Satire

Satire uses elements of a prior work to target some other aspect of society, parody uses elements of a prior work to target the prior work itself.

Blog Posts

The Great Modernist Poetry Prank

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Literary Hoaxes, Parody, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, Satire, The History of Pranks

The Futility Closet podcast investigates two Australian army officers whose antipathy for the arts establishment inspired them to create a fake writer and receive embarrassing critical acclaim. Take some time to pore over the copious background materials and keep in mind that this predates the Sokal Hoax by almost five decades.


“The Great Australian Poetry Hoax”
by Greg Ross
Futility Closet
October 17, 2016

2016-10-17-podcast-episode-126-ern-malleyIn 1943, fed up with modernist poetry, two Australian servicemen invented a fake poet and submitted a collection of deliberately senseless verses to a Melbourne arts magazine. To their delight, they were accepted and their author hailed as “one of the most remarkable and important poetic figures of this country.” In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the Ern Malley hoax, its perpetrators, and its surprising legacy in Australian literature.

We’ll also hear a mechanized Radiohead and puzzle over a railroad standstill. Read more.

A Visit to Scarfolk, the UK’s Weirdest Fake Town

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The Prank as Art

Atlas Obscura presents a tourist’s guide to Richard Littler’s eerie, anachronistic, made-up universe. Fans of Welcome to Night Vale may be particularly intrigued.


“Digging Through the Archives of Scarfolk, the Internet’s Creepiest Fake Town”
by Cara Giaimo
Atlas Obscura
October 17, 2016

scarfolkIn 1978, the town of Scarfolk, in northwest England, cut its police budget in half. This drastic measure was followed by a wave of violent crime. To deal with the influx of dead bodies, the remaining police did the obvious thing—they teamed up with the “Keep Britain Tidy” campaign, and encouraged citizens, especially children, to pick up “victim debris” themselves.

If this sounds too grotesque to be true, don’t worry—it is! There were never any smiling, appendage-finding kids in Scarfolk, because Scarfolk never existed. But the town’s online presence is meticulously detailed and impressively creepy. For three years, graphic designer Richard Littler has been using his design skills and bone-dry wit to write a whole history of Scarfolk, a fictional, supernatural-tinged town that finds humor in dystopia, and is closer to today’s world than we might like to think.

Scarfolk is perpetually stuck in the 1970s, and repeats the decade on loop. On his blog, “Scarfolk Council,” Littler presents the town’s story through materials from the council’s “archive”: posters, pamphlets and packaging that reveal aspects of everyday life. Carefully Photoshopped and inspired by real source material, Littler’s creations pack a punch—with their pastel, large fonted bombast, they could easily be mistaken for actual ’70s artifacts. Read more.

A Peek Inside the Process of Faux-Documentarian Christopher Guest

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Filed under: Parody, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The Prank as Art

Christopher Guest has built a career on the quirks of his passionate and unusual characters, from rock stars to dog-show emcees, while faithfully mimicking the documentary format. As he returns to explore the inner lives of sports mascots, Time looks at what makes his humanistic comedy machine run.


Mascots and the Very Serious Business of Making a Christopher Guest Movie”
by Eliza Berman
Time
October 14, 2016

poseyWhen Parker Posey got a call from Christopher Guest offering her a part in his next movie, she already knew the drill. Having appeared in all four of the faux-documentaries Guest had written and directed since 1997, she knew he’d give her the basic character sketch—in this case, Cindi Babineaux, a mascot for a Mississippi women’s college basketball team who’s aging out of her tenure as Alvin the Armadillo—and it would be her job to fill in the details. “The nine-banded armadillo is limited,” she says, recalling her attempts to crack the character. “They’re mainly roadkill.” She pauses. “That’s an interesting angle.”

Finding the interesting angle on idiosyncratic subcultures and the Cindi Babineauxs that comprise them has driven Guest’s work over the past two decades. Movies like Best in Show, about competitive dog breeders and trainers, and A Mighty Wind, about a folk-music reunion concert, have won the onetime Saturday Night Live cast member legions of devoted fans. His particular brand of comedy, which originated with the cult classic This Is Spinal Tap in 1984, directed by Rob Reiner and co-written by Reiner, Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean, applies the conventions of self-serious documentary filmmaking to unexpected, if not undeserving, fictional subjects.

