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What I learned from writing for The Onion for a month (2015) (wordsbyevanporter.com)
224 points by bryanrasmussen 17 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 114 comments

A few years ago, my friend and I launched our own publication on medium because we were very into comedy/satire. The Onion was the pinnacle. For a couple of months we met every morning in a coffee shop before the start of our respective jobs, around 7;30am and just brainstormed.

The biggest thing to me was that I learned that motivation was something that could come after you force yourself to wake up early and just get started. There were many days where we decided to not show up and skipped the days. The rest of the days that we did show up, I never ever regretted them. We came up with some hilarious ideas (at least to us) and would just sit there laughing like idiots in the coffeeshop.

We eventually launched our "publication" on Medium, and it of course fell flat because there needs to be a level of marketing and consistent effort for years before you have a dedicated following. But, those few months were some of the most creative months I've ever had in my life. I loved it. Was it a huge success? Not in the least. Was it even funny? No idea, our friends thought the articles were pretty funny, but other than that, it made it nowhere. If anybody wants to check it out -- https://medium.com/thedailylemming

After reading this article, though, I think what OP wrote is sort of not what I imagined. Sitting at home alone churning out ideas to some faceless email for a name on your resume is not my idea of creativity, I guess. I like the concept of sitting at a table and just sort of ping ponging ideas until you get something that is amazing. Of course I can say that since I'm not an actual writer and I can do this on the side and be picky and choosy as much as I want.

> The biggest thing to me was that I learned that motivation was something that could come after you force yourself to wake up early and just get started

I had a similar experience doing a podcast [1] with a group of 6 others, each putting out one episode per day. It felt like failing the group if anyone had to skip their day, as we came close to a year without a break. I'd spend hours researching and scripting my episodes while riding the bus, waiting for a friend at a bar, or just winding down before bed. It was peak creativity for me and I'm happy with how it all turned out.

But after a while we got burned out and decided to stop, with the idea that we'd keep making our own podcasts. But without that mutual duty to release daily, no one to date has actually put anything out. The deadline/responsibility was the only way to make it happen–at least for me.

[1] - https://www.podcastdotcom.net/early-bird-news/2018/8/5/8-5-1...

Man, that's a gruelling release schedule, even if it's basically "once a week per person". Most podcasts don't do the weekly thing, and those that do, it's either their full-time job AND/OR have a whole team working on it... I suspect that you guys could have benefitted from cutting back on the rhythm and working more as a team on more episodes.

oh man, i bet podcasts are so much more work

It varied episode to episode. I'd usually end up putting 10-15 hours into research and writing but with some topics I couldn't tackle in 7 days, I'd have to slap a roman numeral after it and try to finish it next week. Or, come up with some sort of cop-out for the week entirely.

In one case [1] I ended up with a teaser + 3 parter that wasn't super congruent because research for part 3 sort of changed how I would have approached the script for the previous two.

[1] Killdozer Teaser - https://www.podcastdotcom.net/early-bird-news/2019/2/16/s2e4... I - https://www.podcastdotcom.net/early-bird-news/2019/2/24/s2e5... II - https://www.podcastdotcom.net/early-bird-news/2019/3/3/s2e61... III - https://www.podcastdotcom.net/early-bird-news/2019/3/10/s2e6...

It depends on how produced they are. Most of the ones I do are interviews of around 30 minutes. To be honest, most of the work is getting the interview scheduled and recorded. The prep doesn't take long, editing is maybe a couple hours, and posting with show notes maybe another hour.

In the case of the format the parent used, the work is in the research and writing the script.

Of course, once you get to podcasts with multiple segments, edited content from multiple guests, scripted narration, etc. that's a lot more work.

Not saying a weekly podcast isn't a number of hours work in any case, but it needn't be too bad once you have a system down if you keep it simple.

Holy shit, one per day? Flipping brutal!

Not to detract from your interpretation, but I do wonder to what extent the "social commitment" motivated you to actually start working. I personally have found that, despite considering myself fairly disciplined, fixing my social environment has been the best way for me to accomplish my goals (e.g. exercising, writing, learning, etc.). Obviously this is not always feasible, but it's always I something I explore now as an initial solution.

