Monday, April 11, 2011

An Interview with The Onion

Posted By on April 11, 2011, 8:22 AM

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Join The Onion writing team tonight at the U, as they make fun of anything and everything.---

John Harris, senior writer for The Onion, and Geoff Haggerty, senior writer for Onion Sports Dome, took time out of their busy Friday—brainstorming and writing snarky prose—to answer some of City Weekly’s questions. Check them out tonight at the Union Ballroom at 7 p.m.. Students get two free tickets with student identification; the general public can buy tickets for $10.

I asked around the editorial room for some questions for you two and everyone was stumped. Either you guys are intimidating or we aren’t very funny.
Both: We are terribly intimidating. (laughing)
John: It’s the nature of it.

I guess the most obvious first question is: How can we be funnier?
John: As a regular newspaper? The American Media can keep doing what it’s doing, That’s pretty hilarious, in itself. You’ve probably heard before, but it’s odd of us to talk with regular media, because The American Media is hard to top. What we write is only slight exaggerations of what’s in the news.

Can satire cajole the “politically apathetic” to become involved in politics and social issues?
Geoff: I think that is definitely the hope. It’s like those “Oh wow,” moments are a way of having things click in for someone who might not care. They see a funny headline, they think that it’s funny, but it make them stop and think about some issues. John: Humor is definitely a conduit to get people involved...or it could just be the end of it (laughs).

Aside from The Onion’s political articles, are many of them autobiographical?
John: In terms of the paper. It’s like a lot of that stuff. Anything that can happen in your life, can be expanded to connect with the human condition. If you’re in the [news] room and someone pitches something, it’s obvious that it happened to them. That makes it relatable, and that’s why it works.

My voice recorder is having difficulties, so this pause is me catching up on notes, not me being intimidating. Or maybe I’m making you question if what you said was funny enough.
John: I’m immediately convinced that they aren’t funny most of the time. It’s no big deal.

What’s your creative process personally?
Geoff: Ideally, the best case scenario is that something strikes me, and I just write it. A lot of the time it’s that I have to sit down at a coffeeshop and brainstorm. You go through the newspaper, TV shows and ask, “What about this is ridiculous? What have I scene before?” That’s the two major ways.
J: In terms of my process, it’s like what Geoff said. It’s ideal when you just have inspiration, and those are the best ideas. Nine out of ten times you’re knocking your head against the wall.

You’d think that Utah would be a gold mine for story ideas, but it doesn’t seem to get any more play than other states.
John: When we do our presentation, we’re going to bring up Utah coverage. It’s true, there are certain religions and social groups in that area, but he whole country is ridiculous (laughs).
Geoff: I write a lot of sports, and when we were getting ready for this talk, we realized there’s a disproportionate amount of Jazz headlines, I’m thinking about the Houston Rockets or Portland Trail Blazers and they pale in comparison.

Like the 2010 story where the Utah Jazz broke huddle by chanting “Die, Mormons, Die”?
Geoff: Exactly (laughs).

Are there any memorable stories that come to mind about our fair state? I’m thinking about the recent BYU campus sex-a-thon, or whatever the headline was.

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John: We don’t want to give away too much, because that’s what we’re going to talk about—a couple stories that are Utah-centric—on Monday.

What else is will happen for Monday’s event at the U?
Geoff: We’re going to go through the history of the paper, then cover some of the more topical stuff. Then we’ll break it down to the sections like Local, Economics and Sports. That’s kind of an overview of what we do. Then we do a Q&A.

Do you get quirky questions?
John: A lot of them run the gamut; well, it’s not that at all. A lot of them ask what is the process like and how do you get a job there. Occasionally, you’ll get a fanatic who asks very specific questions.

What are you guys doing the rest of today [Friday]?
Geoff: Brainstorming for sports videos.
John: Writing a short article about the government shutdown that is looming right now. It will go live later this afternoon.

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