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"Every country has that one city they make fun of. In Russia, we used to make fun of Cleveland."
Yakov Smirnoff

Known in some circles as "The Mistake By The Lake" (i.e., Erie), "The Land," "The 216," or "Cleland," Cleveland is one of the three "Big C's" of Ohio, along with Columbus and Cincinnati. Located on the state's northeastern coast, Cleveland was once one of the industrial boom towns that surrounded the Great Lakes in the late 19th and early 20th century and (briefly) was the fifth-largest city in the United States. Those days are long, long gone, and Cleveland is now often considered a Wretched Hive and a Place Worse Than Death, and the source of a steaming joke that's been going for years. 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 that all but the most anal-retentive of locals have a sense of humor about it — they'll tell you themselves how Cleveland is America's down-pat worst. With brutal winters, massive urban decay, a river that was once so polluted that it caught fire thirteen times and named a local beer after that fact, 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 often speak with Gallows Humor. Some choose to stay, however, as the city has a low cost of living, a growing healthcare industry (the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals), and decent nightlife. It can even be called a mini-Chicago, due to its patchwork of ethnic neighborhoods, Midwest atmosphere, public rail that's both elevated and underground (well, it runs in its own ditch rather than under the street, but same diff), division by a major river (east and west in this case, with people on either side almost never going further than downtown), and massive crime rates. And then there's Balloonfest '86. And the Torso Killer...

On some more positive notes, the term "Rock & Roll" was coined in Cleveland by local DJ Alan Freed, and the city has a proud musical heritage and is home to both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Orchestra, the youngest of America's "Big Five" symphonies (the others are New York, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia). Cleveland also houses the Polka Hall of Fame, and Cleveland Style Polka is a sub-genre of music named after the Polka Dorks of the city due mostly in part to the success of Frankie Yankovic but also to a large number of people of German and Eastern European (especially Polish) descent in Cleveland. Jazz musicians, including scat jazz, also have been and continue to be popular. The Playhouse Square in downtown 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 architecturenote . 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 countrynote , and Cleveland State University. An hour southeast is Kent State University, a Berzerkeley known for an infamous massacre in 1970.

Cleveland's professional sports teams generally go through extended periods of crappy performance with losing streaks of several games on end, interrupted with periods where they steamroll through everyone in their waynote . Its football team, the Brownsnote , who used to be one of the most dominant teams in the NFL in the '50s and '60s and has had a rivalry with Pittsburgh for decades. Never, ever say anything nice about the Baltimore Ravens to a Browns fan; the original Browns franchise moved to Baltimore through some shady dealing on owner Art Modell's part, then quickly went on to achieve Super Bowl success that Clevelanders believe should be theirs. The city fought to hold on to the Browns' name and history, and the "new" Browns debuted in 1999. They have not fared nearly as well, sitting at the bottom of the league's standing almost every year and taking over two decades to win a playoff game, which they finally did in 2021 against Pittsburgh.

Cleveland's baseball and basketball teams are respectively the Guardians (formerly the Indians) and the Cavaliers. The Guardians have gone over sixty years without a World Series title, longer than any other Major League Baseball team that hasn't been cursed by a goat-owning bartender... at least until 2016, when they inherited the title of longest drought by losing to the Cubs! Meanwhile, the Cavs (founded in 1970) never even made it to the NBA Finals until 2007. When it looked like the latter were poised to finally win a championship in the late 2000s, they ended up losing star player LeBron James (from nearby Akron, some 40 miles [64 kilometers] to the south) to the Miami Heat in 2010, with whom he won two titles... before he chose to return to the Cavs in 2014, leading them to their very first NBA title in 2016 (in which they became the first team to ever rally from a 3Ė1 hole in the Finals) and ending a 52-year championship drought which had affected all of Cleveland's pro sports teams ever since the Browns last won a title in 1964 (two years before the Super Bowl even existed, and also before LeBron's mother was born). The Cavs eventually lost LeBron a second time in 2018, this time to the Los Angeles Lakers. In other sports, hockey is only represented through the second-tier American Hockey League (the NHL only had a Cleveland team for two years), where ten Cleveland teams won the Calder Cup, most recently the Lake Erie Monsters (since renamed the Cleveland Monsters) in 2016—just 8 days before the Cavs' title;note  and while Cleveland won some indoor soccer tournaments, the town's only team is in the fourth tier (Major League Soccer has two teams in Ohio, but they're in Columbus and Cincinnati).

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).

Has been the subject of some rather infamous but hilarious tourism videos.