Yeah I think mostly it was a desire to transition out of my day job (which of course didn't pan out), but also because my friend and I just held each other accountable and sort of shamed each other if the other started feeling lazy. Not the healthiest way of doing it, but it sort of worked for that period of time

I think comedy is one of the hardest things to pull off commercially. I did some attempts at stand-up at local open mics and it was brutal (mostly). It also taught me that the crowd is unpredictable (the success of a joke depends not on how good the joke is). Creativity and coming up with genuinely funny shit for me is linked to not paying attention to what your audience might want to read in the same way as an author who "writes for an audience". It kills your authenticity.

while pandering to your audience is bad you _do_ need feedback - so a catch 22. If you have a chance to play with ideas with a couple of other writers/comedians who take the process serious, feedback worth gold because nothing beats bouncing your ideas off one another. the other route is to try to do it all by yourself like Stewart Lee[1][2] who is imho a comedy god - but it requires insane levels of dedication, self-control and tenacity to get there (alone). Whether you're into comedy or not, Stewart Lee's "Content Provider" (imho) is a must watch for anyone who thinks about digital media (most people who reads HN).

one of my favorite sources on how to constantly be creative (not just in in the space of comedy) is John Cleese[3] and Keith Johnstone's "Impro"[4].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uovt1sC3rtM&list=PLWsk2FPzPs... (sharing this list feels wrong because jokes on stage live on back-references to previous jokes so much is lost)

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/profile/stewart-lee

[3] https://www.amazon.com/So-Anyway-John-Cleese/dp/0385348266

[4] https://www.amazon.com/Impro-Improvisation-Theatre-Keith-Joh...

> The biggest thing to me was that I learned that motivation was something that could come after you force yourself to wake up early and just get started.

This is such a great reminder. Thank you for sharing!

The book, _Sh*t My Dad Says_, by Justin Halpern also tells a similar story. Before knowing his deal I thought he was a lucky bloke cashing in on his dad's humor, but I was floored by his discipline to get up and just write jokes day after day. This Twitter feed involving his dad just happened to be the one to blow up.

Sorry your publication didn't take off - it's entertaining.

> The biggest thing to me was that I learned that motivation was something that could come after you force yourself to wake up early and just get started.

Yeah, the biggest trap is to wait for motivation/inspiration before you start working. This rarely works!!!

The correct but counterintuitive way is to start working. After a while motivation/inspiration will come.

    After reading this article, though, I think what OP 
    wrote is sort of not what I imagined. Sitting at 
    home alone churning out ideas to some faceless email 
    for a name on your resume is not my idea of creativity
Yeah, jeez, it was actually kind of a bummer to read that in the article. That seems kind of soul-crushing!

It's always sort of been that way in "the biz" though, from what I've been able to discern, though I never realized it was quite so impersonal at times. You have joke writers who churn out tons and tons of stuff for comedians, editors, etc. who sort of mine that output for ideas. I remember reading about how David Letterman's Top 10 lists were produced and I think the writers blasted out like 200+ ideas a night for those lists, just so they could narrow it down to 10.

But I always thought there was some kind of ping-ponging of ideas, like you said. To me that's how comedy ideas have always developed, in my personal never-actually-done-this-for-a-living experience.

This feels like a really (legitimately) good idea. I expect a lot of money could be made! haha https://medium.com/thedailylemming/nyc-marathon-vanity-bibs-...

If it's any consolation, that was hilarious.

Agreed! I laughed out loud.

that actually means a lot, thanks :)

For what it's worth, this is really good quality writing.

thanks so much!

>Moms Irked by Loud Fireworks — MILF

:joy emojii with tears:

Thanks for sharing! 4 years later, the ‘Trump is Sacha Baron Cohen’ headline is still hilarious.

That reminded me of this video from the Onion, Meet The Man Inside The Nicolas Cage Costume, which I still love, 8 years later.


RE: creativity as a muscle, I think this is a powerful shift in framing. A lot of folks treat creativity as this lightening strike that you must passively wait for. And while some creative ideas are like that, many creatives, including some of the greatest artists in history, forced themselves to work for some unit of time with regularity, and were able to train themselves to be consistently creative over time. Sometimes a great idea feels like the firing of random synapses, but perhaps the priming of that firing happens through habit and dicipline.

Creativity is illogical and chaotic. Things that work for one, won't for another. Trying to find reason in it might be pointless. Getting it down to a methodology might be ideal for some, but that's because they might be more logic-oriented than emotion-oriented

Ideally you should find how you can extract the most out of your intellect and use that. There's a right way and a wrong way, but not on a collective level, only in an individual one.