In Mascots, Guest’s first film in a decade, premiering on Netflix Oct. 13, he and co-writer Jim Piddock turn their gaze—with the help of a flock of returning cast members including Posey, Jane Lynch, Fred Willard and Ed Begley Jr.—toward the men and women who dance in poorly ventilated animal suits to bring smiles to the faces of amateur sports fans. Read more.


R.I.P. Dario Fo (1926-2016)

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Parody, Political Challenges, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks

Revered playwright, comedian, Nobel laureate, and prankster patron saint Dario Fo has passed away at the age of 90.


Nobel laureate Dario Fo, who mocked politics, religion, dies
by Frances D’Emilio and Nicole Winfield
AP
October 13, 2016

Dario Fo

Dario Fo

Italian playwright Dario Fo, whose energetic mocking of Italian political life, social mores and religion won him praise, scorn and the Nobel Prize for Literature, died Thursday. He was 90.

Fo died Thursday morning in Milan’s Luigi Sacco hospital after suffering respiratory complications from a progressive pulmonary disease, said the chief of pulmonology, Dr. Delfino Luigi Legnani. Fo had been working on a new stage production with collaborators in his hospital room up until his final days, Legnani said.

The author of “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” and more than 70 other plays saw himself as playing the role of the jester, combining raunchy humor and scathing satire that continued into his final years. He was admired and reviled in equal measure.

His political activities saw him banned from the United States and censored on Italian television, and his flamboyant artistic antics resulted in repeated arrests. Read more.


Announcing the 2016 Ig Noble Awards

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Filed under: Prank News, Satire, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Organized by the Annals of Improbable Research, the Ig Noble Awards offer ponderous hilarity every year without fail.


From Collecting Flies to Putting Pants on Rats, Here Is This Year’s Ig Nobel-Winning Research
by Mark Pratt
AP
September 22, 2016

ig-nobel-awards-2016(BOSTON) — A Swede who wrote a trilogy about collecting bugs, an Egyptian doctor who put pants on rats to study their sex lives and a British researcher who lived like an animal have been named winners of the Ig Nobels, the annual spoof prizes for quirky scientific achievement.

The winners were honored — or maybe dishonored — Thursday in a zany ceremony at Harvard University.

The 26th annual event featured a paper airplane air raid and a tic-tac-toe contest with a brain surgeon, a rocket scientist and four real Nobel laureates.

Winners receive $10 trillion cash prizes — in virtually worthless Zimbabwean money. Read more here and here.


Tech-Savvy Satire for an Absurd Election Year

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Filed under: Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Satire

As The Onion has evolved from a college-town in-joke into an American satirical institution, it has taken a more active role in critiquing US politics. In the run-up to this year’s elections, it has souped up the media to better serve the message.


“The Onion ramps up speed of satire in Campaign 2016”
by Patrick Mairs
AP
September 11, 2016

Even satire has a shelf life.

The OnionIn a presidential campaign with fast-changing headlines that sometimes defy belief, The Onion has managed to maintain its niche by becoming more agile, just like real news organizations.

The 28-year-old satirical media outlet, famous for creating fake news, has evolved with technology a bit like everyone else, including the news industry it parodies. For the first time, The Onion this summer sent staffers to the Democratic and Republican conventions.

“Although technology requires media to be much quicker, it also allows us to be a bit faster, and we’ve started training ourselves and developing ways that we can be a little more reactive, too,” said Matt Klinman, The Onion’s head writer for video.

Klinman was part of a team of staffers sent to the conventions in Philadelphia and Cleveland with a goal of mocking the news in something close to real time. Its video team quickly posted full-length clips of high-profile convention speeches on Facebook, complete with cable news-style graphics that included jokes and commentary.

“We’ve been sort of wanting to crack a way of doing live coverage as The Onion for a long time,” Klinman said.

The Onion’s sarcastic take on political gatherings apparently struck a chord on Facebook, where its convention videos outpaced those from major news outlets such as The New York Times, ABC, NBC and CNN for much of the two-week period when the meetings were held. The data come from Tubular Labs, an analytics firm The Onion uses to track video views.

