Rundman declares "Onion funny again!"
Here's a pic of me last week during my trip to the Golden Arches, enjoying the free weekly news/satire paper The Onion.
I've been an avid Onion reader for more than a decade now (by the way...I never read it online...I only like it in paper form, for some reason). Back in the early-90s when I was touring the Midwest I would always pick up The Onion in Madison, WI, read it out-loud in the car to Dawn, and laugh until tears streamed down my cheeks. Upon moving to Chicago in 1996, I was thrilled with the news that The Onion would soon be distributed for free in the Windy City, allowing me my Thursday ritual of zipping over to Val's Halla Record Store in Oak Park, IL, picking up the Chicago Reader, NewCity, and The Onion every single week. Then, just like clockwork, when I moved to the Twin Cities of Minnesota, The Onion followed me here too, and became available in paper form each Thursday. Hallelujah!
In the late-90s and especially around the events of 9/11 the writing was near perfect. I still remember the first time I read this article back in 2001 when I saw the toy-buying tip about upscale toy stores in the mall, and I laughed so hard i was reduced to a writhing, silent ball on the floor, sobbing. (Forgive the R-rated content, please.) If the funny stuff wasn't enough, the entertainment half of the paper, The A.V. Club, contained the BEST interviews of entertainers and artists that I have ever read, not to mention some of the best film reviews, etc. The inspiring feature interview with rock star Andrew WK still lingers in my mind as pure genius, and shaped my own views of music, artistry, fandom, and fame. It may have changed my life.
Alas, The Onion could not continue their momentum. Something happened to the writing about a year ago or so (lame commentator that I am, I have no dates, no proof, and no examples of this occurrence) and the funny stuff took a nosedive. Thankfully the AV Club was awesome as always, but the front half of the paper seemed different. The satirical stuff was boring, overdone, too crass, cheap, too easy, obvious, lame, and just plain not-as-good-as-before. I can't even really explain it, except to say that it changed enough that when I picked up my weekly issue, I read the AV Club first, and sometimes skipped the front half all together. And where did our trusted Onion fake-columnists like Anchower and Teasdale go? And what's with the entire PAGE devoted each week to lame sports jokes? I think, even if I cared about sports, it's not worthy of a page per week. I wonder what the deal was? Did the main writers all take sit-com jobs? Was the paper being written by brand new hacks?
The weird thing (and obviously intentional thing) about The Onion, is that they're completely untouchable, unlike the way a real paper would be. There's no "Letters to the Editor" page, you don't know which writer wrote which article, and in fact, it's almost impossible to find out who the writers/editors/brains of this thing really are. They keep the actual creative and publishing process completely hidden, and because of that, I have yet to find any online criticism of the writing, the writers, the content, or the intent. If anybody knows of any "Onion-fan" blog or message board, I'd be interested to know where it is. Are there other bloggers out there dissecting the comedy of The Onion? Hmmm...
Thankfully, I'm here to announce, the writing quality is back up. I think right before Christmas, I noticed that it was getting good again. And last week's issue (pictured above) had an entire front page of funny stuff. Just picked up this week's issue today, and once again, an entire front page of funny. Crass, but not too crass; topical but not obvious; funny-'cause-it's-true; etc. Congrats, Onion, and welcome back.