The Sad, Lonely Faces Behind The Onion
Joe Randazzo is the former editor of The Onion, the world's most popular satirical newspaper, as well as former creative director of adultswim.com. Randazzo also performs stand-up and has appeared on NPR's This American Life, PBS's Charlie Rose, and MSNBC's Morning Joe. Randazzo was awarded the Burke Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Public Discourse through the Arts by the College Historical Society of Trinity College Dublin in 2012. He is author of the book <i>Funny on Purpose.</i>
Question: Are your columnist characters written by one editor, or do you take turns?\r\n
Joe Randazzo: They’re written by one person. There have been a couple, such as Smoove B, who is, you know, this kind of romantic lover. That had been written by multiple people, but the torch has been passed on.\r\n
There’s also Jim Anchower, which is written by a writer named Joe Garden. He is the stoner whose car is forever broken down. Jean Teasdale, who was actually originally The Onion’s humor columnist, but she has just kind of got this really depressing suburban life and a loveless marriage, but manages to be chipper throughout it all and even though she is apparently barren is still written by a woman named Maria Schneider, who used to be a staff writer and editor and left a couple of years ago, but we still have her do that column.\r\n
These are so… The columns are so personal and specific that it would be really hard for someone to pick up and take over for someone else after so many years of kind of nuance and layer, and they’re often writing about things from their own life that’s translated into this character, so yeah.\r\n
Question: Do Onion editors’ lives inform their articles?\r\n
Joe Randazzo: I think it informs a great deal. You know, it’s funny. You can sort of pinpoint sometimes in the meeting like oh, so obviously Seth, you watched a lot of Seinfeld over the weekend because all the jokes are about Seinfeld, or TV commercials that you would find during Seinfeld, or if somebody is especially frustrated with their roommate like people in the past will just sort of… You can tell through the headlines that are being pitched you can sort of observe the arc of their relationship with their roommate, so I think because it’s as much these little minor things that occur in daily life, more observation stuff that makes it into the paper as it is big national news events, so definitely people’s biases about say brunch or Aerosmith will make it into headline form and then get pitched at the meeting and if it’s… if we think it’s sort of universally funny enough it will actually make it into the paper, so there is definitely a lot of that.\r\n
Question: Will Herbert Kornfeld return?\r\n
Joe Randazzo: We recently talked about--actually the idea just occurred to me to release like the Kornfeld Papers or something that, you know, some of his old writings that had been unearthed, but we decided to kind of let it be for now. You don’t know. You never know. It might happen at some time, but for us right now Herbert Kornfeld is dead, still the victim of white-on-white violence.
Recorded on November 30, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen
Everything you ever wanted to know about The Onion’s columnist characters, from whether they’re autobiographical to whether Herbert Kornfeld will make a mythical return.
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