The Artist's Way would strongly disagree.

There’s a fantastic book called “The Creative Habit” by the choreographer Twyla Tharp if anyone is looking for a focused and clearly written “how to” manual for this. It became something of a bible for me when studying sculpture.

For me making a habit of thinking about problems, writing my ideas and organizing them has been extremely valuable in all fields where I applied it (I am a PhD student in computeur science and act as a consultant for some magicians).

I do not think that you can make a habit of producing good ideas but if you produce enough ideas you will end up producing at least a few good ones, it is only a matter of time.

Also having a good storage system let me revisit ideas that were imperfect at a later point in time when I might have the correct frame of mind or knowledge to improve on them. This mean that I end up producing more good ideas on the long run.

Finally, I try to accumulate knowledge. I found the ideas of other people to be a great source of inspiration (either because I misunderstand them at a cursory glance, leading to creation, or by building on their concepts). Furthermore, keeping files on ideas I find interesting appears to be a force multiplier to improve the quality of my output: the more tools I have and the more problems I can solve.

If it takes 10 at bats to hit a good article/picture/tweet/HN comment/whatever ... who’s more succesful? The guy who tries once a week or the lass who tries 10x per day?

Nobody remembers the failed attempts because they likely never even saw them. The good shit spreads.

It's also hard to know in advance what content is going to find an audience. I've written things that were really interesting to me but didn't get much pickup. And I've written things--usually on topics that are hot at the moment--I considered to be tossed off cookie cutter content that's gotten tens of thousands of pageviews.

Absolutely. The weird thing to get is that not only is it a 'muscle' - that it's a downright grind!

It's just work.

Bach wrote more music than any individual will ever hear!

And so it's like mining - some rocks, some gems, a lot of in between.

Other than producing as much as possible - what exercises can one deliberately do to become more creative?

The other responses are good, but I'd recommend reading a book about improv comedy[0] (or better yet, trying it out yourself). They've got a lot of specific techniques that are meant to stretch your creative muscles. I did a bit of improv when I was younger and I still use those techniques all the time twenty years later, because they work!

Reading about the exercises is interesting but unless you actually try them out they are just a curiosity. I think the muscle analogy really fits when it comes to creativity.

[0]I like "The Improv Handbook" by Tom Salinsky and Deborah Frances-White

Speaking of improv - we have a fun little community doing improv over discord voice chat. We have a few experienced improvisers running sessions and sharing their experience, and a bunch of novice people eager to learn and to play some games. Come join us, it's really fun!


No experience necessary, if you want to learn and play some games - you're welcome!

Grinding does make it harder for true, raw creativity.

I would say being in a good mood, and being carefree - completely non-judgemental of one's own thoughts. So being in an environment were 'nothing matters'. Even going to an office, there are 100 little things we are doing to be professionally conformist. So avoiding that. Sometimes it's hard for organised people to feel comfortable with disorganisation. So trying to get in a state of mind where it doesn't matter.

Doing something that is 'not serious' can help with this. So if the project has literally no purpose this may help creatively though it can really hurt the impetus to 'get it done'.

It seems like a trope, but getting to the place of the 'inner child' is certainly real. Remember when you had zero responsibilities and didn't plan ahead even 10 minutes? Totally care free. That space is hard for a lot of people because I think we feel it will make us fully 'child like' or that we lose our 'adult' demeanour. Or will be construed by others to be 'irresponsible'.

Doing something that's closer to raw creativity. Having fun in photoshop, experimenting with filters etc. - this has nothing to do with anything but a weird lesson I learned long ago there was to just 'let go' of whatever you're trying to do, and just 'go where it takes you', i.e. to be open to whatever your subconscious or a bit of randomness is happening, as opposed to the construct you might have in your head.

In improv they have this notion of 'yes, and' - which is to say whatever the other actor says, you have to go along with. It's really amazing to see how that works, and how minds can form coherency out of that.

The more proficient one is with the tools: code, frameworks, audio eng. DAW, photoshop, words, paint, musical instrument - the less mind space they occupy and the more you can do what you want.

And of course 'just doing'. Sometimes literally putting pen to paper, trying something even if you have no clue what you are doing, is a neat place to start.

Also looking at other people's work. In design, going to Behance to see other people's work is really inspiring. It's neat to see how creative frontiers are ever expanding.

