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Nailed With Their Own Hammer
November 13, 2002 8:58 AM   Subscribe

A Mad Parody Of The Onion Well, if this isn't Meta, I don't know what is. Certainly, we all know about The Onion (and, indeed, our consensus is that we don't post Onion links here). The fine fellows at MAD magazine have hoisted the Area Men by their own petard. I hate to say it, 'cuz I think The Onion is often quite funny, but they've got it nailed. (via Heath Row's Media Diet)
posted by briank (58 comments total)

 
You say hoisted, I say hoised, but let's agree that the Onion is funnier than the Onion parody.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:13 AM on November 13, 2002


Thinly-veiled "humorous" take on a horrific tragedy done soonern after the actual event than good taste would dictate

Those Onion bastards.
posted by robself at 9:14 AM on November 13, 2002


The Onion seems to have gone downhill a little in the past few years, with maybe a 40% whiff rate on their jokes. But I think Mad's hovering at about 96% whiff, so they shouldn't be casting stones. I leafed through a Mad at the library a while ago and saw this didactic 2-page spread about how file-sharing is theft. Whee, that's funny.
posted by COBRA! at 9:25 AM on November 13, 2002


I leafed through a Mad at the library a while ago and saw this didactic 2-page spread about how file-sharing is theft. Whee, that's funny.

This should come as no surprise considering who owns Mad now (check the URL for it on the FPP). Mad's days as a satiric counter-cultural voice ended once it got bought out by WB if not earlier.

And while I didn't find the Bunion parody to be funny, it sure did nail a lot of what's boring about the Onion since it moved to NYC. Maybe this will embarrass Onion writers enough to get them out of their rut.
posted by ursus_comiter at 9:34 AM on November 13, 2002


Yes, but who's daring enough to do a satire piece about the satire piece about the satire piece.

This line made a good point, though:

They shoot their wad with the headline, and its a lot of nothing after that.

The headlines usually do tell the whole joke.
posted by dgaicun at 9:38 AM on November 13, 2002


What ursus said. Wow, a former cultural humor icon that lost its voice and clout over ten years ago decides to make fun of a current cultural humor icon that surpassed it in about a tenth of the time. Giggle.

And I'm saying this with virtually the entire MAD archive for reference... I've got every issue, courtesy of previous family members, up to about three years ago, when I stopped subscribing after realizing that the 10-cent issues written thirty years before I was born were funnier than the ones I was paying $3.50 for today.

MAD has, sadly, gone the way of the aged rock star- it just sits there on the couch demanding all the admiration from the young crowd because they should just accept that thirty years ago they were a godlike legend. It died long before the DC/WB buyout, and even well before Bill Gaines died... it died when MAD started thinking that it was great simply because it was MAD Magazine.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:42 AM on November 13, 2002


Indeed, MAD is generally not the least bit funny (at least it hasn't been since I was about 12, but that's because it's still the same humor), but I was impressed at how on the mark they were at hitting just what makes the Onion tick, almost in the Onion's very own style.
posted by briank at 9:44 AM on November 13, 2002


is the bunion expecting the onion to invent new comedic tropes? there's only so many funny formulas to work with, its the material inserted into the formulas that make it funny. how many times have we seen homer get wacked in the head but still laughed? it's funny to see homer get wacked again and again cause they package it differently each time we see it. most simpsons episodes could be summed up as 'homer takes things too far,' but we still laugh cause they do it in new ways and take it to different places. same thing with the onion. it's still funny and of course the columnists have the same issues, but i still love reading about the adventures of jim anchower cause he's always up to new tricks, even if theyre based on the same formula, 'he's a dumb milwaukee south-sider.'
posted by callicles at 9:44 AM on November 13, 2002


I actually think The Onion could probably do a better job of parodying The Onion. That was pretty unimaginative. The Onion's definitely got a parody-able format for humor (e.g. mundane action or event as headline), but this was weak compared to what it could have been. If you're going to lampoon brilliance, at least be brilliant about it.

