
- LeBron James (basketball player once worshiped for making the Cavs a respected team, then was hated with a violent passion for moving to Miami and making a huge media event out of announcing The Decision, only to return to the Cavaliers four years later to much rejoicing)
- Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
- Mark Foster (lead singer of Foster the People, who spent his formative years in Cleveland)
- Maynard James Keenan (co-founder and lead singer of Tool)
- Halle Berry (critically-acclaimed actress best known for X-Men, Monster's Ball and Catwoman.)
- Trent Reznor (founder and lead singer of Nine Inch Nails)
- Drew Carey (star of his eponymous sitcom and host of Whose Line Is It Anyway? and The Price Is Right)
- Alan Freed (a Cleveland disc jockey who not only coined the phrase "rock and roll" but organized the first rock concert ever. Police called it off because of safety concerns - waves of counterfeit tickets resulted in the arena having twice it's seating capacity in attendance - and a riot almost ensued.)
- Tracy Chapman
- Patricia Heaton
- Jim Backus
- Anne Heche
- Gerald Levert
- Dan O'Shannon (executive producer for Modern Family; writer for Frasier, Cheers and Newhart, and co-writer of the latter's acclaimed series finale)
- Joe Eszterhas (a former journalist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who helped expose the My Lai Massacre; later found fame as a screenwriter, most notably for Basic Instinct)
- Joe and Anthony Russo, aka The Russo Brothers (executive producers for Arrested Development and Community, wrote and directed Welcome to Collinwood and now are director/writers within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)
- Ernie Anderson (an announcer-turned-cult figure with his portrayal of horror host "Ghoulardi," still remembered fondly by baby boomers fifty years after the show ended; later the main promotional voice for ABC... you might remember him.)
- Joe Schuster and Jerry Siegel (the creators of Superman)
- Award-winning sportswriter Joe Posnanski
- Jerry Lawler (Spent some of his childhood there, life-long Cleveland Browns fan. We're sorry, King.)
- The Miz
- Molly Shannon
- Martin Mull (spent much of his early childhood in North Ridgeville)
- Teri Garr
- Monica Potter
- Burgess Meredith
- Hal Holbrook
- Frank Yankovic (musician, known as "America's Polka King")
- Pere Ubu
- Harvey Pekar (who also wrote about it)
- Steve Harvey (stand-up comic, sitcom star, radio host and current host of an eponymous daytime TV talk show and Family Feud)
- Tim Conway
- Mike Douglas (his groundbreaking daytime TV talk show originated from Cleveland for its first five years before the show's production was relocated to Philadelphia.)
- Bill Watterson
- Bernie Kosar (Who famously played the NFL Draft system so he could end up with his hometown team.)
- Langston Hughes
- Paul Newman
- Ernest Tidyman (writer of Shaft)
- Bob Hope (acclaimed actor and entertainer, and was heavily involved with USO and annual TV specials on NBC)
- Michael Symon (Food Network Chef)
- Wes Craven
- Mary Ann Winkowski - Television personality whose claims of paranormal experiences are the basis for Ghost Whisperer, on which she is also a paid producer.
- Harlan Ellison (Grew up in the nearby town of Painesville)
- George Steinbrenner (owner of the Lorain, Ohio-based American Shipbuilding Company who tried to buy the Cleveland Indians before settling for the New York Yankees instead.)
- Lady Akashia (Drag Queen who appeared in the first season of RuPaul's Drag Race)
- Kid Cudi
- Charles Ramsey (one of two people who helped rescue the kidnapping victims of Ariel Castro; his plainspoken demeanor in interviews shortly after news of the rescue breaking made him an international celebrity)
- Andre Norton
- It got worse a few years later when, in a failed photo-op with a welding instrument, the city's then-mayor, Ralph Perk, set his hair on fire. Then his wife upped the ante by turning down a visit at the White House because it interfered with her regular bowling night.
- Although a subway system was proposed, planned out, and partially built... but never completed.
- To wit, Cleveland was the first city where Elvis, David Bowie, Rush and Bruce Springsteen took off in popularity beyond their respective hometowns.
- Many a local has squeed upon seeing the Trust Company Rotunda in Spider-Man 3... which also makes an appearance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where Cleveland serves as a stand-in for Washington, DC (eagle-eyed observers will note Cleveland-centric signage on specific bridge spans that weren't digitally altered or edited out). Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Avengers are the highest-profile films thus far that have had significant production take place in Cleveland.
- The Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University used to be two separate institutions until 1967. "Western Reserve" itself refers to an old name for northeast Ohio, the Connecticut Western Reserve, claimed by the state of Connecticut for its veterans to settle in following the American Revolution until the state agreed to give it up to the newly-formed state of Ohio.
- Of course the Chicago Cubs broke their 106-year title drought in 2016 against... you guessed it, the Cleveland Indians.
- ...and the long-defunct Cleveland Barons of the NHL...
- Before you ask what a "Brown" is, the team was named after its first owner Paul Brown, former Ohio State coach and a highly respected figure in Ohio athletics. It wasn't even his idea and he was against it at first, but later went along with it. Throughout his tenure as coach, the team embraced a brownie elf as their mascot, which has been revisited from time to time by the team's ownership. For an animal mascot, dogs have long been popular due to the city's first pro football team, the Bulldogs.
- The comic who put them together also has proclaimed Cleveland Browns Stadium to be a "factory of sadness".
- One strip had Calvin's family visiting a natural history museum with a similar landmark to Cleveland's natural history museum, and the back cover of one Cavlin and Hobbes treasury had a giant Calvin terrorizing the public square of Chagrin Falls.
- In actuality, Public Square should have a lot more homeless people and pigeons hanging out, though not for long...
- Although one real-life story had an incomprehensibly happy ending in comparison.
- Nor anywhere east of Chicago, for that matter.
- Ironic because Cleveland, in real life, was an immigrant-infused industrial city favorable to organized trade labor unions and progressive politics. Among the municipal departments established that survive to this day include a publicly-run electric utility designed mainly to keep the privately-run electric utility's prices in line.
- She was named after "Halle Brothers", a defunct downtown department store.
- The Russo Brothers even wrote and directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was primarily filmed in Cleveland.
- And no, he was of no relation to that other famous accordion-playing novelty musician.
- This was because the station's owner, Westinghouse Broadcasting, contested the transaction with NBC that brought them to Cleveland, citing extortion practices. Westinghouse won the case and regained their previous properties in Philadelphia, and thus moved their management and personnel over there. This included Mike Douglas.
- Note that the Hope Memorial Bridge, a major bridge span from Cleveland's west side into downtown, isn't named for Bob Hope, but for his father, William Henry Hope.