As Stephen Colbert or any great satirist will tell you, a key to satire is to always stay in character. In The Onion’s case, that “character” is an absurd, alternative world invented to comment on the real one. Every aspect of the fake world has to ring true for the trick to work. That includes the visuals. When nothing you publish is real, every single image has to be made from scratch. “We want to make sure that we’re making our Onion-world fully realized and very real,” says Ben Berkley, managing editor of The Onion. It’s all in service of the joke.
As part of The Onion’s ongoing quest to satire the inanity of culture and media, the fake-news site has tapped an arena that might be unknown to those outside the TV and advertising industries, but is ripe for parody. This week, The Onion’s YouTube channel features a fake Upfront presentation reel for the Onion Digital Studios, or as they call it, “the Number One Network in the World.”
At this point, we’ve all watched our shares of TED Talks, and have been inspired by the outside-the-box thinking that the speakers throw at us. Washing machines are the greatest invention ever! Schools kill creativity! They’re ideas that seem both so simple and yet so revolutionary, and they spread like wildfire.
Lately, though, there have been some cracks in the facade of the genius of TED’s speakers. The main gist of the criticism is that turning ideas into an industry is potentially problematic: Empty ideas that have no tangible effects aren’t usually worth so much. In launching a new series of Onion Talks, The Onion has taken this issue and turned it into comedic gold.
After Chicago-based “The Onion” folded its New York offices, staffers who stayed behind needed a new gig. Now, they’ve teamed up with Adult Swim to form Thing X, a digital comedy hub that satirizes every aspect of the internet.
"It’s irresponsible not to use the tools of the day," he charges. "People say, Oh, if I master Twitter, I’ve got it figured out. That’s right, but it’s also so wrong. If you master those things and stop, you’re just going to get killed by the next thing. Flexibility of skills leads to flexibility of options. To see what you can’t see coming, you’ve got to embrace larger principles."