The project will be a book titled Satire at the End of the World: An Oral History of the Onion, which will be published by Running Press in Sept 2024. I am a writer & editor who was on the original staff of the Onion as a UW-Madison undergrad & later went on to become an award-winning public historian. The book tells the story of the Onion's creation by a group of UW-Madison students in the 80s-90s; the development of its distinctive, hilarious, and brilliant satiric voice; and its subsequent rise to fame and influence in the 1990s-2000s.
By interviewing media and journalism scholars, as well as comedy people and journalists, alongside former Onion staffers, I also place the Onion's story in the context of late 20th-early 21st century American news media, comedy, and culture. I also place the Onion within the history of "fake news" in the 21st century, discuss satire's function as social criticism (especially in the 90s-2000s), and ask how satire changes when consensus reality no longer exists. The book's main narrative ends in 2013, soon after the editorial move from NYC to Chicago, when the paper edition ended and the Onion became a website only. A final chapter takes the Onion's story up to the present day.
*** This project has been funded in memory of Chuck Kite, a comedy connoisseur who loved to make people laugh. Chuck was a longtime follower and fan of The Onion. ***
Funded by Chicago, IL (January 2023)