The Chicago-based Onion is planning similar coverage for the upcoming presidential debates. Read more.

What’s the Steroid Fuss About?

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Filed under: Satire

Russian Olympic pole-vaulter Svetlana Gevanskaia says she doesn’t know what all the fuss is about…

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Thanks Erin


Harvard Toasts the Lampoon

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Filed under: College Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks

An exhibit in Harvard’s Pusey Library pays playful tribute to the Harvard Lampoon, one of the most influential satirical magazines in American history.


“Pranks at Pusey Library”
by Aidan Langston
Harvard Magazine
August 6, 2016

AOTPLampoonVisitors to Pusey Library this summer have been greeted by a large cardboard cutout of a cow—part of an exhibit celebrating The Harvard Lampoon and the role it has played in Harvard’s comedic history. The exhibition, “Remorseless Irony and Sarcastic Pens: The Story of the Harvard Lampoon,” showcases photographs, drawings and other artifacts collected over the course of the Lampoon’s 140 years.

The cow is an homage to the Lampoon’s custom of unleashing farm animals on campus for comedic effect. William Randolph Hearst, a member of the Lampoon and the class of 1886—although his pranks resulted in his expulsion—is suspected of having sparked the tradition by releasing roosters in Harvard Yard. Lampoon members were also blamed for the appearance of a cow in the Yard sometime in the 1930s, which was “forcibly ejected” from the premises by Harvard police.

The exhibit contains an array of memorabilia from the magazine’s earliest days, ranging from photographs of the seven students who founded it in 1876 to a copy of its first issue. (more…)

Fake Dog Poop App Gets Traction

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Filed under: Bullshit Detector Watch, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

Apparently, it can be difficult to distinguish satire of California startup culture’s frivolity from the real thing, even when it’s combined with the most tried-and-true prankster tropes. Perhaps the oddest thing about Elliot Glass and Ben Becker’s “Uber for Poop” prank is that the app itself isn’t real. It’s hardly surprising that the tech media picked it up with no gloves.


“How a Fake Dog Poop App Fooled the Media”
by Zach Schonfeld
Newsweek
July 29, 2016

AOTPPooperPooper, the bold new app that markets itself as an Uber for dogshit, was nothing but dogshit all along.

Well, pretty clever dogshit: What appeared to be an outrageously inessential poop-disrupting start-up was really—of course—”an art project that satirizes our app-obsessed world.”

What’s more surprising is that it worked: Since its initial announcement, Pooper has secured attention from dozens of media outlets—most of whom were bamboozled into thinking it’s real—and piqued interest from investors. Pooper also intrigued a bunch of eager would-be users, who (if the app were real, which it is not) would be able to summon nearby strangers to scoop up dog turds with the push of a button.

“We’ve gotten hundreds of sign-ups,” claims Ben Becker, who devised the hoax with a friend, Elliot Glass. “People have been signing up to be both poopers and scoopers.”

Becker, a creative director in the advertising world, and Glass, a designer and web developer in Los Angeles, hatched the idea this past winter during a discussion about navel-gazing startup culture. “We wanted to begin a project that reflected the state of technology—specifically apps,” says Becker in a phone interview. “Taking the visual signifiers and language and the entire world and inhabiting it, inserting an absurd purpose for it. In this case, that would be dog poop.” Read more.

Donald’s Wall of Fame

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Filed under: Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

Thanks Deb!


Donald Trump’s Walk of Fame Star Gets a Baby Border Wall (PHOTOS)
by Dennis Romero
LA Weekly
July 19, 2016

trump-star-wall1

Los Angeles provocateur Plastic Jesus just rained on Donald Trump’s parade. On a day when the real estate mogul is celebrating his official coronation as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee for 2016, Plastic Jesus has built a wall around Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The wall only measures 6 inches high, but its statement is mighty. Read the rest of the article here.

trump-star-wall2

Why Satire Still Matters: A Case Study

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Parody, Political Pranks, Satire

As the Overton Window of American politics has shifted rightward, taking the “serious” media with it, satirists such as Jon Stewart, John Oliver, and The Onion have picked up the slack on the left, becoming some of its most influential and effective voices.