Cleveland in media:

  • Antwone Fisher
  • Howard the Duck
  • American Splendor
  • The Fortune Cookie
  • Major League (the first was filmed in Milwaukee, the second in Baltimore)
  • The Drew Carey Show (whose one-time theme song, "Cleveland Rocks", is the former Trope Namer, used in full irony here. The original version of the song was recorded by Ian Hunter in the late 1970s, who got tired of Cleveland being America's national worst.)
  • Overton from Living Single
  • Marvel superheroine Dagger (of Cloak and Dagger fame) is from Shaker Heights, a wealthy suburb in the East Side.
  • On 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 Tedís character off of himself) also hails from Shaker.
    • Tedís 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.
  • Bosom Buddies: Kip and Henry went to high school in Shaker Heights.
  • The 30 Rock episode of the same name portrayed Cleveland as an idyllic paradise, albeit through the eyes of harried New Yorkers. In actuality, Public Square should have a lot more homeless people and pigeons hanging out.
  • The Escapists
  • The opening scene of Air Force One was filmed from the roof of Severance Hall.
  • Fat Freddy of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers is briefly elected mayor (after trying to replicate Dick Whittington's adventures and become Lord Mayor of London, Cleveland is reckoned second best). People moon him and throw 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
  • The Soloist
  • Stranger Than Paradise
    Willie: We'll take you someplace warm. This place is awful.
  • 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 Murder (a Cleveland serial killer) such as Butcher's Dozen or John Peyton Cooke's novel Torso.
  • Criminal Minds had an episode with a serial killer in Cleveland.
  • Blood and Rust by S. A. Swiniarski a book that contains two vampire stories set in Cleveland.
  • A few Route 66 episodes take place in 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.
  • A proportionately high number of long running comic strips are written by Clevelanders and/or take place in Cleveland.
  • 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
  • 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 Codename: Kids Next Door Numbuh 1's history report decribes the founding of an adult paradise, "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 timeline, Protect and Survive.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun is set in the fictional town of Rutherford, Ohio. Throughout the series, Cleveland is treated as being the nearest big city.
  • S. Andrew Swann, a local, set the first book of his Moreau Series and both books of his Dragons of the Cuyahoga series in Cleveland.
  • The Avengers (2012) was partially filmed in Cleveland, probably in response to The Dark Knight Rises being filmed in Pittsburgh. Locals found it hilarious when "Germany" looked like the Cleveland Museum of Arts. Also, the exterior of the opera house in Stuttgart is actually the entrance of the Terminal Tower, one of Cleveland's most recognizable buildings.
    • Captain America: The Winter Soldier was also filmed in Cleveland, leading one of the screenwriters to joke how he never thought one American metropolis would be willing to shut down part of the city for Marvel to film the Scenery Gorn.
  • Cleveland was seen in one episode of The Fairly Oddparents. Cosmo and Mr. Turner call it "the magical land of Cleve".
  • In NFL Quarterbacks On Facebook, the city of Cleveland, as well as Browns fans, were Driven to Suicide whenever someone mentioned the Baltimore Ravens' successes after the 1996 move, especially after they won two Super Bowls (XXXV and XLVII).
  • Draft Day, about the day in the life of a beleaguered Cleveland Browns GM.
  • Halo: Uprising is set in a 26th century Cleveland, now a prosperous resort city after 500 years of improvement. Too bad the Covenant attack.
  • In Finding Dory, the Marine Life Institute is in the process of shipping fish permanently to a sister aquarium in Cleveland, where Hank desires to go.
  • Season 3 of Serial is a look at the American criminal-justice system through the lens of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center in Cleveland. The series takes place there primarily because the rules of the Ohio Courts of Common Pleas generally permit audio recording everywhere in all courthouses, including in courtrooms during proceedings on the record.
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show takes places in the fictional Denton, Ohio, but the newspaper Janet uses to shield herself from the rain is Cleveland's local paper The Plain Dealer, implying that Cleveland is the closest major city.
  • Fun Size
  • Little Fires Everywhere is set in the affluent suburb of Shaker Heights, whose moderate-conservative values are shown to clash with the free spirit and her daughter that move into the town.
  • In the John Candy movie Delirious he plays a soap opera writer transported into his own show who can write out other people's words and actions. When one character (played by Robert Wagner, who Candy's character calls Robert Wagner in a No Fourth Wall moment) becomes a nuisance he writes in a hasty exit:
    Robert Wagner: I have to go to... [looks at a plane ticket] Cleveland. Jesus, I hate Cleveland!
    John Candy: What are you doing here? I sent you to Cleveland!
    Robert Wagner: I should kill you for that alone!

Celebrities from Cleveland and the surrounding area:

Alternative Title(s): Cleveland Rocks