(I still laugh about "Americans Shrug, Line Up for Fingerprinting.")
posted by grrarrgh00 at 9:45 AM on November 13, 2002


I laugh much less since they got rid of Zweibel. A lot of the time I find myself looking forward to reading the AV Club more than the humour section.
posted by picea at 9:47 AM on November 13, 2002


Just to rail on MAD a bit more - when I was little my dad had this sort of "greatest hits" hard-back MAD, and I thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. It wasn't until a few years after I picked it up that I thought to check out the current MAD ... boy, what a disappointment.
posted by risenc at 9:47 AM on November 13, 2002


Imminent Death of The Onion® Predicted©
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:53 AM on November 13, 2002


Mad blew my mind over and over again during the early 1970s; I'll never be able to repay the skepticism it gave me about all sorts of things in mainstream U.S. culture. The Onion's always been working a handful of brilliant strategies; nothing new there. It was the redesign that killed it for me, though; I realized a week or so ago that I hadn't been to the Onion site in months.
posted by mediareport at 9:53 AM on November 13, 2002


Neither one is funny. And I demand humor! Bastards!

(shuffles out of room)
posted by monkeymike at 9:54 AM on November 13, 2002


The Onion seems to have gone downhill a little in the past few years,

That's what comes of leaving the wierd little midwestern college town behind. Granted, I know they moved because one of the founders wanted to go home, and the rest though it was a good idea. Still, everybody does NY. How many people do Madison? I think part of their old edge came from being based in an out of the way place.....69 square miles surrounded by reality.
posted by kayjay at 9:54 AM on November 13, 2002


What's going to be really funny, of course, is when the Onion tears MAD a new one responding to this.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2002


I actually think The Onion could probably do a better job of parodying The Onion.

Funny you should mention that. Back when I was in High School, dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and The Onion was a piddly little print-only newspaper (about 90-91, I think), the clever fellows ran an article entitle "Satirical Newspaper Thinks They're Really Hot Shit." The article went on to describe The Turnip which lampooned current events in a decidedly Onion-like fashion and, furthermore, what a bunch of dorks the editorial staff of said publication were.

Very funny article.
posted by stet at 10:00 AM on November 13, 2002


Ah, Mad...

A nice brief history, and of course 43-man squamish.
posted by languagehat at 10:08 AM on November 13, 2002


Personally, I'd like to see what knee-slappers the folks responsible for Cracked would do to try to copy this parody and re-sell it as their own. umm..sorry...feeling kinda meta-cubed.
posted by chandy72 at 10:15 AM on November 13, 2002


I think Jay Leno should skewer current events and SNL should have sketches where white people dance awkwardly.
posted by Hildago at 10:37 AM on November 13, 2002


Gorgeous. The battle of the satirists. Let the games begin.
posted by jacknose at 10:39 AM on November 13, 2002


[Mad blew my mind over and over again during the early 1970s...]

I've seen some of the earlier issues and they are fantastic. The only one I remember as a child was the Carter Parody that went something like...

"My eyes have seen the problems that have made this land a mess, and I know just how to solve them - but for now I'll let you guess.

I'll tell you all about them in my inagural adress when I win my second term.

Glory, Glory, Jubilation - That's the way to lead a nation
Fill them with anticipation and win that second term."
posted by revbrian at 10:40 AM on November 13, 2002


Did anyone else check the links to other new Mad features?I thought the article applying the Maxim formula to other magazines was funny, although the other stuff was not too amusing.
posted by monkeyman at 10:46 AM on November 13, 2002


Imminent Death of The Onion® Predicted©
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:53 AM PST on November 13


Thank you crash, you echo my thoughts exactly.
posted by Quixoticlife at 11:00 AM on November 13, 2002


They shoot their wad with the headline, and its a lot of nothing after that.

This isn't a coincidence. From an article on the Onion in the American Journalism Review: "All Onion stories start with the headline, the big joke that spawns lots of smaller jokes in the accompanying copy."
posted by mattpfeff at 11:01 AM on November 13, 2002


To a kid growing up in the isolated Midwest, Mad opened the door to the kind of East Coast Jewish humor that would never have touched me otherwise - like their Early '70s suggestion of logical movie sequels: In Cold Blood...In Colder Blood....In Blood So Cold You Could Plotz. Plotz!

