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The Onion's Front Pages
Detail from a front page of The Onion, as featured in the new book "Our Front Pages" (simonandschuster.com).

Detail from a front page of The Onion, as featured in "Our Front Pages" (simonandschuster.com).

For two decades and counting now, the satirical news source The Onion has been churning out the headlines that make you laugh or cry or both.

“Amish Give Up.” “Inner Cities to Receive Soothing Heroin.” “Cheney Vows to Attack U.S. If Kerry Elected.” “God Outdoes Terrorists.”

And, the day after last year’s presidential election: “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job.”

Oh, my.

It all started as a college humor paper in Madison, Wisconsin. Now, it’s everywhere.

This hour, On Point: Hot headlines and the truth in bleak humor. We’ll peel back The Onion.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

Joining us from New York is Joe Garden, features editor for The Onion. He joined the staff in 1993, after dropping out of the University of Wisconsin, when the paper was still produced out of Madison. The Onion’s new book is “Our Front Pages: 21 Years of Greatness, Virtue, and Moral Rectitude From America’s Finest News Source.”

Also from New York we’re joined by Seth Reiss, a staff writer for The Onion. He’s been on staff for three years, at the New York base The Onion has had since 2001.

From Pasadena, Calif., we’re joined by Robert Niles, editor at the Online Journalism Review, published by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

And with us in our studio is star On Point intern Suzanne Merkelson, late, great editor-in-chief of The Colby Echo in Waterville, Maine.

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  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    I’ve been reading the Onion for years and their “new” video productions are first rate.

    And, the Onion is timely:

    “U.S. Deports Lou Dobbs
    CNN Host Had Been Living Illegally In Country Since 1961″

    Perfect!

  • Dennis Kerr

    The Onion staff have a great sense of humor and a wonderful brainstorming scheme. I enjoy it alot. Sometimes when I type it in at work, there is a piece that makes fun of Presidents Bush or Obama. They often make great points for discussion.

    But, I can’t trust them enough to type theonion.com at work. The worst case is when they make light of child porn and sexual abuse. I am already upset that I have to work through that to get to the rest of the site. But if somebody at their job typed it in on their web browser, they could get in real trouble and lose their job.

    If they could ramp up their creativity engine, and split the site and have one that is for safe harbor, that could be helpful.

  • Kathe Roth

    I subscribe to both NPR’s and the Onion’s pages on Facebook. Yesterday afternoon’s Onion headline: “U.S. deports Lou Dobbs.” This morning’s NPR headline: Host Lou Dobbs to Leave CNN.” Coincidence, or … scoop by the Onion?!

  • Rex Henry

    Area man still reads the onion

  • Joe in Boston

    Tom:

    No denying that this whole model owes its existence to the Onion, but others have not been able to remain even-handed (i.e, Stewart and Colbert) and to avoid the trap of being satirical without becoming angry or nihilistic (i.e, Maher and Lewis Black).

    The Onion is the original and still the best!

    Joe

  • Len Towers

    “Nation’s Educators Alarmed By Poorly Written Teen Suicide Notes”

  • Richard from FL

    As a graduate of UW-zero, (Oshkosh) geography, I have forever appreciated the Onion’s full scale fold out map of the world.

    Go Onion.

  • Harris

    Favorite headline: “White Men Excited By Release of Windows 98″

  • Mitch

    56 year old man dreams of writing for the Onion.

    Mitch Rothenberg, a 56 year old Cambridge resident prefaces all of his jokes with “there should be an Onion article. . . . Rothenberg tells the Onion that he “is very funny”….

  • Brian Tucker

    “Man Bitten by Radioactive Sloth: Does Lying Around All Day of Ten Men”

    I’ve had it on my fridge for 6 years and laugh at it every day.

  • Kenny

    Can we hear more about the political significance of The Onion and question the effectiveness of the medium as a “waking up call” to the sleepy masses? Does such a medium play a role in transforming our capitalist society?

  • http://bethbedarddesign.com Beth Bedard

    My favorite Onion article is thumbtacked to my office cubicle: “Cheney Dunk Tank Raises $800 Billion” with a lovely photo of cheney sitting on a dunk tank. Priceless.

  • Mike Arnott

    My Favorites???
    “Kuwait Deploys Troop”
    “Rebels Regret Seizing Power in (???)”

    BITING humor(?) in “Our Dumb World” Atlas

  • Mitch

    Area man thinks he’s funny.

  • jack

    “US Deports Lou Dobbs” LOL!!!!

    Thanks for doing this show, Tom. The Onion loosens us up, reminding life is not all doom & gloom.

