Posts Tagged ‘The Onion’

Welcome to the latest edition of the Fury Files, which are now required reading in all Iowa middle schools. Check out previous interviews with Tom Linnemann, John Millea, David Brauer, Joe Posnanski, Pat Coleman, Kevin Van Valkenburg, Michael Kruse, Chris Jones, Chris Ballard, Roland Lazenby, Will Leitch, Patrick Reusse and Peter Richmond.

This week’s guest is Seth Reiss, head writer of the incomparable Onion. For those who don’t know — Iranian news agencies, your second cousin who posts stories on Facebook and says “Can you believe this!!!!!”, and 94 percent of all Yahoo commenters — The Onion is a satirical newspaper started in Madison, Wisconsin in 1988. It’s gone on to become America’s Finest News Source — in its own words — and America’s Funniest News Source, in the words of everyone else. And Reiss is one of the main geniuses behind the whole operation.

Reiss comes from Connellsville, Pa., Pittsburgh Steelers territory, and graduated from Boston University. He interned with, among others, Conan, and was a page on Letterman. Before joining The Onion in 2005, Reiss’s credits included time as a writer on the ESPN Classic show Cheap Seats. He wrote sports items for The Onion and eventually became head writer, overseeing a writing staff that still produces brilliant work week after week, year after year. Reiss was one of the main writers and editors for the 2012 book The Onion Book of Known Knowledge. The fake encyclopedia is funny, outrageous, profane, original, subtle. In other words, the perfect Onion production. The book obviously hits on all the major events in world history — it’s an encyclopedia, after all — but it’s the smaller entries that are just as entertaining.

Reiss stays plenty busy away from The Onion, including writing for IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! He’s a regular contributor to McSweeney’s and for many years participated with the sketch comedy group Pangea 3000. Reiss has been included in a few profiles in the New York Times, including this June 2012 piece about the group’s hopefully temporary breakup.

Another time the Times featured Reiss? When he reluctantly admitted to being the man behind the Matt Albie Twitter account. Who’s Matt Albie? The pill-popping, cares-too-much comedic genius who was the head writer for Studio 60, the fake sketch comedy show on the failed NBC show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Matthew Perry played him on the actual show, but Reiss’s Twitter character — Mattalbie60 — has become him. “I am so good at what I do.” “When the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt they would perform nightly sketch comedy shows to relieve their anguish.” “If I ever have a son, I’d rush home from work, take him out in the backyard and toss the old sketch comedy around.” Taking it one step further, Reiss wrote a fake Amazon page for a fake Studio 60 oral history. Click on the book on that site and you can read an excerpt. Reiss’s commitment to the joke and character is admirable, and possibly a cry for help.

If you need a soundtrack while reading this Q&A, listen to some of the podcasts Reiss has appeared on, including ones on It’s That Episode, Jordan, Jesse Go!, and NPR.

Here, Reiss — who moved from New York to Chicago when The Onion moved its offices in 2012 — talks about his writing and comedy influences, Studio 60’s terrible goodness, The Onion’s evolution, its voice, Onion science, the encyclopedia, a Lake Wobegon serial killer and much more. Thanks a lot for your time, Seth.


Welcome to this week’s links. It was about 80 degrees earlier in the week in New York City. Terry, the rest of Sioux Falls, my family in Minnesota and other poor souls in the Midwest did not have quite that same weather. So as you dig out or melt out, here are this week’s stories:

* Charlie Pierce’s 1997 profile of Tiger Woods is one of the most famous magazine stories ever written. On Grantland, Pierce provides a “director’s cut” of the story, which includes the fact he wrote the story in 2.5 hours.

* A shrink analyzes Don Draper.

* Bitcoins are a Ponzi scheme. What are bitcoins? I don’t really know but a co-worker told me about them awhile back and now they’re all over the news. Go buy some. Or whatever you do with them. Or don’t.

* A Minneapolis man went to great lengths in an elaborate hoax on Joel Osteen, trying to make it look like the preacher man had given up on his faith.

* From The Onion: Stripper thinks customer flirting with her.

