Debate Magazine

The Onion and How Comedy Deals with Tragedy (Or Not)

By Humorinamerica @HumorInAmerica

The most famous edition of the satirical newspaper The Onion has to be its 9/11 edition. That issue was also the first that they published after relocating from Madison, Wisconsin, to New York City. The headlines were shocking to a nation that had not yet returned to its usual fare of late night shtick or our then-new love of “reality” television. (Survivor premiered the year before and American Idol began the year after.)

The Onion writers, however, did not leap into addressing the attack with abandon. According to Onion John Krewson, the humorists were stymied until one of them suggested the headline “America Turns into a Bad Jerry Bruckheimer Film,” after which the dam burst and they felt capable of turning a comic eye on a national tragedy.

The Onion 9_11 cover

Knowing this, should we be surprised that The Onion has already covered the horror of the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre? Here is a snippet from an article they published on Friday, the very day of the shootings.

The Onion on Newtown

As with 9/11, The Onion attempts to signal their understanding of the seriousness of the situation by employing epithets. Still, there are multiple ways in which The Onion’s response to Newtown differs from their earlier response to 9/11. For one, the fact that the Newtown victims were predominantly children makes for a greater risk of looking like one is taking a light-hearted perspective on the heavy-hearted matter. In addition, The Onion’s response to 9/11 came from New York City itself. And finally, there is the fact of timing. Remember, The Onion actually cancelled the print edition originally scheduled for 9/11, and they issued the above headlines in late September. In today’s online news world, The Onion could respond within hours.

 It is generally understood that it takes time to address tragic events with a comic perspective. Saturday Night Live acknowledged the difficulty of joking in the immediate aftermath by transforming their traditional cold opening into a more heartfelt show.

For two minutes, the comedians were asked to stay off of the stage.

It’s a dilemma. Humor is often employed to address the more taboo sides of society, and to deal with the most painful of events. But how quickly, and in what manner?

The phrase “comedy is tragedy plus time” is so well-known that it’s actually difficult to establish who first coined the phrase. It has been attributed to Steve Allen and to Carol Burnett alike. Alan Alda’s character Lester utters the phrase in Woody Allen’s 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors, which has led some to credit Allen himself with the utterance. The Associated Press quotes an Irish comedian who states confidently that the original observer of the phrase was stand-up stand-up legend Lenny Bruce. And why not? Bruce was one of the bravest when it came to applying the comedic arts to tragic events. After President Kennedy was killed, Bruce started his next show by sighing, “Poor [Kennedy impersonator] Vaughn Meader.”

I don’t think the aphorism applies to the Newtown horror proper, in that the massacre itself obviously won’t become a major subject of mirth for mainstream humorists. It is a different matter when one considers the larger societal problems surrounding the massacre itself. Lax gun laws and excessive media violence may be satirized, and satirized soon. In fact, along with the proper expressions of anger and mourning, it has become more likely that humor (and The Onion) will address these very serious problems to a greater extent than it has thus far. Not because they are trivial issues, but precisely because they are so heavy.


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • How To Style Your Shorts in 10 Unique Ways

    Style Your Shorts Unique Ways

    Summers are here and they are in full swing, all we want to do is chill by the beach side. While all of us can’t hit the beach, yet we can definitely bring beac... Read more

    11 hours, 20 minutes ago by   Dreamtechie
    LIFESTYLE
  • Monday Miscellany: Shoes, Shows And Friends

    Monday Miscellany: Shoes, Shows Friends

    The last several weeks have been such a whirlwind of activity, so this weekend I’ve been giving myself the gift of some “down time.” Playing a bit of catch-up... Read more

    11 hours, 24 minutes ago by   Unefemme
    LIFESTYLE
  • Nine Steps to Using a Paddling Pool

    Nine Steps Using Paddling Pool

    Sometimes, you just gotta cool down. These last few days it's been really quite warm, so we've had the paddling pool out for my son to play in. Read more

    11 hours, 34 minutes ago by   Ravenswingthog
    DIARIES, SELF EXPRESSION
  • Catrice Long-lasting Waterproof Eye Pencil Review

    Catrice Long-lasting Waterproof Pencil Review

    Hey everyone, what’s up? An eye-pencil is a must have in your vanity. That’s why I love trying out new brands every now and then. Today, I’m going to review... Read more

    12 hours, 2 minutes ago by   Jhilmil D Saha
    HAIR & BEAUTY
  • The Edge

    Edge

    While vacationing at an Alaskan lodge during a photo shoot, a pragmatic, solitary billionaire (Anthony Hopkins)--with a steel trap mind when it comes to... Read more

    12 hours, 3 minutes ago by   Kaiser31083
    ENTERTAINMENT, MOVIES
  • Mike Philbin - Art - Twin Towers 1, 2 and 7

    Mike Philbin Twin Towers

    This most-recent tryptich has a title of "Twin Towers 1, 2 and 7", an obvious and unsubtle allusion to a) the twin towers or pillars of freemasonic egyptologica... Read more

    12 hours, 7 minutes ago by   Freeplanet
    DEBATE, SOCIETY
  • Find a Travel Buddy with Ease and Make Solo Traveling Even Better

    Find Travel Buddy with Ease Make Solo Traveling Even Better

    Traveling solo as a woman has so many advantages. You can go where you wish, keep to your own schedule and spend some times really getting to know yourself. Read more

    12 hours, 38 minutes ago by   Poundtravel
    TRAVEL

Magazines