I was never the same.
posted by luser at 11:02 AM on November 13, 2002


I actually think The Onion could probably do a better job of parodying The Onion.

Says it all. Maybe The Onion isn't what it once was, but merely picking up my precious copy of Dispatches From The Tenth Circle makes me weep uncontrollably with laughter... this didn't even raise a sly smile. If the parody isn't funnier than the original then it just comes off as snide, and I find this one a little pathetic. Still, I keenly await the Onion writers getting their teeth into Mad.
posted by zygoticmynci at 11:30 AM on November 13, 2002


Even if The Onion is no longer fresh and stimulating, the effect its had on modern satire is enormous. The Daily Show might not exist without it, and SNL might not have begun their "weekend update" segment. And the college humor magazine has been revitalized across the nation in the past 4 years, with almost all of the new ones following The Onion's lead assiduously. I edit the college humor magazine at my university, and know despite our instructions to writers, 2/3 of our submissions attempt to mimic The Onion's format.
posted by gsteff at 11:40 AM on November 13, 2002


when history writes her chapter she will be unable to tell current mad and the current onion apart as far as quality.
the onion had a really high peak for a few years, while mad sustained relatively high for awhile. mad started slipping long before, but it did become cracked II when gaines died.
posted by the aloha at 11:49 AM on November 13, 2002


Even if The Onion is no longer fresh and stimulating, the effect its had on modern satire is enormous. The Daily Show might not exist without it, and SNL might not have begun their "weekend update" segment.

Uh, SNL has been doing "weekend Update" since the 70s.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:51 AM on November 13, 2002


SNL might not have begun their "weekend update" segment

Pretty sure it's the other way around, it beginning in the 70s and all. And OT, there's a book out on SNL called "Live from New York" or something like that, and it's really a great read because everybody and their mom hates Chevy Chase.
posted by Stan Chin at 11:54 AM on November 13, 2002


SNL might not have begun their "weekend update" segment

Ahh, you kids today! The Weeked Update was part of the very first episode in 1975; Chevy Chase was the anchor. Unless you have copies of the Onion predating that, I think any influence has to go the other way.
posted by languagehat at 11:56 AM on November 13, 2002


*brain explodes*

sorry, i can't exactly map out all the satire going on in this thing. however, i do find it quite clever, i don't care what any of you say. i read mad magazine growing up and loved it, but then i GREW OUT OF IT. i've always found mad to be a children thing, no matter what they spoof. it helped me open my eyes to some things growing up and i don't expect really to get too much out of it beyond that point. i wonder what the mad people think.
posted by oog at 11:57 AM on November 13, 2002


SNL might not have begun their "weekend update" segment

Ahh, you kids today! The Weekend Update was part of the very first episode in 1975; Chevy Chase was the anchor. Unless you have copies of the Onion predating that, I think any influence has to go the other way.

On preview: Like PST and Stan said. But I have the earliest reference, so I'm adding this anyhoo.
posted by languagehat at 11:57 AM on November 13, 2002


Uh, SNL has been doing "weekend Update" since the 70s.

Pretty sure it's the other way around, it beginning in the 70s and all.

Ahh, you kids today! The Weeked Update was part of the very first episode in 1975


Oh, that weekend update...

*cowers, hides*
posted by gsteff at 12:04 PM on November 13, 2002


It's like being in the geekiest gang ever. We should get matching jackets. Members Only jackets.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:11 PM on November 13, 2002


i dunno, i still think the Onion's hilarious. The one thing the MAD parody does get right is the fact that the headlines are often funnier than anything in the story proper. But I don't think there's much they could do about this; it's just the way the news format works.
posted by condour75 at 12:23 PM on November 13, 2002


PinkStainlessTail: Or matching baseball shirts...
posted by blue_beetle at 12:26 PM on November 13, 2002


The fine fellows at MAD magazine have hoisted the Area Men by their own petard
Hey, thats not cool. The correct term is "Mentally Challenged".
posted by dr_dank at 12:30 PM on November 13, 2002


And I have to say that the current MAD's Gulf Wars poster is also cute. "Clone of the Attack"... hehehe. Maybe a drawn out, unpopular, unwinnable war will give them a chance to shine again.
posted by condour75 at 12:32 PM on November 13, 2002


Just by way of simple, kind correction: I believe The Onion began in the Spring of '89. And it's quite true that the content was incredibly Wisconsin-centric. In fact, Zweibel (mentioned earlier) was modelled after one of the prominent figures at this Madison newspaper (no longer there, as I understand it, though one of his progeny is).

