“Area Pubis Shorn.” “Karaoke Singer Will Survive.” “Fat Kid Calls Shirts.” “Hulk Smash.”
The Onion’s headlines have on innumerable occasions confirmed the maxim that brevity is the soul of wit. With such clarity and punch, delivered with such deadpan subversiveness, it’s easy to fathom how American’s Finest News Source has hooked so many readers who might have otherwise never picked up a newspaper.
In recent months, though, something has felt a little different. And I know it’s not just me. Without prompting, a few people I’ve spoken to have made a similar observation: that The Onion’s headlines have seemed unusually wordy lately. We reasoned that maybe it has to do with the much-publicized editorial shakeup, where a good portion of the writers jumped (or are now jumping) ship following news that the paper was relocating to Chicago. Regardless of the cause, I wanted to confirm my suspicions.
So I spent a stupid amount of time in Google Reader counting all of the words in every single news headline The Onion posted in May and June of this year. I didn’t count any of the videos or opinions pieces or those American Voices features — just the news. Then I did the same thing for the exact same time period in 2011. READ MORE
Researchers worldwide have been conducting many critical studies on the science of comedy this past year, giving hope to all that a cure for cancer will never, ever be found. Here are some of the more extraordinary findings that will forever impact what it means to laugh.
- A study called “The Cultural Currency of a ‘Good’ Sense of Humour” in the British Journal of Sociology found that comedy solidifies the levels of social hierarchy. People with money feel that their highbrow jokes about rich people things make them better than lower-class people, whose humor about everyday things like beer and rocks and arm hair are ”ignorant” and “thick.” Said University of Ediburgh sociologist Sam Friedman: “Far from illustrating crumbing class hierarchies, the increasing popularity of comedy among the middle classes simply shows how the privileged are now using their superior cultural skills to distinguish themselves in pop culture as well as the high arts.” Upon completion of the study, the authors resumed their usual hobby of baiting orphans into rush hour traffic with a dollar on a string. READ MORE
Imagine this scene: Military officials are in a panic over an unauthorized aircraft that is trespassing U.S. airspace in perilous proximity to the New York City skyline. In a last-second decision, dispatched F-16s open fire on the vessel, inflicting sufficient damage to force a crash-landing in the Hudson River. A horrible impact disrupts the water—a gasp of bedlam followed by an eerie silence. From the wreckage come two alien beings, buoying at the water’s surface, the colossal World Trade Center standing triumphantly in the background. Lightning ripples across the black sky, igniting a storm and issuing a warning: You are not welcome.
Surely you’re guessing that this ominous, cinematic description was clipped from a secret screenplay belonging to Hollywood pooh-bah “J.J.” Abrams, but you’re dead wrong! It’s actually the opening scene of Coneheads, a 1993 film featuring the likes of Dan Aykroyd, Chris Farley, still-tolerable Michael Richards, and several hundred SNL players of the time. Critics hated it, dismissing it as a once-amusing television sketch that was unnecessarily brought to the big screen and milked to desiccation. When revisited, though, you get the sense that it’s one of the most bizarre examples of comedic mistiming in film history, a startlingly relevant vivisection of post-9/11 America released a decade too soon. READ MORE
America in the 1800s was mostly lousy. Human beings owned other human beings, a president got shot in the head, everything had syphilis, and the country decided to have a war with itself. Laughs were needed.
From playing Oregon Trail, you’d assume folks got their kicks from shooting dozens of buffalo and engraving cuss words on the tombstones of recently deceased children. Not the case! A myriad of sharp minds were committed to advancing the cause of laughter, as there were popular humor lecture circuits, well-known humorists in all the major newspapers, and joke anthologies stacked high in the book shop(pe)s.
I recently squandered several recreation hours combing many of these anthologies on Google Books, and the experience wasn’t as entertaining as I’d hoped. Perhaps numbed by how the era’s been parodied and caricatured in our newfangled media, I was expecting to discover an exaggerated comic portrait of the time — scientifically misguided logic, cartoonish racism, grizzly old-timers chasing women around saloons, etc. Predictably, much of it was littered with terms like “Negro” and “Jewess” and “Irishmen,” and I suspect a sociologist could make good sport of it all. But really, the majority of what I read was no more exhilarating than the punny, uninspired stuff you’d find in a joke book today. Particularly epidemic was what can best be described as dad humor*. READ MORE