Omaha-native comedian Amber Ruffin, a Benson High grad, will set her new single-camera comedy at a newspaper in the town of Benson.
According to Deadline, NBC has ordered a pilot for “Village Gazette,” in which Ruffin will star as Amber, editor of the Benson Village Gazette. Amber is partial to fluffy features that highlight the inherent goodness of her hometown. But “when the newspaper owners hire a reporter who’s looking to uncover a juicy story in Benson, he threatens to unravel the happy denial Amber has been living in.”
It’s unclear where in the country the town of Benson will be located or to what degree it will reflect Ruffin’s own hometown. Ruffin could not be reached for comment, but we hope to clarify this with her at some point.
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Ruffin wrote the pilot with “Saturday Night Live” writer Shelly Gossman. “Village Gazette” is being co-produced by Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker’s Sethmaker Shoemakers Productions, Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video and Universal TV.
Ruffin, the official “Class Clown” of Benson High School’s class of ’96, got her start in Omaha comedy clubs and the local theater scene.
In fact, she popped up in quite a few World-Herald theater reviews. My former colleague Bob Fischbach called Ruffin a standout in his 2000 review of the production “Hellcab” at the Millennium Theater, formerly at 16th and Jackson Streets.
Ruffin spent years in various improv troupes and comedy teams. After a failed “Saturday Night Live” audition in 2014, she got a job on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” and became the first black woman to write for a late-night network talk show in the U.S.
Ruffin soon got to do her own segments and skits on the show, including “Amber Says What.”
Ruffin has also written for the Comedy Central series “Detroiters,” provided material for the Golden Globes and narrated a few episodes of “Drunk History.”
“Village Gazette” was a late pilot order for NBC. It’s unclear how quickly it will go into production.
Ruffin doing an “Amber Says What” segment.
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1. “Omaha,” Waylon Jennings
“Omaha, you’ve been weighin’ heavy on my mind”
On a tune written by Billy Joe Shaver, Jennings sings about leaving Omaha for better places only to realize it was a mistake. After some jailtime in California, the song reckons that it’s time to return to Nebraska.
2. “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis,” Tom Waits
“I went back to Omaha to live with my folks”
As the titular prostitute notes, everyone she used to know is either dead or in prison. In this tune, Omaha represents its own kind of prison, so she moves back to Minneapolis. Oof. (Of course, the truth we find in the song’s last line is rougher than anything.)
“Omaha stylee, did not think there was one”
The Omaha-bred rock band dishes about how it comes from a town where “the shows are more fun.” For years, 311 has used this song as its concert opener as a salute to its hometown. “We’re proud of where we came from, and we know how we feel and we kinda want to write a song that there’s no doubt where this band is from,” drummer Chad Sexton told The World-Herald about writing the song.
4. “We’re an American Band,” Grand Funk Railroad
“Four young chiquitas in Omaha/Waitin’ for the band to return from the show”
There’s nothing quite like a hotel party after the show, and that’s what those chiquitas were after. They wanted to meet the boys in the band and, as the song says, “tear that hotel down.”
6. “Omaha,” Counting Crows
“Omaha/Somewhere in middle America”
Adam Duritz wrote “Omaha” long before the Counting Crows recorded it, but he thought his other bands could never quite get the feel right. He loved “Omaha” by Moby Grape as well as R.E.M.’s cover of it, and he loved the sound of the word.
7. “Turn the Page,” Bob Seger
"On a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha"
Seger and his band were always annoyed that their long hair attracted so much attention.
“I wrote that song in 1971. We were in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and we got accosted by some traveling salesmen,” Seger told The World-Herald in 2011. “The salesmen were calling us girls and everything. ... (The Rolling Stones) were going through the same thing at the same time we were. They were in the South, but ours happened in the North, in Wisconsin.”
But why the Omaha mention?
“We didn’t get much west of Omaha because we weren’t very big at the time,” Seger said, laughing. “We were always east of Omaha!”
8. “Omaha,” Damien Jurado
“The land of Nebraska is beautiful at night”
An Omaha man hits the road with his three kids.
9. “Omaha, Nebraska,” Groucho Marx
“There’s a place called Omaha, Nebraska/in the foothills of Tennessee”
This silly song depicts a forlorn man who says his sweetie promised to love him precisely “when the snow falls in Montana and it’s raining in Peru.” So, never.
Listed as No. 95 on Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest guitar songs of all time, this tune doesn’t actually mention our city except in its title. But it is a seriously awesome jam with three guitarists battling it out. It also inspired Counting Crows' "Omaha."
11. “Omaha,” They Might Be Giants
“Sokol Auditorium/Party in the night time/...Sokol Auditorium/Psychedelic light show”
On its album, “Venue Songs,” They Might Be Giants provided 31 songs that were written and recorded at each venue of its 2004 tour.
13.“Hello in There,” John Prine
“John and Linda live in Omaha”
Growing old can be lonely, and Prine spells it out in detail, up to and including when his kids grow up and move to Omaha.
14. “(Ready or Not) Omaha Nebraska,” Bowling for Soup
“And now it’s two men on, two men gone, batter up/Ready or not, Omaha, Nebraska”
This is basically a song advertising baseball and Omaha that was commissioned for ESPN’s coverage of the College World Series. Bowling for Soup lead singer Jaret Reddick told The World-Herald that he wrote it in just a few minutes. “We do a bunch of stuff for film and TV and that sort of special-order thing,” he said.
18. “Letter From Omaha,” Josh Ritter
“Sent me a letter from Omaha”
Josh Ritter weaves a story about missing someone with lots of imagery of farm fields and sewing. We’re pretty sure Omaha just sounded cool.
19. “Uneasy Rider,” Charlie Daniels
“I wonder if anybody’d think I’d flipped/If I went to L.A., via Omaha”
Daniels’ poor experience in Mississippi causes him to rethink his route for next time.
20. “Shower,” The Mountain Goats
“The blackest storm I ever saw was coming in from Omaha”
As he frequently did, John Darnielle wrote about a dark day that could be washed away only by a shower.
21. “The Great Salt Lake,” Band of Horses
“Everybody listen we will be the next Omaha”
Frontman Ben Bridwell wrote this tune about a South Carolina reservoir and the people hanging out around there, and one of them posits that their town could one day reach the heights of Omaha’s music scene.
22. “The Simultaneous Occurrence of True Love and Nausea at an Omaha Burger King, Oct. 12, 1992,” Simon Joyner
“That’s love to me/It occurs every day in Burger Kings”
Joyner’s lo-fi acoustic composition sounds like every awkward crush we had in high school.
23. “Greater Omaha,” Desaparecidos
“Out west they’re moving dirt/To make a greater Omaha”
Conor Oberst circa 2002 sings about his home city and how commercialized everything has become. It’s not a good view.
24. “Leaving Omaha,” The Good Life
“I was moving up and out/Out of Omaha/Oh, it didn’t last”
As many high schoolers do, Tim Kasher dreamed of getting out of Omaha after graduation. He did, but he came back. That sounds like it was a bad thing, but he sounds happy about it by the end of the song: “I’ve got to get back over that bridge/...I guess that’s where I’ll stay.”
25. “The Execution of All Things,” Rilo Kiley
“Then we’ll go to Omaha, to work and exploit the booming music scene”
That’s kinda what the band did when it signed up with Saddle Creek Records.