“If you see us interviewing a mother who had 300 children and you take that to be completely true, that’s your issue”
You read it, you loved it, you laughed till you cried. Dry those tears just in time for “The Onion News Network’s" TV premiere Friday night on IFC. You’ll want to know about Kim Jong-Il closing North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for the lead role in the “The Dark Knight Rises.” And what happens when a predator drone stands trial in a military court?
Anchor Suzanne Sena, late of Fox News, executive producer Will Graham and head writer Carol Kolb sat down with TheWrap to get to the bottom of things.
Suzanne, what’s the funniest thing you ever saw at Fox?
Suzanne Sena: Oh my goodness, if you google Shepard Smith, J.Lo and blowjob, you might find one of the funniest things that ever happened on Fox. I’m sorry, Shep.
Some people might take what you do for real news. Is that a concern?
Will Graham: That’s happened over and over again throughout The Onion’s history. We did an article last year about Neil Armstrong, in which we said the moon landing was a hoax. All these papers in Bangladesh picked it up as real news.
One of the first videos that ever did online was about a panda that wanted to get an abortion because life in the zoo was so horrible. PETA posted it on a blog and the comment from one of the PETA readers said, “Oh my God, that is so sad and I had no idea that pandas can talk.”
The threshold of believability for people is so high now. I don’t think it’s our goal to confuse people, but we certainly don’t mind.
So, what percentage of the public might believe it?
SS (pictured at right): If you see us interviewing a mother who had 300 children and you take that to be completely true, that’s your issue. But I think our viewers are extremely intelligent — and you have to be to keep up with the news with us.
Is there a danger that real cable news will overtake you in hilarity?
SS: The lines get blurred. Many people question whether Fox News is legitimate news, and some people argue that it’s not. Some people watch “The Onion” and think, “Is this legitimate news?” There will be some who argue that it is — it’s for us to report and you to decide.
Isn’t it kind of sad that our cable news is what it is?
Carol Kolb: That’s why we made this show — 24-hour news is a bunch of fluff and a bunch of people pushing a certain agenda. And the highly competitive nature warps the news.
WG: The sad part of it is you couldn’t be much more over the top than they already are. So the fun part is just taking that voice and just trying to replicate it exactly.
SS: There’s always been a struggle with the news as to define what the audience wants, how to keep the ratings and how to keep pure as far as the news goes. Take the struggle between entertainment and news — Fox has a real strong stance on not going for an entertainment slant, but how can they say that when they spend an hour to two doing a special on the release of Paris Hilton from jail?
As cable news becomes more and more laughable, does that help you?
CK: Because we’re a parody, people definitely will like our show more if they’re aware of what is ridiculous about the real news.
WG: But also, it’s funny to call it the real news when it’s all funny and entertainment and the vast majority of the country takes it seriously and doesn’t realize that there is an agenda behind it — or that it is just filling time.
Let’s talk about Suzanne. Did you grapple with whether to go with a comedian or a real news anchor?
WG: Honestly, there was never a question of going with a comedian cause the whole framing of the show is we really see our competitors as Fox and CNN and MSNBC. We’re trying to do the same thing they are — which is to misinform people.
Suzanne, did you have to alter your style much?
SS: If anything, I just amp it up. Where there needed to be some humility at times at other news stations, there needs to be none at the Onion News Network.