"The Onion" Contributors

"The Onion" Contributors

Mike & Jilly

Toronto , ON

Male, 27

Michael MacDonald and Jilly Gagnon edit and write for Canada's Pre-Eminent News Source, The Smew (smew.com), a Canadian satirical website. Michael contributes weekly to The Onion while Jilly contributes to McSweeney's. Of course we work other jobs to actually make rent.

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19 Questions


Last Answer on May 17, 2012

Best Rated

Did you submit any headlines that you were particularly proud of that didn't get accepted?

Asked by Onionz over 12 years ago

Mike: Sure. If I wasn't confident about a headline or a joke, I wouldn't submit it. But given that there are so many talented writers who contribute, it's to be expected that most of the material sent in doesn't get published. Jilly: All the TIME. That's why we have The Smew. Now WE DECIDE, MOTHERFU**ERS!!! (Sorry - after a few hundred rejections of what you thought was your best work, your mind starts to go...)

Do you have a favorite Onion headline of all time?

Asked by Danny over 12 years ago

Michael: "Super Monkey Collider Loses Funding". Frankly, anything to do with monkeys is always hilarious! Jilly: "Studies Show Babies Are Stupid". It was super simple, but just nailed it.

Who are some of the writers (whether satirists, bloggers, novelists, etc) from whom you draw influence?

Asked by Neva over 12 years ago

Mike: Paul Houseman, Jilly Gagnon, David Blanton, and Joe Garden have inspired and influenced me greatly in the past few years. Growing up, I really enjoyed reading the works of John Kennedy Toole, David Sedaris, David Cross, et al. Jilly: I think as a writer it's really hard to distinguish your likes from your real influences. As far as writers I really, really like, Evelyn Waugh, P.G. Wodehouse, Thurber, Nancy Mitford, and Robert Benchley. More modern humorist favorites include Andy Borowitz, Paul Rudnick, Simon Rich, and (of course) Tina Fey .

Do you have a specific method for writing satirical news or do you just hear about a story and try to point out what's weird about it?

Asked by WillyG over 12 years ago

Jilly: It really varies - you'll notice that most satirical websites have several "evergreen" headlines, i.e. headlines that don't relate to any specific, current news event (on The Smew, for example, we just ran a piece "Bret Easton Ellis pens 'Canadian Psycho'"). For more topical pieces, we often pitch a few headlines back and forth to one another, each of them dealing with a slightly different aspect or angle of the news story, to see what makes us laugh hardest. Mike: What Jilly said... Also, lampooning weird or silly news generally doesn't work well because your job has already been done for you.

What do you think are the best written shows currently on TV?

Asked by Mahran over 12 years ago

Jilly: 30 rock, absolutely. I really like Portlandia as well, and Archer. Like every other comedy writer ever, I also desperately miss arrested development. Mike: With regards to comedy, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret is pretty great as is Peep Show (are both of those still on the air? Probably not, but they both are highly underrated and super hilarious. I'd recommend everyone and anyone to check both of those two shows out). As non comedy, I tend to like Breaking Bad and sometimes I'll sneak in an episode or two of Top Gear.

You mention that you work "other jobs" to make the rent. Are these writing-oriented jobs, or totally disparate day jobs? What I really want to know is, what's makes a good "day job" for a writer?

Asked by die9to5 over 12 years ago

Mike: I work as a news editor and writer for a chain of Canadian newspapers and websites. While it doesn’t necessarily strengthen my creative writing skills as such, it does provide me with a good sense of the news cycle, which in turn helps me to generate satirical news stories. Jilly: Both of us work day-in, day-out for The Smew, but the "rent payer," for me, is a non-writing job. I think that the good "day job" really varies from person to person - some people do better with a day job that is writing-based; I do something completely different so that at the end of the day I don't feel like all my creativity for the day has already been used up. I'd try to find out whether a demanding job revs you up, and leaves you excited to do more, or just drains you, and choose accordingly!

Is there something unique about the Canadian sense of humor or writing for a Canadian audience? Do you have to tailor your writing differently for The Smew vs. The Onion vs. McSweeney's?

Asked by superfan99 over 12 years ago

Jilly: Honestly, I don't think there's a huge difference in the Canadian sense of humour versus the American, barring certain cultural differences that influence what sorts of things you "go after" with your jokes. Writing for The Smew and The Onion, it's really important to maintain the "news" feel in a piece, even if your jokes are off-the-wall. With McSweeney's, you have a ton more freedom with form (which can be very difficult). I'd say the audience for all three outlets is a generally intelligent, youngish, informed crowd, so you try to aim your jokes with that group in mind.