The death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has put the Onion in a difficult position, as the satiric news magazine struggles to remain irreverent without being insensitive.
How expertly it has walked that fine line is up for debate.
Though Jobs’ death has inspired an outpouring of grief from fans of iProducts the world over, the Onion hasn’t shied away from adding its own spin to the mass-appreciations and tributes to the beloved tech giant.
Headlines for videos and articles on the Onion carry such doozies as “Last Bastion of U.S. Economy Succumbs to Pancreatic Cancer,” “Apple User Acting Like His Dad Died” and “Last American Who Knew What the Fuck He Was Doing Dies.”
Most provocative of all is a web video entitled “Apple Announces Plans to Release Steve Jobs 2.0”
In many ways, the jokes inside are relatively tame, leaving most of the shock humor to the titles.
Among the flaws that Jobs 2.0 is supposed to fix, for instance, is the old Jobs habit of wearing “dad jeans.” The fresher model will sport a “sleek new white turtleneck” and a “richer, deeper voice.”
That hasn’t stopped some from failing to find the humor in the Onion’s Jobs jokes. Business Insider CEO and Editor-in-Chief Henry Blodget slammed the piece.
Others, such as the New Yorker, have also tried to inject a little levity into Jobs’ passing. The cover of this week’s magazine has Jobs being greeted at the pearly gates by an iPad wielding St. Peter, but that kind of humor is more aggrandizing than it is savage.
It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last, that the Onion has found itself in the position of trying to be funny about a tragic event. After all, their first New York issue after the company moved from Madison, Wisconsin to the big apple was originally scheduled to be published on September 11, 2001.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 pushed that date back, but even as the country was still reeling from the carnage, the Onion’s editors still managed to find the funny. Among the now classic headlines — “Highjackers Surprised to Find Selves in Hell.”
Looking back on it nearly a decade later, Onion writer John Krewson told Yahoo that the issue was “cathartic."
Jobs death certainly isn’t on the scale of 9/11, but the makeshift memorials at Apple stores and the tributes that flooded Facebook and Twitter demonstrate that people across the globe felt a deep kinship with him.
Will the Onion prove that laughter is the best medicine for grief?