From SF Gate
February 2, 2005
By Beth Lisick
Every last person had finally been squeezed into the sold-out Cobb’s Comedy Club, though a young waif in tears was still out on the sidewalk, when a special kind of relief took hold. Comedy clubs can be uncomfortable, anxiety-producing places. You know you’re going there to laugh, but you also know the best laughing usually happens when you’re not expecting it. This was an ideal situation. The S.F. Sketchfest was hosting an onstage chat between Dave Eggers and the staff of the popular real-world and online humor publication The Onion . These people work really hard to be funny in print. It wasn’t fair to expect them to kick too much ass live.
What ended up happening, however, was a nonstop laughatronic evening. After some initial chitchat about how the paper started as a “coupon-delivery system” that was filling the “fake-tabloid void” in Madison, Wis., the four Onion staffers let it rip. They barely seemed to be censoring themselves, tossing off remarks about gays, Jews, “retards” and abducted children, while Eggers, deft at deflecting attention from himself, proved to be the perfect foil.
“Shouldn’t you say ‘retarded’ or ‘developmentally disabled’?” Eggers asked at one point.
For over an hour, they dished on all the insidery things about The Onion that people came to hear. We heard recitals of letters by duped, outraged citizens who believe homosexuals really do have an organized recruitment system, an anecdote about a paper in Beijing re-running an Onion gem about Congress threatening to relocate if a retractable roof is not installed in the Capitol building and the scoop on what the staff meetings are really like: how dothey pick which headlines get printed, anyway?
“It’s not like you actually laugh anymore,” Kolb said. “It starts to become you saying, ‘Huh. OK. I’d laugh at that.’”
There was a pause, and then an Onion staffer countered, “Yeah, well you can’t sell a copy of our thing for five hundred bucks on eBay!”
Onion Graphics Editor Mike Loew said one of the questions The Onion is always asked is how they find people willing to pose for the photos accompanying articles with headlines like “Women: Why Don’t They Lose Some Weight?” or “Coalition of Developmentally Disabled Adults Demand Trip to McDonald’s.” Lucky for audience members wanting to get a foot in the door of the expanding faux-media world, he invited all willing participants onto the stage after the show to get their pictures taken for future stories.
And now that The Onion will finally be available free on San Francisco streets, you’ll want to look at those photographs even more carefully: you might recognize somebody.