An Etiology of Snark
Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 on NPR, is a journalist and the author of the novels Hey Day, Turn of the Century, The Real Thing, and his latest non-fiction book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. He has written and produced prime-time network television programs and pilots for NBC and ABC, and co-authored Loose Lips, an off-Broadway theatrical revue that had long runs in New York and Los Angeles. He is a regular columnist for New York Magazine, and contributes frequently to Vanity Fair. He is also a founder of Very Short List.
Andersen began his career in journalism at NBC's Today program and at Time, where he was an award-winning writer on politics and criminal justice and for eight years the magazine's architecture and design critic. Returning to Time in 1993 as editor-at-large, he wrote a weekly column on culture. And from 1996 through 1999 he was a staff writer and columnist for The New Yorker. He was a co-founder of Inside.com, editorial director of Colors magazine, and editor-in-chief of both New York and Spy magazines, the latter of which he also co-founded.
From 2004 through 2008 he wrote a column called "The Imperial City" for New York (one of which is included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2008). In 2008 Forbes. com named him one of The 25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media. Anderson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, and is a member of the boards of trustees of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Pratt Institute, and is currently Visionary in Residence at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He lives with his family in New York City.
Kurt Andersen: I would say that the impact in the 15 to 20 year retrospect that Spy magazine had is not insignificant; but it was part of a wave of irony and satire that came on generational wave of baby boomers growing up that softened the ground for all kinds of things; from to The Onion to The Daily Show that you see today in a kind of general satirical impulse online and elsewhere.
I can't quantify it, and I can't say Spy exactly led to this. But it seems clear to me that we were one of the entities that softened up the ground for what became a kind “satire explosion," if you will, these days. I think Spy magazine, not single-handedly, but helped changed journalism.
We were doing Spy the same time that Maureen Dowd, as a reporter at the Times, was starting to do political reporting with a real sharp edge and sense of humor. And other people were doing that as well. The David Letterman Show was brand new, and that sensibility began morphing into journalism as well. So I think, to a lesser or a greater degree a bit of satirical sensibility.
Recorded On: July 5, 2007
Kurt Andersen discusses an etiology of snark. He talks about the impact of Spy Magazine, which he founded with Graydon Carter, on current media.
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