    As someone raised on Mad Magazine, it was a natural for me to embrace The Onion.

    Can your guests discuss their regular columnists and features.

    Love The Onion,
    :)

  • Mitch

    Area man still thinks he’s funny.

  • Anita

    My favorite is:

    World Death Rate Holding Steady at 100 Percent.

  • Bryan

    As a New York transplant from Madison, Wisconsin, I couldn’t be more proud of the Onion. Latest favorite, Man Dies after Secret 4-Year Battle with Gorilla. GREAT SHOW!

  • Laura

    My favorite Onion headlines ever:
    - Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over’
    March 2001
    - Obama : Black Guy Asks Nation For Change
    March 19, 2008

    Also, on the Onion website, there are links to CNN, Slate, Washington Post… What’s up with that?

    Laura

  • http://notestaff.livejournal.com/14376.html Ilya Shlyakhter

    I’m keeping a running list of actual news headlines predicted by The Onion:
    http://notestaff.livejournal.com/14376.html

    e.g.
    The Onion (4-8-98): “Hippocratic Oath ‘Under Review’ By HMO Board”
    BBC (6-9-98): ‘I have a duty to treat you – if I can afford it’

    Everyone is welcome to contribute!

  • Fahy Bygate (fay)

    Hello, I love The Onion. My favorite headline read: “Judge denies plea by shooting suspect.

  • Ted Weatherred

    The Onion all too often is predictive rather than satirical. One article in particular that is constantly referenced on the internet is the”Five Blade” headline about razors:
    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33930

    Also, what happened to the Easter cards from a few years ago?

  • Sam Burton

    My favorite is “Tommy Franks Quits Army to Pursue Solo Bombing Projects”. After the first absurdist laugh, you realize that underneath there is a comment being made about a war fought by private contractors.

  • Mitch

    Area man threatens to kill self if submissions not read over radio.

  • Steve

    I’m looking at an Onion paper from 1993 when I was at school in Madison. I looked forward to each issue. They have always been able to help all of us, whether in the mainstream or fringe, on the left or right, see how idiotic we look and act.

  • Clinton

    “Earthquake sets Japan back to 2142″

    love it

  • jack

    “Creationists Scientists Refute Theory of Gravity”

  • Ezra Parzybok

    You haven’t mentioned on-air about The Onion’s amazing point of view pieces of inanimate objects. My favorite something to the effect of: “Area traffic Cone not going to take it anymore.”

  • Margaret

    I’m from Madison originally. Why did The Onion dump Madison for hot-shot East Coast location?

    Margaret

  • patteran

    Under “Local,” a photo of a plant pot with one stalk in the middle. Headline: “Plant Died Because of YOU.”

  • Hank

    I hate this show. It’s totally ruining an otherwise perfectly good hour I could have wasted reading The Onion online.

  • George Mack

    “Organic Sex Diet
    Cures Cancer,
    Martian Scientists Reveal”

    “Onion Staffers Aghast
    At Shrinking Foolishness in the Universe”

  • Marcus

    My favorite is “Professor sees parallels between things, other things”

  • Chuck Latovich

    Liked a recent video that indicated A Victim of Fatal Accident was Tragically Not Glenn Beck

  • ralphie

    Was looking forward to this show, but if there was ever any doubt about the host being a pompous a**, this proved it. Too often he had no clue what the joke was, or took offense. No wonder I rarely listen to this show.

  • Ed

    My favorites:
    1. Secretary of State Visits Totally F#&@ed Up Country (the article was perfect)
    2. You Want a Piece of Me? (An editorial by a cake)
    3. Point/Counterpoint: I Want to Be a Fireman When I Grow Up (by a little girl) vs. I want to Be a Six Year Old Girl (by a fireman)
    4. Clinton Deploys Very Special Forces to Yugoslavia (the picture of the “short” C-130 hurt me)

    Their moon-landing headline in “Our Dumb Century” nearly got me kicked off an airplane, I was laughing so hard.

  • Bill Liteplo

    My favorite section is “American Voices”, formerly called “What Do You Think?”: humorous lines on real news stories.

    My favorite comment was for “Microsoft Launches New Search Engine”
    – “Finally a search engine for the Zune age!”

    Genious!

    http://www.theonion.com/content/amvo/microsoft_launches_new_search

  • Nelson

    The Onion makes me laugh then feel bad that I did as in:

    “Area Nursing Home Patient Looking Forward to Going Home Today, Again!”