Operating with a principled structure is the most important thing, in my experience.

You can grind in circles for ages with any topic or medium. The trick is to find a directed approach, which means getting a little more philosophical about it and then following through on that philosophy. Exploring simple themes like those in the ancient myths and legends, metaphysical ideas, moral reasoning, and technical philosophy like "what sorts of marks I can draw that successfully indicate the thing I see." These all come together when you go to make a completely realized, coherent performance or piece of media.

Identifying, respecting and following through on the conceptual structure gets you to passable skills of craft in most every field, and it's very available with effort and an existing appreciation of the medium: just start doing deep analysis of existing work. Take notes, write about the key elements using the concepts you know. Try to reproduce those parts you don't understand. Appreciation of the whole is always the first step, because dismissing any part is likely to mislead you.

But what you ultimately want to approach through the philosophy is chaotic interaction: "What happens when I put these two things together?" "I don't know." "Well, try it and find out." And then you're doing research - your philosophical framework should be strong enough to come up with a falsifiable hypothesis: "why does this joke work or not work? Because A, B, C." This is approached intuitively at first and gradually codified as you go on. You might come out of it with a singular work, or a formula for a whole set of them. It tends to be the case that career creatives can spend their entire life exploring and iterating on a tiny set of principles, which explains style distinction.

Edit: And I should add to this, "what are good examples of this in practice?" Improv acting is one of the best because it derives its energy and reliability from having underlying structure in the form of recurring characters and improv games. If the characters know each other and are familiar with a collection of games(which act as a kind of guard rail for staying coherent, a way to haul things back to creative productivity) they can reconfigure the scene in an instant and seamlessly recover from points where it slows down, and make everything look totally believable while still being surprising. I'm a bit too much of a deep-thinker to keep up in improv, but it's a useful signpost for "how do I get in that zone?"

I just listened to the WTF episode with Jerry Seinfeld and he talks about how early in his career he started writing jokes for several hours every day. He gave the impression that most other comics don't do it that way. Seems like it worked?

Meanwhile Mitch Hedberg was convincing himself that his joke wasn't funny if the pen was too far away.

A compelling correlation but how do you know which way the arrow of causality points?

I certainly do not know! Just wanted to share the story

The broken embedded video that he says he had the idea for has been moved here: “Judge Rules White Girl Will Be Tried As Black Adult” https://www.theonion.com/judge-rules-white-girl-will-be-trie...

Here is a link which doesn't require DRM and works with youtube-dl:


Pretty sure that was on the front page a reddit just a few days ago.

Oh gosh that was a good one.

I distinctly remember this one. Very good.

Congrats to the author, that's a huge gig.

Let's say one were 90th percentile level good, what is the out/endgame for how much money a writer can make these days? Like if you're the writing version of the most entry level pro player on a hockey or basketball team - in the big leagues, but still bottom rung of a tall ladder, are you earning average software developer income at that point?

Almost all the pro writers I've known (n=50) had one of a higher-earning spouse, independent means/inherited real estate, an editing/teaching job that they occasionally wrote through, or a grant funded position or fellowship.

Assuming it's Pareto distributed where the top %20 of writers make %80 of writing income, how much can a good writer expect to make?

Good / great doesn't matter as much as you would think. How well you sell matters. Your subjects matter.

Great subjects like a Michael Jordan interview talking about Scotty would superseed any average/good/great writing ability.

I don't find the writing great in the 4 hour work week. But it sold well. A great writer wouldn't have added much in terms of income generated.

Marketing matters more for income.

I've published in mainstream publications, and while I see that point, arguably, the quality of writing is measured by how much it changes the mind of the reader, and not how it emulates prior art that may have been well-received by critics. I would even say that writing that doesn't change the mind of the reader is basically on a spectrum of porn.

By that measure, the 4 Hour Workweek was a great bit of writing. I like triads, so I'd say it's a balance of Topic, Timing, and Talent. Three is best, but if you aren't a contender with two, you don't have a chance. I've been thinking about returning to it as a vocation, but don't think the economics of writing make sense right now, hence the question.

Not to overanalyze, but there's probably a minimum bar for each leg of that stool. And once you're over it, investing more time and white won't move the needle.