* A high school football coach who got run over by a motorized cart at a Cowboys game is suing.

* There seems to be a growing segment of American soccer fans who watch the international game, but turn up their nose at the domestic league. Alexi Lalas and and Rog Bennett (of Men in Blazers fame) combined on a piece designed at changing that.

* TV is developing a man crush on Jalen Rose for entertaining and enlightening bits like this. More on that soon.

* Finally, the pod of the week is the last installment of the CBS Eye on College Basketball podcast for this season. These guys – Matt Norlander, Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman – absolutely killed it with their coverage during the NCAA tournament in terms of scoops and analysis. If there’s one area that an outlet consistently tops ESPN in terms of quality, this is it. They’re also really funny, too. Have a listen.

Welcome to the latest edition of The Tapes. Crazy week at TVFury. We welcomed the NBA, watched the Lakers go 0-2, survived Hurricane Sandy and set a single-day views record on Thursday as my post from last month on the Janesville doll in the window found an audience in Minnesota.

This week’s links:

* So far at least there’s no evidence that an army of rats will take over New York in the wake of the hurricane, a genuine fear. What happened to them? Drowned? Hiding? Who knows?

* For book and history geeks, an interesting story about a Winston Churchill biography. William Manchester wrote the first two volumes but died before the third was finished. Another writer finished the task but there’s a lot of controversy as it nears publication.

* Chris Ballard’s story from SI a few weeks ago is now online. Another classic Ballard piece, this time on a high school team dealing with terrible tragedy.

* The U.S. military is training for the zombie apocalypse. Not from the Onion.

* From the Onion, a host of laughs during a tough week: Mood in Car Takes Grim Turn After Dad Misses Exit (note, this does not remind me of my dad at all. At all. Not in the least…). Lone Doofus Has Been Waiting 36 Hours For Next C Train. Misinformed Man Riding Out Storm in Bathtub Filled With Batteries.

* My favorite probably-made-up-letter in Dear Prudence this week: My girlfriend dumped me because I’m too good-looking.

* We have no way to confirm if this story about Ethiopian kids opening a box of tablets, teaching themselves how to use them and hacking into the Android system are true. But we sure hope it is.

* And, finally, the award for podcast of the week goes to … the Dave Dameshek Football Program. Frankly, I’d never heard of Dameshek until he started making regular, sports-related appearances on the Adam Carolla Show. But he was impressive enough in that role for me to seek out his solo work, primarily through the NFL Network. The 42-year-old seems like a throwback, a Pittsburgh Steelers buff who declines to swear on air for the sake of his mother and uses old timey phrases like “fella” a lot in the course of interviews with various NFL players and reporters. Even his laugh seems to be from a simpler time.

Glad to see you all survived 10/11/12. What’s that? Nothing bad was supposed to happen on that date? Guess we had that confused with the old 7-8-9 joke. No matter, let’s watch The Tapes:

* The Washington Post takes in interesting approach to a new and more modest financial era in America by chronicling a pool salesman. Selling physical goods in an out-of-office setting is pretty high on the list of jobs I feel incapable of completing. I think the same thing when watching the prohibition-agent-turned-iron salesman on “Boardwalk Empire.”

* Crazy story out of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead – the place where the TV-Fury bromance blossomed – about a rural high school student who attempted to commit suicide during class. Yes, attempted, as in did not succeed.

* This week’s podcast of the week comes from – what else – the Grantland Network. But, don’t worry, TV has reviewed almost all of them meaning he’ll have to move onto something else soon enough. The Hollywood Prospectus is, as you might have guessed, an entertainment-based pod. Generally, it’s a conversation between co-hosts Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan, but they’ll occasionally bring in other gadflies, actors, producers or writers.
There are two things that make it enjoyable: The behind-the-scenes info about how TV shows and/or movies work and get made; and hearing Greenwald and Ryan talk hip-hop. Both are genuine fans and discuss the genre with an odd glee and in a weird mix of slang and proper verbiage. It’s far more entertaining than I’m portraying it. Trust. (See what I did there?)