  • George

    Much crisper than Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, Douglas Adams or Kurt Vonnegut …

  • Megan Quinlan

    My favorite articles: “fritolaysia Cuts Off Chiplomatic Relations with Snackistan” and “NY Philharmonic to Offer Open Mic Night”

  • http://imediasmith.com Greg Smith

    My favorite headline, which I saw early in the primary campaign:
    “Black Man Asks Americans for Change.”

    I thought it was wonderful, summing up the whole silliness of racial politics and stereotypes by subtle implication.

  • Jessica

    Hey Tom! I actually went to BU with Seth and we did a program together at the College of Communications called “peer advising,” in which we helped freshmen majoring in journalism, PR, film and advertising adjust to life at BU. So if you believe it, Seth had an even more direct line in corrupting young minds and hearts. :)

  • patteran

    Wait, no paeans for Don Turnbee, area man?

  • patteran

    “Man Dies After Long and Painful Battle With Life.”

  • Glenn

    My favorite:
    “Man finally put in charge of struggling women’s movement.”

  • Kash Hoffa

    I love Vidalia Onions!

  • patteran

    “Why Somebody Always Around Every Time I Drop My Baby?” and any of Amber Richardson’s other columns.

    This isn’t a headline, but I’ll always cherish the lede from “P.S. I Love You,” Jean Teasdale’s column about the death of Patrick Swayze:

    “So where were you on the night of Sept. 14, when you first heard the news? Were you, like me, sitting at the kitchen table watching E! and building a church out of foam board for your pig bride-and-groom salt-and-pepper shakers?”

  • patteran

    All the headlines on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are brilliant, but my favorite, the one that really says it all, is “Arabs, Israelis Sign ‘Screw Peace’ Accord.”

    And I can’t resist a pitch: “A**hole Only A**hole Because of Other A**holes.” (Drives an SUV to protect self from crashes with other SUVs, “redshirts” the kids because everyone else is, builds a huge McMansion on top of hill so that no one can build a house that looms over his, and it’s why he originally “went for the money” as a hedge fund manager, etc.)

  • Whoah

    “But if somebody at their job typed it in on their web browser, they could get in real trouble and lose their job.”

    Dennis, where do you work that you can get in trouble for reading the Onion? I’d like to know so I can never take a job there.

  • Twitter this

    Liked a recent video that indicated A Victim of Fatal Accident was Tragically Not Rachel Maddow

  • ana

    Fat guy mistakenly thought of as strong.

    College grad hopes to turn love of data-entry into career.

    There was a small stock graph saying something like: Exxon’s stock price surges as investors realize something everyone needs is a pretty safe bet.

  • Mark

    Brings back memories of sitting in class in Madison reading the Badger Herald, Daily Cardinal and of course The Onion! Not surprised that The Onion has done so well.

  • Meredith

    I remember the first Onion headline I ever saw: Area 15-year-old only homosexual in entire world.

  • Tom Byers

    NEWS FLASH: Ninjas, Unicorns Call for Onion Boycott

  • Phil

    Hi. My friends and I were smitten when _The Onion_ first came out, and I suppose we still are. We had a good reason: We had multiple underground newspapers when we were in college, and at one point created rival fake underground papers to carry on arcane disputes between academic departments. _The Onion_ relieves us of the requirement to produce this stuff ourselves, and we are very grateful for that. It makes the trip past the newspaper boxes exceptionally and diabolically enjoyable!

    Phil

    PS I have to stop writing this while you are reviewing your headlines or I will injure myself. Grr.

  • Mike

    I’ve been reading The Onion since about 1991. My favorite headline/article is, and always has been, the editorial: “Why Can’t I Sell Any Of These F%$&*ing Bibles?” That, and the entirety of the book “Our Dumb Century” :-)

  • Danny

    Two favorites come to mind:

    “Area Wildcat a Real Wildcat in the Sack” (with a picture of a bobcat).

    “Bargain Hunter Becomes Bargain Hunted”.

  • msoeden

    Marathon Runner Tests Positive for Performance Enhancing Horse

    HA!

  • Mark S.

    (image of adorable kitty staring at camera with that vacuous stare that only cats can achieve)

    “KITTEN THINKS OF NOTHING BUT MURDER ALL DAY”

    I don’t know why that was so funny, but every time I think of it I crack up.

  • Rob L.

    My all-time favorite headline: “New device developed that turns grass into meat.”