Ok overthinking it. There are probably different "formations" of the stool. Imagine each axis on a scale from 1 to 10. A 10 topic and 10 timing can get by with as low as a 4 writing talent. A 7 topic and 2 timing can make up for the gap with a writing talent of 8.

End ramble.

I'd add that there are a fair number of corporate jobs that involve writing to greater or lesser degrees. Leaving aside tech writers in documentation, there is also content marketing such as company blogs and a fair number of people who have additional responsibilities of various sorts but who write quite a bit (including even full books) as a formal or informal part of their job.

Some of these jobs are unlikely to be at SWE level but they are mostly reasonable corporate salaries.

Yep, I know a number of freelance writers who pay the bills with content marketing. It's a tried-and-true path.

my understanding in "digital publishing" (news/blogs/magazines) is almost all the writers fall in the 60 - 120k range. and thats for a "commute into manhattan every morning" job, so you will have roomates.

The article is from 2015 but the actual story/experience is from 2010. FWIW, the onion has changed hands at least twice and the entire industry has cratered since then (hence them being owned by a PE firm now). The TV show mentioned is of course long canceled.

I know this is kinda dragging a tangential thing in here, but it really can't be overstated how much Facebook hollowed out the sector. We're talking rockefeller rolling up oil refineries, except instead of cutting them in zuck just middle-manned their entire distribution chain and squeezed them to death.

I don't know how much of it is Facebook specifically. The decline of revenue coming into ad-supported sites generally has been happening for a very long time. Facebook is part of the reason but it's not the only one.

It was a one-two-three punch. First it was Craiglist, then it was Google, now its Facebook. The main difference between google and facebook is that search optimizes for sending you on your way, so the destination sites could still do something with their audience. Facebook is extremely optimized to keep you on facebook, so in a raw attention-economy eyeball-minutes sense FB hurt much more than google.

And yes, if you're looking for full spectrum technicalities here amazon and microsoft and yahoo all shaved a few % each themselves too.

But the high order bit, in 2020, is unequivocally FB.

The onion from 2010-ish is the onion the world needs today. The onion now is neutered and just not what it was.

Babylon Bee is fantastic, I absolutely love it. They are as close as you will get to a 10 year old onion.

I don't know if neutered is the right word, but perhaps diluted, with a lot of effort going into many projects. Also, moving from New York to Chicago c. 2012 caused a lot of staff changes. I was a little surprised they were able to remain pretty consistent after moving from Madison to New York.

They haven't published a new issue in 10 years, but if you haven't seen it before a trip through the archives of The Watley Review [1] might amuse you. It ran from 2003 through 2010 and some of the items are a bit dated, but many work just as well now as they did then.

[1] http://www.watleyreview.com/

What's impressive to me as a non-westerner about the satire media in US/Canada is the wonderful exhibition of free speech at a time when reporting factual news can get a journalist into extreme trouble, even in countries wearing 'democracy' banner.

I highly recommend Onion's new podcast - The Topical[1][2] as a detox for real news by the EOD; Ironically some times Onion's news contain more truth than real(air quotes) news!

[1] Google Podcast - https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5tZWdhcGh...

[2] Apple Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-topical/id14946007...

IMO a great example of this freedom is the Stephen Colbert character roasting Bush in person at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner. This was when 9/11, Iraq war, Guantanamo Bay, Katrina, etc. were on peoples' minds at the time.


All that's special about it (and not that special) is that the president is there in person, there are lots of countries where comedians can roast the government all day long.

>All that's special about it (and not that special) is that the president is there in person

I cannot fathom how you think this is "not that special". Of _course_ it's a bigger deal to be allowed to roast the president to his face and an audience consisting of his strongest supporters than to be critical of the government to a (probably smaller audience) of people who already agree with you.

If this happened in the current administration it would be met with a severe character assassination by the president, Fox News, OAN, etc. His ego is simply too fragile to handle any sort of criticism.

Of course the only way it could happen in the first place would be to trick them into thinking it wasn't going to be a roast in the first place.

FWIW, people are not that comfortable here exhibiting that free speech.

A lot of the interest comes from seeing how far comedians can go without the much more powerful government doing something we don't agree with happening to them. Usually, if the government wanted, there is some way to make anybody's life miserable.

It is still very easy to piss off powerful people, even though it isn't a routine thing where everyone is afraid of criticizing. People aren't afraid of criticizing.

I agree, if free speech isn't exercised regularly by everyone; it'll become extinct.