One of my favorite headlines from those early days: "Governor Thompson Declares November Masturbation Month."
posted by *burp* at 12:36 PM on November 13, 2002


it's just the way the news format works.

Pretty much. As with pretty much all humor, you have to be in the mood to get into it, have to be willing to read the stories word for word to get into the fantasy world each particular story creates, rather than just skimming for one-liners- you won't find many. Late night TV, sitcoms and movies generally work off distinct, self-contained jokes nowadays, which The Onion doesn't really use in its main stories (except for, voila, the headlines), and almost never does in its editorials. And if the story concept doesn't lend itself to a pithy headline, many readers just assume there's not much content there and move on. Its like chemistry (and life): you have to overcome the activation energy.
posted by gsteff at 12:38 PM on November 13, 2002


It's still funnier than Achewood.
posted by jjg at 12:40 PM on November 13, 2002


43-Man-Squamish was the funniest thing they ever printed.

Thank you languagehat, for reminding me of that and letting me read it once again.

I also found their movie parodies in the 70's to be spot on. I used to enjoy reading them when I was a kid, even if I'd never seen the movie (like The Godfather, Part II). The art was always detailed and there were lots of jokes hidden in the background.
posted by grum@work at 12:42 PM on November 13, 2002


I grew up in Madison and "knew The Onion when." I remember it already being a fairly big deal on the UW campus by 1989, and I seem to recall it being around before then. It used to be more of a parody of a tabloid. It didn't change to its current USA Today parody format until much later, probably sometime around when they opened their website.

Zweibel was indeed a takeoff of Dave Zweifel, who is now known as a liberal columnist but who used to write about much less political stuff. I am also convinced that the whole "Area Man" and "Local Youth"-style headlines were ripoffs of the types of headlines that used to appear in the Wisconsin State Journal's "Look" (feature) section.

They aren't as funny as they once were, but that's the nature of humor. Long-lasting humor franchises generally lose steam. I thought the MAD parody hit a few points home about how worn some of the Onion's jokes have become.
posted by profwhat at 12:50 PM on November 13, 2002


Or matching baseball shirts

Or matching underwear
posted by MrBaliHai at 12:54 PM on November 13, 2002


One of my favorite headlines from those early days: "Governor Thompson Declares November Masturbation Month."

Tommy will always be a great source of humor for this state. My favorite headline from the early days: "Governor Thompson Changes Title to 'Sexecutioner'".
posted by rocketman at 1:10 PM on November 13, 2002


Humor franchises have to be allowed their ups and downs. SNL has waxed and waned over the years, but I still tune in when I get the chance because they are sure to be funny at times.

When I was clicking on the link I was hoping they'd do a parody of Jean Teasdale. But what could you do with that - "Teasdale Realizes She's Being Laughed at, Not With; Straightens Out Life and Moves Column to O Magazine"?
posted by orange swan at 1:25 PM on November 13, 2002


FYI: Onion started in 1988, in early wake of first DIY publishing craze -- desktop publishing (remember when THAT was going to "change industry forever?").
posted by minnesotaj at 1:39 PM on November 13, 2002


Anyone remeber seeing this when it was put out by the Satyr (now defunct I think), another online college humor newspaper? Same name, but a different page.

Also, maybe the Onion has gone downhill in some respects, but it's still a great thing. This parody was just sorta lame.
posted by destro at 1:45 PM on November 13, 2002


The FBI's file on Mad magazine was just released through the freedom of information act. This month's Harper's reprints letters to J. Edgar Hoover by parents concerned about Mad magazine pushing communist ideology.
posted by eddydamascene at 1:56 PM on November 13, 2002


desktop publishing (remember when THAT was going to "change industry forever?").