* Kobe Bryant really didn’t enjoy playing with Smush Parker for two seasons. This week he again ripped on the former Lakers point guard, a moody figure who has taken his share of shots at Kobe over the years. Kobe doesn’t forget and this time called Smush a “walk on,” while also denigrating Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm.

* The Glenn Stout longform site on SB Nation has been really enjoyable so far. Here’s a piece on big NFL players and how that affects their health longterm. It’s not all about the head with football players, it’s also about the fat.

* The Onion’s AV Club has been counting down its top 50 movies of the 1990s. Here’s the final installment.

Time for the latest edition of The Tapes. I’m making last-minute preparations for my trip to Cape Town. But nothing – nothing – comes before TVFury. Onward:

* Ricky Rubio had a horrific game on Wednesday against the Jazz. The Wolves made their comeback with him on the bench and he hit only 1 of 6 from the line. I don’t care. He’s still awesome to watch, is a huge reason for the complete turnaround of a woeful franchise and has them in position for a playoff run. Also, he did this dance last night.

* This quarterback from the Broncos received a bit of attention this season and GQ writer Michael Silver did an oral history of this QB’s season. This is the piece famous for Brady Quinn’s supposedly insulting quotes about this particular overshadowed quarterback.

* From The Onion: Great Team Chemistry No Match for Great Team Biology.

* Big week for TV’s employer as it began implementing a paywall on its Web site. It’s part of a company-wide move by Gannett. All of its American papers other than USA Today will go to a similar model in 2012.
Time will tell how this will work out, although I think even the tightest of wads can agree that it was an inevitability. Giving away your product isn’t a sound, long-term business model. What’s been most interesting in the short term are all the logistical questions from readers. Hopefully, that means they’re still interested.

* Apparently, there’s a new form of caffeine hitting the market … the breathable kind. That’s right, no need to sip or chug, anymore, the latest trend in energy ingestion is, well, huffing. To be honest, I’d probably prefer a pure, concentrated liquid form. The idea of purposely breathing in a chemical makes me think two things: 1) a gangly 10-year-old boy clinging to an inhaler during gym class and 2) this dude in Fargo who was notorious for sniffing silver paint in a downtown park.
As much as I’m dependent on caffeine, I think I’ll pass on this method if only makes the habit seem more detrimental.

The Tapes might be catching on. Heard the phrase used on the B.S. Report when Bill Simmons was interviewing broadcaster Al Michaels. It caught my attention like when you hear your name from across a crowded room. Were they talking about these tapes? In my mind they were. In my mind, they were:

* A 14-foot trailer filled with 300 cases of energy drinks was stolen in Brookings, S.D. A friend suggested that I might be the culprit given my propensity for super-caffeinated beverages. But, alas, it’s not true. I only wish I was that creative and/or deviant. The best part of the story is the timeframe. The owner is pretty sure the crime took place sometime over the last 11 weeks. How do you not notice a 14-foot trailer packed with energy drinks is missing? Do you have that many of them laying around?

* Sioux Falls is hosting a film fest this week – the second Reel Dakota Film Festival. I didn’t attend the first and I won’t make the second. But it’s not for lack of desire. To me, this qualifies as one of those rare events that gives a medium-sized city a sense of importance and culture. It’s like when an Andy Warhol exhibit comes to town or food trucks gain popularity. For one weekend, we get to pretend that we’re as hip and enlightened as the folks in Tribeca or Park City.

In fact, I’ll argue that the idea is as important as the product in a situation like this. On second thought, maybe that’s a bad idea; it probably breeds posers rather than genuine art and appreciation. Still, I applaud the effort … even if I won’t have an opportunity to applaud any of the films.

* Fury here. This is a nice story courtesy of Michael Rand and his Star Tribune blog Randball about Minnesota Lynx center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who took the time to visit one of her biggest fans who lives in the small town of Ortonville.

* Here’s a story that’s as depressing as the Taj story is uplifting. It’s from ESPN and is about pro wrestler Scott Hall, whose life has – well, fallen apart seems like such a mild way to put it. When your life is compared to Mickey Rourke’s – whether the real, living Mickey or a character he’s played – you’re not doing well.

