Peeling the Onion

USA Today, Tomorrow the World: Inside the only humor publication that matters

Well, like the self-smitten villain in a James Bond movie, he can't help showing off Figure 15, which features parallel rows of icons shaped like a three-tiered wedding cake. Each icon represents a city. On the top row are New York, Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Chicago. Below those are another dozen or so cities: Austin, Indianapolis, Seattle. One day, maybe, all these cities will have their own edition of the Onion! The top row will be controlled by the Onion Inc., the lower files farmed out...

And there will be a half-dozen new positions to fill. Soon! A marketing director just to start, and... Wait, Rob Siegel says. We want the readers, sure. An Onion in every pot, so to speak. But isn't the product speaking for itself? Have you seen the reviews? If all we want to do is send out coffee mugs, he continues, we could get a minimum-wage grunt for that. Or an intern, or a chimpanzee.

"Am I going to market the Onion like an asshole?" Pony Tail Publisher asks, then. "Just answer that."

"No, but..."

"No, I'm not. But we've got to grow. We can't wait around any longer. I'm not going to wait."

End of conversation. A highly atypical conversation too, really it was, everyone goes to some lengths to point out immediately after. And for the next four days, too, this mantra, what a strange meeting, circulates around the office, adding to the Buzz.

The gist of the Buzz is that with all the money that's obviously floating out there to colonize the idiot continent that is cyberspace--well, maybe someone will drop a few million on this little paper in Madison and...

4. Cape Canaveral to Tom Bosley: We're Not Reading You...

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 12, 6:42 P.M.

Partial transcript of cover-story rehash, the Onion Volume 31, Issue 6.

In attendance: Scott Dikkers (SD), Editor in Chief; Robert Siegel (RS), Senior Editor; John Krewson (JK), Assistant Editor; Todd Hanson (TH), Head Writer.

RS: ... and it's not that the Tom Bosley isn't written well. It's just not working.

JK: ... the line "this adequate, adequate actor" is the only funny part...

TH: People know who Tom Bosley is. He's Mr. Cunningham. Hi! I'm Tom Bosley for Glad Trash Bags.

SD: I don't think anyone else is going to be appreciably funnier.

TH: How about Fred Dryer. I got him off your celebrity list, Rob.

"Satellite to Monitor T.V.'s Hunter." We've wanted to use the phrase "T.V.'s Hunter" for months. T.V.'s Hunter! That's funny!

RS: It doesn't do much for me. As long as we're going to do this for the cover, we might as well choose someone who's inherently funny.

TH: Wait! This is going to be our lead story? Oh man... This is going to be a shitty issue.

RS: Shut up.

JK: How about Norman Fell.

TH: Norman Fell is hilarious!

RS: ... eghhhh.

SD: I have to say something...

RS: I know...

SD: I know you know, but I have to say it anyway. And that's that we've been thinking about this all week, and the reader is going to look at it for maybe four seconds, laugh, and then move on.

RS: Understood. I'm trying to take that into account.

SD: I'm glad you're trying to take that into account.

TH: Who else is on that list? Tom Skerritt... Ned Beatty... Markie Post. I like the name Markie Post. Leslie Uggams... Leslie Uggams! Kizzy from Roots. Plus all the televised singing specials.

JK: Leslie Uggams is good.

SD: I still like Tom Bosley.

TH: Lee Horsley! T.V.'s Matt Houston. That works, Rob.

SD: No one's thought of Lee Horsley in years.

TH: Lee Horsley is great! Look at Rob... just look at him. He's killing it.

RS: No. I'm just making my trademark slow acceptance...

5. Is it Memorex... or is it Memorex?

THE ONION WRITER'S ROOM IS LIKE the messiest dormitory lounge... maybe ever. Start with the furniture: an orange bean bag that looks like it might start hemorrhaging polyurethane pellets any minute; a futon with its footless frame suspended across stacks of Onion back issues; a freestanding car seat with high-pile velour-analog covering, possibly from a minivan of Dodge or Chrysler make.

The walls are covered with posters and magazine photos, mostly ironic--or "ironic," even, somewhere past camp and irony, yet still an incalculable distance from anything that might ever pass for sincerity. The western wall (labelled "The Wall of Chimp") is given over in whole to publicity stills of Hollywood's lovable simians. Opposite that is a leotard shot of Farrah Fawcett, pre-Burning Bed era, with an index card addendum that reads: "Don't set me on fire." Even the western-exposure windows are shaded, taped over with browned paper... blocking what all solar indications suggest might be some panoramic, near-beautiful crepuscule.

But then those evening hours are when head writer Todd Hanson is first getting started. First waking up, often enough. Typing on the DinoMac below the flammable Fawcett. Sucking down strawberry Quik. Plowing through a bag of generic-brand Fig Newtons. Todd Hanson is not only nocturnal. They say he actually fears the "surface dwellers."

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