I think you can make an argument it did...
posted by jalexei at 2:20 PM on November 13, 2002


can i stick the boot in, too?
someone in the mad office knows how to use those newfangled computer doohickeys. not only that, but they can load that internet thing, which everyone seems to be talking about, i am impressed.
the decline of mad magazine reminds me of punch.
'not funny, £1'
posted by asok at 2:58 PM on November 13, 2002


I wish I had a chance to post this earlier, but I put two and two together, and I remembered that The Onion spoofed Mad a while back, when the Daniel Pearl story was big. The url of the story is here, but the article is long since dead.

I found the link at this weblog, and it includes this bit of text from the original article:

"The late Phil Fonebone, whose body turned up near the town of Potrzebie, had been tracking down members of the secretive al-Jaffi network."

IIRC, the article had a genius photoshopped picture of the "reporter" who happened to look a lot like the old Don Martin characters.
posted by manero at 4:51 PM on November 13, 2002


OK, so this ONE time I can post my favorite Onion article, right? Housewife Charged in Elaborate Sex-For-Security Scam".
posted by planetkyoto at 5:25 PM on November 13, 2002


I grew up with MAD, haven't paid attention to the rag in decades. The Onion on the other hand..... --Que Juevos



"NEW YORK—In the two weeks since terrorists crashed hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, American life has come to resemble a bad Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action/disaster movie
..."Did you hear that the plane that hit the Pentagon was supposed to crash into the White House?" Monahan continued. "It would have looked just like that scene in Independence Day. Only real."...

[story]"U.S. Vows To Defeat Whoever It Is We're At War With"

[story] "Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell..."I was promised I would spend eternity in Paradise, being fed honeyed cakes by 67 virgins in a tree-lined garden, if only I would fly the airplane into one of the Twin Towers," said Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11, between attempts to vomit up the wasps, hornets, and live coals infesting his stomach. "But instead, I am fed the boiling feces of traitors by malicious, laughing Ifrit. Is this to be my reward for destroying the enemies of my faith?"...The rest of Atta's words turned to raw-throated shrieks, as a tusked, asp-tongued demon burst his eyeballs and drank the fluid that ran down his face."


[story] "Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake...TOPEKA, KS—Feeling helpless in the wake of the horrible Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands, Christine Pearson baked a cake and decorated it like an American flag ....."I had to do something to force myself away from the TV," said Pearson, 33, carefully laying rows of strawberry slices on the white-fudge-frosting-
covered cake. "All of those people. Those poor people. I don't know what else to do."

[story] "God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule: NEW YORK—Responding to recent events on Earth, God, the omniscient creator-deity worshipped by billions of followers of various faiths for more than 6,000 years, angrily clarified His longtime stance against humans killing each other --
"Look, I don't know, maybe I haven't made myself completely clear, so for the record, here it is again," said the Lord, His divine face betraying visible emotion during a press conference near the site of the fallen Twin Towers. "Somehow, people keep coming up with the idea that I want them to kill their neighbor. Well, I don't. And to be honest, I'm really getting sick and tired of it. Get it straight. Not only do I not want anybody to kill anyone, but I specifically commanded you not to, in really simple terms that anybody ought to be able to understand."

MAD had it's day. That day is gone.
posted by troutfishing at 9:11 PM on November 13, 2002


"special olympics batting tee pitches no-hitter"

*sighs, wipes tear away* thank you, onion.
posted by carsonb at 11:00 PM on November 13, 2002


the decline of mad magazine reminds me of punch.

Too right, Punch hasn't been funny since 'ought six.

One thing that always used to shit me with Mad was the amount of old content in it. I remember being about 11 and being totally nonplussed by Berg's Eye View gags about the OPEC oil crisis...in 1987.

That said, you septics think you've got it bad? Witness the horror that is Australian Mad Magazine - now with 20% more legally compulsory comic art by talentless antipodean hacks!
posted by backOfYourMind at 6:52 AM on November 14, 2002


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