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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dear Guardian: Since You Aren't Much Good At Making Fun of SF Weekly, We'll Do It For You

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2009 at 11:59 AM

Sorry, lady. We can't find the joke, either.
  • Sorry, lady. We can't find the joke, either.
Yeah, so, in the Guardian's April Fools issue this week, the SFBG attempts to be lighthearted and make fun of Gavin Newsom (fish in a barrel) and us -- and once again proves that progressives just aren't funny.

Why, progressives? Why?

What is it about earnest communities of activists that kills laughter? Could it be that after years of using phrases like "I evoke my politicized sexuality to help liberate Palestine!" and "it's all connected to PG&E somehow!" with a straight face, the capacity to recognize humor dies? I don't know: But I do know that this week's Guardian left me scratching my head, thinking "This is the best they could do?"

You really couldn't come up with any better material on SF Weekly? Really?

C'mon, guys: Try harder. You can do this. Here's a sample of what people who use humor recreationally might have said about us.

SF Weekly is hugely wasteful, accounting for a full 57 percent of San Francisco's use of irony.

• You know why the economic crash hit Village Voice Media so hard? Because they won't allow their accountants to endorse any stocks.

• OK, SF Weekly, we admit it: you wrote about Snuggies before we did. Damn, you're good.

SF Weekly's losing so much money they're going to start charging for "Sucka Free City." It will now be called "Sucka Subscription Content."

• Fun fact: The stick up Matt Smith's ass was hand-carved by Ohio Mennonites.

• Oh look, yet another long narrative focusing on a larger social issue through the microcosm of one person's experience. How quaint.

• This week Village Voice Media announced a new editorial strategy: Work Joe Eskenazi to death.

• Hey Katy St. Clair -- how about actually REVIEWING a bar?

• You'd think, in San Francisco, SF Weekly could find someone to design a Web site.

• "You've reached the offices of SF Weekly. We can't come to the phone right now because all of our reporters are out chasing trends, but if you leave your name, number, and a quirky detail about your life that suggests a larger symbolic meaning, we'll be sure to imply that you stand for something in four to six weeks."

• Gosh I can't wait to read about all the meetings Benjamin Wachs doesn't like this week!

See? These are funny, while your stuff is unsurprising, bitter, and smells vaguely of burnt almonds. Repeating the party line about "why-you-hate-us" is not funny. But if you'd have accused us of having the ethics of the Examiner and the research skills of Fog City Journal? Wow, that would hurt -- but it's funny.

How do you get it right? Tough one. Humor is a famously tricky thing. But here's a tip:

Generic jokes -- which are mostly all you guys used -- don't work nearly as well as jokes specifically tailored to the target. As Victor Raskin notes in Semantic Mechanisms of Humor, for a joke to truly be "about" someone or something, its "script" can't apply equally well to other people or groups. So saying that SF Weekly is "corporate" isn't saying anything that couldn't apply to 90 percent of newspapers in the country, and therefore is a miss.

Likewise, Tim Redmond implying "Andy Van De Voorde has carnal relations with a goat" is an extremely generic joke. It isn't any different than saying "Bruce Brugmann has carnal relations with a goat" -- except that would be true (and thus "observational humor"). Saying "The goat is related to Tim Redmond"? That's funny.

Still, we're glad that you tried. Attempting to use humor is a positive step for you guys. Good effort. We don't want to push you too far out of your comfort zone, but, maybe you could also try smiling at people who don't vote the way you tell them to. You might find the world is much more ready to take a joke than it is yet another very sincere editorial.

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