  • Tax Dollars At Play

    We all remember the TV show “Roots” could this have been the real inspiration for AmeriChoice Health. The 101 Dumbest Moments In Business 2003 EDITION Whiffed pitch No. 6: blatant stereotyping. By Mark Athitakis April 1, 2003 (Business 2.0)– GRAND PRIZE WINNER, DUMBEST MOMENT OF 2002
    In September, insurance company AmeriChoice brings trucks to blighted neighborhoods in New York City and gives away coupons for free chickens as an incentive for the underprivileged to switch their Medicare coverage. New York state senator Carl Kruger files a complaint with the state attorney general. The 101 Dumbest Moments In Business 2003 EDITION – April 1, 2003 Apr 1, 2003 … Just don’t tell him about the “Chinese health balls.” ….. In September, insurance company AmeriChoice brings trucks to blighted … New York state senator Carl Kruger files a complaint with the state attorney general….. Falling on his sword, Welch announces he’ll give up most of the perks,…

    2009 and 2010 $120,000 from your tax dollars at work
    Philadelphia PA Mayor Nutter received two years in a row $60,000 checks to help keep open and operate the city swimming pools. These checks came from AmeriChoice Health and on the surface seems like fine gifts. Yet, they are Bribes non the less, these checks come from a company who receives all its money from the Federal State Governments as a vendor for Medicare Medicaid services is not allowed to offer bribes kickbacks and money gifts of any kind in order to promote its share of the market place. This is also not allowed as a use of your taxpayers dollars yet it happens.What does it really cost the City of Philadelphia to receive this money? Americhoice Health has a long history of corruption over the years yet seems to be protected by those who are responsible to over see their actions why is that? Sorry must apologize just received a notice that AmeriChoice Health was under the impression they thought they were suppose to have started their very own stimulus and economic program package and the one they implemented, they had no idea it violated all the Stark ,Health and Kickbacks laws. Some one will have to notify the following departments it was all a mistake or error in judgement, the Department of Justice, CMS, Dept of health and Human resourses,the FBI,and IRS, and any other agency effected by this tragedy or unfortunate misunderstanding. No harm, no fowl, forgive and forget, OK, then how about some coupons for a free whole fried chicken…..

    Among its provisions, the anti-kickback statute penalizes anyone who knowingly and willfully solicits, receives, offers or pays remuneration in cash or in kind to induce, or in return for: A. Referring an individual to a person for the furnishing, or arranging for the furnishing, of any item or service payable under the Medicare or Medicaid program; or B. Purchasing, leasing or ordering , or arranging for or recommending purchasing, leasing or ordering, any goods, facility, service or item payable under the Medicare or Medicaid program. Violators are subject to criminal penalties, or exclusion from participation in the Medicare and Medicaid rograms, or both. A violation of the anti-kickback law is a felony offense that carries criminal fines of up to $25,000 per violation, imprisonment for up to five years and exclusion from government health care programs.The federal anti-kickback statute, 42 U.S.C.§ 1320a-7b(b), prohibits individuals or entities from knowingly and willfully offering, paying, soliciting or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, Medicaid or any other federally funded program.

    If this were any one person not a corporation they would be in jail now, if the FBI were called in on this matter they would be in jail now, if the IRS were notified they would be in jail now. Since all Ameri-Choice checks come from the United Health’s home office they should be held equally responsible for any bribes, kickbacks, Stark, Fraud and inducements violations that have occured. Federal and State Governments have developed such a depended position with this company that laws and rules no longer apply for them.This role is nothing new for the AmeriChoice people and its been going on for years, look at some of the prior news articles that date back for years only now they can afford to hire the best of Law firms and give the most for Political contributations all on the back of the taxpayer. Sure the Laws have become tighter but you can still dance away their problems.

    Three years ago they were reported to these Federal agency’s and as of todays date not only were they allowed to continue doing business but were never charged once. Protected vendor status sure, politics sure,limited government budgets sure, Federal and State officals looking the other way sure, and rather then stop these activities a strong desire not to rock the boat existed. Even with the vast changes in the laws and budgets,a hands off policy remains, you tell me what’s wrong with this picture? The Government created this monster and now they don’t know what to do about it, like shooting yourself in your own foot etc. Tons of money to advance their national growth, its market positions, tons of money for political donations, tons of money to send 75 millon back to its home office from New York state alone, tons of money to suppot National TV shows, tons of money to pay hugh State fines, tons of money to hire the very best law firms, tons of money to pay for bribes and kickbacks, tons of money for hugh salarys and bonuses, all done on the back of the American taxpayor, you see this company receives all its money from the Federal government. Should your tax dollars be held to a higher standard? Should the government agencys responsible for there review be held to that same standard?Should the IRS audit their corruption? Why has this company not been charged? How long can the buck be passed here in more ways then one? Hey, it’s your tax dollars don’t complain now then don’t complain later.tax dollars for bribes // Oct 6, 2010 at 8:57 am

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