Btw, Wisecrack did an interesting episode on News by comedians recently[1] which goes bit deeper on the history and where it is now.


I feel almost ashamed to say that I don't think I've ever read past the headline on an Onion article.

They just absolutely nail the satire in that one-liner, time after time after time.

You're missing out then. What you're describing is true much of the time, but in others the content is just amazing: https://www.theonion.com/planned-parenthood-opens-8-billion-...

> "Although we've traditionally dedicated 97 percent of our resources to other important services such as contraception distribution, cancer screening, and STD testing, this new complex allows us to devote our full attention to what has always been our true passion: abortion," said Richards, standing under a banner emblazoned with Planned Parenthood's new slogan, "No Life Is Sacred."

Agreed. They absolutely nail the headlines, but the content is top-notch as well. I'm regularly reminded of this one from 2013: https://www.theonion.com/jesus-this-week-1819574831

> "WASHINGTON—Calling the last four days of American life just…I mean, talk about a goddamned punch in the gut, citizens across the nation confirmed today that, Jesus, this week.

This fucking week, sources added.


The Onion headline I think about regularly is from January 2001: "Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'".

It was supposed to be a joke, but was prescient, promising a "Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years" and a deep recession.


Remove the '2013' joke from the end and this could be reused a lot.

The ONN segment about the MacBook Wheel, a MacBook with an enormous iPod wheel replacing the keyboard and trackpad, was brilliant. They really committed to the joke, with excellent prop work and even punchy Apple-esque slogans. "Reinventing the wheel" indeed.

And with MacBook trackpads getting larger, and their keyboards getting smaller and more terrible, it's starting to look less like satire and more like prophecy.

As mentioned earlier, you're absolutely missing out. Some of the best satire simply cannot be effectively conveyed in a one-liner, or even text:


Daddy put in bye-bye box is pretty good https://www.theonion.com/daddy-put-in-bye-bye-box-1819569708

This American Life had an episode, Tough Room, in which Act One [1] was chronicling how jokes get whittled down. This was from 2008 - don't know how freelancers' jokes fit in but here the writers' jokes weren't submitted over email but read out loud, one after the other, in a room where your coworkers unemotionally approve or ask you to move on. It's worth a listen.

[1] https://www.thisamericanlife.org/348/tough-room/act-one

I can't imagine how much harder it must be now for Onion writers who have to compete with real-world headlines.

Poe's Law is a right mother.


So instead of being comedy writers pretending to be a news room, they've become a news room pretending to be comedy writers? Now they just need to work on their embargo dates, because they've been clearly running their stories before the events.

Yes, they accidentally posted this one a month early: https://local.theonion.com/man-just-buying-one-of-every-clea...

Indeed reality is catching up faster than they thought.

Interesting. Writing and creativity is indeed a muscle. The author should not disqualify themselves from being funny from just 4 week experience. Creating funny content for the onion at that time required that you be in the 95th percentile. The author could have been in 90th percentile for funny people in America.

I just started writing my newsletter at https://leveragethoughts.substack.com/ and I am currently building my writing muscle.

A bit OT: Back in the 70s/80s there was a national weekly radio show called Week Ending where anyone could turn up off the street in the writers' room and contribute. The results were a bit mixed, rather tame by today's standards, but it nurtured a lot of people who would go on to do great radio and TV comedy in the UK.


Two reactions to this blog:

1. What does it feel like to work a job that's pretty morally unambiguously doing good? (Making people laugh)

2. Their interview process sounds a bit like tech take home assignment. If they reject the interviewee, do they get to keep all their ideas? At least they don't make them do improv in front of an interviewer in real time... (equivalent of a white board leet code interview?)

> Their interview process sounds a bit like tech take home assignment

the worst are the Fermi Comedy questions;

How many mimes slip on bananas in Paris

If you fill the Empire State Building with helium how many people in New York will sound like dorks?

stuff like that, awful.

Conversely, as a BabylonBee subscriber, they let you pitch headlines.

And see the other submissions.

Heart goes out to whoever is wading through that mess.

The video embed wasn't working for me, but if I'm reading the article right, the sketch the author got produced is the first segment here:


(It is indeed funny, and still relevant).

Why the image flip?

    document.querySelector('video').style.transform = "scaleX(-1)"

I assumed that this defeats some copyright checking somehow but I have no info.