Here’s a look at how The Onion, in particular, has taken up the seemingly endless and hopeless fight over gun control.


How ‘The Onion’ Became One of the Strongest Voices for Gun Control
by Asawin Suebsaeng
The Daily Beast
June 19, 2016

The sorry state of mass shootings and regulating the use of firearms are perhaps best epitomized by the fact that a satirical website is getting the most attention for its coverage.

48880009.cachedFor years, the editorial page that has most fervently favored stricter gun control in America hasn’t been found in The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Boston Globe. It’s been on the pages of The Onion, America’s leading news-satire organization.

Two days after the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub, which was carried out with an AR-15-style weapon, The Onion (which smirkingly bills itself as “America’s finest news source”) published an op-ed titled, “It’s An Honor To Continue Being Valued Over Countless Human Lives.”

It was posted under the byline of “an AR-15.”

“I can’t imagine it was always easy to hold an 8-pound aluminum-and-synthetic firearm in higher regard than the lives of your fellow citizens—after all, these are good people with rich experiences and families and dreams—but this country has always managed to find a way to put me first,” the darkly comic piece reads.

In the wake of the Pulse mass shooting, The Onion also published articles with headlines such as:

“Exhausted Nation Unsure It Has Stamina To Continue Gun Control Dialogue For Fifth Consecutive Day”

“Frustrated Obama Writes Letter To His Congressman About Need For Gun Control”

“At Times Like This, We Need To Pull Ourselves Up, Hold Our Loved Ones Close, Block Any Legislation That Would Prevent Suspected Terrorists From Buying Guns, And Say A Prayer For The Victims” (“written” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) (more…)

The King of Comment-Section Trolls Unveiled

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Parody, Pranksters, Satire

Meet Ken M, an uncommonly sharp internet troll whose mix of surreal humor and remarkable tenacity has helped him build a fanbase.

“The world’s greatest internet troll explains his craft”
by Phil Edwards
Vox
May 6, 2016

“How does an internet troll build his own following?

That’s a question that Ken McCarthy, a.k.a. Ken M, can answer: He’s the subject of a dedicated subreddit with more than 150,000 fans, as well as popular Facebook and Twitter pages. And that following is all for … leaving comments. As the above video shows, those comments are funny enough to create a legion of devoted fans.

Calling Ken a troll is a bit of a category error — though he does lure in commenters with false premises and hilariously mistaken information, his act is more like a new kind of improv comedy. To my critical eye, he’s an internet love child of early Smothers Brothers and Jack Handy, with a dash of Greg Packer, too. (Packer is a non-comedian famous for showing up as the “man on the street” in countless news articles, the same way Ken M is likely to pop up in comment sections.)

Ken experiments a lot. His persona easily transforms from that of a confused old man to a punctilious professor, but the result always has the same absurd sense of humor. Though his audience changes as well — he shifts between news comment sections and branded Facebook pages, among others — he adapts to each with jokes that he constructs on the fly.”


Kim Jong Un Photoshop Battle

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Parody, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters, Satire

Considering the emphasis on free expression at reddit, it makes sense that an entire subreddit exists specifically to mock North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and the PRNK’s cult of personality and submission.

The Korean Central News Agency recently released a new photo of Kim that was remarkable for a number of reasons.

AOTP_KJU1

He is depicted wearing a dull business-style suit in lieu of his usual garish military garb. He looks like a beefy goofball making no effort to appear dignified. It’s up for debate what they were going for here, but the irony of such a Type A government feeding the worldwide media such an unflattering, obviously un-retouched image of its figurehead was not lost.

The highly active subreddit r/PhotoshopBattles sprang into action. Enjoy some of its work below. (H/t to HuffPo.)

AOTP_KJI5

AOTP_KJI4

AOTP_KJU3

There are many more where these came from, including several more Kim Jong Trumps – make of that what you will.

New York, New York!

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Pranksters, Satire

From Andrea Marini: Snow Boarding with NYPD

Two Guys Build a Wall Around Trump Tower

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Satire

Some artists build bridges and others are intrigued by the walls that divide humankind. In response to Donald Trump’s plan for a wall along the Mexican border, The Good Liars propose a wall around Trump’s own property… you know, to keep in the “assholes.”

h/t HuffPo.