* I admit: I really like Rex Ryan. This week he got into more trouble when he said he would have won a few rings if he had been hired as coach of San Diego a few years ago, when the job went to Norv Turner. Cue faux outrage, apologies, explanations and now, lectures from the media and former players who don’t understand why Ryan doesn’t just shut up.

In a league filled with coaches who are so boring it seems like they’ve actually taken four years of classes to learn how to be so dull, Ryan, to me anyway, remains entertaining and a refreshing difference. But columnists like Ian O’Connor write that if he doesn’t win a championship Ryan will be nothing but a joke. And I suppose that’s true. But then, if winning is the ultimate thing, isn’t every coach who doesn’t win a joke? What’s it matter if one talks a lot and another doesn’t? The media hates cookie-cutter answers until they actually get something different, then use it to tell the coach or athlete they should be more…boring. The facts are Ryan has led the Jets to four playoff victories in the past two years, all on the road. By comparison, Bill Belichick has won…zero playoff games the past two seasons. And Ryan’s Jets have won those four games despite having an offense that has apparently not learned that the game has evolved since 1931. The guy can coach. And he can talk. It’s okay to do both.

* Courtesty of The Onion: New Decoy Website Launched to Lure Away All Moronic Internet Commenters.

For the first time in the history of this website, it’s Fury starting off The Tapes. Lots of pressure.

Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski is one of the best baseball writers in the country and he tried to make some sense of Wednesday night’s craziness, when millions of people realized that, hey, even though baseball games seem to last an average of five hours these days and the season makes the NBA look like a sprint, it can still produce magical moments. I will say that I never feel more like a real New Yorker than when I revel in the downfall of a Boston team. I hated the Celtics long before I came to NYC – I started hating them about the time I started preschool – but it’s fun watching the Sox and Patriots fall.

* Really interesting story in the new Esquire. One of my favorite writers, Tom Junod, profiles one of my favorite performers, Jon Stewart. The story’s not what you’d probably expect and takes a fairly critical look at the Daily Show star. Those who don’t like Stewart’s persona or performances will probably really enjoy the piece. But even unabashed fans of the TV host will find it fascinating.

* The Onion caused a bit of chaos on Thursday when it tweeted that a hostage situation was underway in Congress. People thought the fake news agency had broken a real story. And then they got upset at the Onion for pulling an Orson Welles. It’s not the first time the Onion’s fooled people. It is one of the first times I can remember people being so upset, which seems very odd. It’s The Onion, folks. No matter how straight-sounding a story or tweet appears, if you see it’s from the Onion…wouldn’t you assume it’s satire? People reacted as if the Wall Street Journal pulled this off. It also shed a bit of light on just how crazy it is when news breaks these days. There’s no longer a 24-hour news cycle – it’s more like 24 seconds, and even that might be pushing it. It’s on Twitter? Go! React! It’s true!

* The Johnnies face the Tommies on Saturday and for one of the few times since John Gagliardi took over SJU, St. Thomas enters as an overwhelming favorite. The Tommies are confused, trying to figure out what this means to not be the underdog (they’re Tommies, things have to be explained slowly). My totally impartial prediction: SJU 28, St. Thomas 24.

* Big thanks to Fury for leading off this week. Looks like he taken some of that Midwestern work ethic back to New York. Speaking of hard workers, NBA player Delonte West may or may not have taken a job at a furniture store. This if funny if West is trying to be funny. It’s also funny if he’s not trying to be funny given that he was once rumored to be dating LeBron James’s mom. That one never gets old.

* Tell me this isn’t the best name – and maybe the best bio – in the history of college football.

* The Twin Cities Marathon is this weekend. A few friends are participating – and I am in awe. Seriously. It’s one thing to play in a softball league or try a spin class, but to willingly participate in endurance sports as an adult is fascinating. There’s more preparation and strategy involved than I ever imagined. And, obviously, it’s a huge time commitment, but it’s not like that time is spent doing something easy. The mental tenacity required first to get going and then to push through the wall blows my mind.
So good luck to everyone. Don’t forget the body butter.