I think an AMA on Reddit from someone who wrote/worked for the Onion would be really cool. The Onion is one of those companies that is just really good at what it does and has found an incredible fit in a niche market. I always love organizations like that who choose art over profit.

I love the Onion. There's also an old BBC comedy called Brass Eye that was quite similar.

For example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IEwBrJzhlg

Morris is a genius, if you like his stuff, do check out Blue Jam, very strange indeed

The "Jobs page" that's linked to in the article just goes to a page of all the onion articles that are about "jobs". Is that the joke?

Article was from 2005. New link is here: https://www.theonion.com/careers

They did a big re-platform from a Django site to the Kinja platform. Probably just a bug/moved link

Note that this article is from 2015, which predates the Gawker redesign. That's almost certainly a broken link.

Given how many people shared Onion stories without knowing it's "satire" and the article mentioning "It was always some kind of dry, subtle joke"-

I think The Onion is bad for society.

It spawned numerous knockoff websites that would mislead people "because it's funny!".

If you are scrolling through a website, do you click on every article? Read every detail? And research the root website?

Or do you skim, read mostly headlines and occasionally deep dive?

How many "satire" website headlines do you subconsciously believe?

All for "humor", which is rarely found tbh.

I think people who fall for The Onion articles are bad for society.

For example: https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/02/congres...

The Onion is Baby's First Satire. I want it exposed to as many people as possible so when they fail to get the joke we can relentlessly mock them and know who to exclude from serious conversations.

Imagine someone who can't even handle the Onion trying to process challenging satire. The kind that might get you to change your mind, rather than the Onion/Daily Show brand of pats on the head for agreeing with established orthodoxy.

> The Onion is Baby's First Satire.

ITYM MAD Magazine, at least after the 80s.

It was hilarious when I was 12; these days, not so much.

The Onion's satire is generally pretty obvious. The truth is that some people just aren't very bright, and/or have a habit of reading and sharing news articles very uncritically.

I don't believe any satire websites. Because I understand what satire is. The idea that satire is bad because people are lazy/dumb is much worse than satire itself, I assure you.

You wouldn't know. That's the issue.

You read a seemingly innocent headline, and move on with your day.

Someone who can't figure out an Onion headline is dangerous. They'll uncritically believe just about anything; it's what gets us "FW: FW: FW: FW: OBAMA IS KENYAN" shit.

No, I would and do. I have common sense. And I understand what I'm reading. Most people do. Based on your comments here, you should probably stay away from satire websites since it seems you're easily mislead, but most of the rest of us can apply some basic critical thinking skills.

Would you say that it is worth teaching media studies and literacy in schools?

You're getting downvoted but there's a quote I read about a community based on satire that basically said; in the beginning it's great; everyone is in on the joke and understands it's satire. After a while, the people being satirized join, thinking they're in good company.

I butchered that, but I believe it was sourced from Reddit, maybe a mod or administrator.

A lot of the crazier conspiracy theories probably started out like that. Think chemtrails, flat earthers, 5G, that kind of thing.

This seems to just be something that's going to happen when you have satire of any substance.

A similar thing happened with the 1970s TV show "All In The Family". Its main character, Archie Bunker, is uneducated, chauvinistic, bigoted, and selfish. Many people got the joke, but I think plenty of people saw Archie and their main thought was, "This guy is just like me." They did a good job of portraying him as a real human being. (If he had been a one-dimensional punching bag character, the show would not have worked as well.) He was a working class guy whose frustrations with his situation were rooted in reality, so you couldn't fault him for that part. He just responded to those problems in all the wrong ways. But seeing the right ways to respond requires a certain kind of enlightenment, so this part went over some people's heads.

I'm disgusted at the thought that it is The Onion's fault when people don't bother to read beyond a headline or understand the context of what they just read.


I read the article for every headline I believe.

"...“But,” says one, “I am a busy man; I have no time for the long course of study which would be necessary to make me in any degree a competent judge of certain questions, or even able to understand the nature of the arguments.”

Then he should have no time to believe."

Satire is an important and effective tool for getting people to think critically about mundane things we often accept at face value. It lets us challenge the status quo in a non-threatening way because who doesn’t love to laugh? Satire makes people think and that should always be encouraged.

That's fine if it's obvious.

It's not always obvious.

I'm choosing to interpret your comment as satire ;)

..Is this satire?

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