Although the Onion’s 25-year print run ended in 2013, the company is still producing impeccably crafted satire. Last year they founded the impossibly hilarious ClickHole (try to read the headline “Great News, Everyone: Cecil The Lion Is Alive!” without breaking down laughing), which parodies viral sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy. This week, they launched EDGE, which takes on Vice’s habit of incorporating raw, sometimes ridiculous, edginess when reporting international news.
The premiere installment, Beyond The Brink: How The Israeli Occupation Has Made It Impossible For Palestinians To Score Drugs, is the first in a series. The creators have also launched Twitter accounts for their “correspondents” and set up an Atrocity Tip Line which you can call at 1-877-777-8192 to get such options as “to report gangs of glassy-eyed child soldiers watching villages burn and feeling nothing, press 5.”
Maxim spoke to EDGE co-creators Jason Roeder and Katy Yeiser about their new project and what else we can expect.
I loved the preview for and the first episode of EDGE and wanted to know a little bit more about the people behind it. So why parody Vice?
Jason: It seemed natural because Vice has been around a long time, in one form or another. It really has gone mainstream in a way we can’t ignore anymore. It would almost be weird if we didn’t do something on Vice at this point, you know?
Were there any particular articles or TV segments that you saw that you thought, “Oh, we have to make fun of this somehow?”
Katy: I don’t think it was any specific article or documentary, but I guess you would say, their essence is very interesting. I think we wanted to see what we could do with it and be constructive with it. If you watch a lot of Vice, it’s an incredibly sexy, well put together show—high budget, highly produced show, very flashy. The information you take away from it maybe isn’t as impressive, but still very fun to watch.
Jason: It grabs you and tracks you around a little bit, and when it’s over you are not sure exactly of what happened. That’s what we wanted to get at. Also, the way they immerse themselves in things that they don’t really need to and how they tell the story.
Katy: If you are covering gun control, it isn’t necessary to get a gun and shoot it on camera and include it in the final cut.
How long has this been in the works?
Jason: Wow, I think we started to brainstorming ideas in January.
Katy: Yeah January or February I believe. Then we shot it in May.
Jason: Along the way we had to develop our EDGE and Vice voice. We’re allOnion writers, which is a completely different kind of tone. What do these people sound like when they are walking around the ruins of the West Bank or something like that? That was hard to process too.
I noticed that you made Twitter accounts for the EDGE personalities. Can we also expect to see more from EDGE beyond the video series, perhaps a fully built out site like ClickHole?
Katy: I’m not sure. That’s a question...maybe not for us. Honestly, I don’t know. That would be a large, large undertaking to do a full website. I’m sure it would be fun.
Jason: It would be fantastic, but you are talking to most of the editorial team right now. We would love to do it. Even the Twitter feeds are fun to do. We have a special hotline, the Atrocity Tipline, where you can call if there is a genocide or ethnic cleansing in your neighborhood. You can leave a message about it.
Katy: The possibilities of filling out the world of EDGE seem wonderful and very fun to me, but actually doing it is a whole other thing. It might be a little trickier, but we’ll see. If there is an Onion executive reading this and would like to give us a budget to go to Antarctica I would be up for it.
Have you heard anything from anyone at Vice yet?
Jason: We have gotten some follows on the EDGE account. We have been monitoring tweets excessively, and Vice people have been following it. There hasn’t been an official response, and I don’t know if there will be one.
So the first one took place in the West Bank. where are the other one’s going to take place?
Katy: We have got Ecuador, Bahrain
Katy: And a nondescript location
So far The Onion has taken on BuzzFeed and Upworthy on ClickHole, and EDGE is parodying Vice. Are there any other media properties due to get the Onion treatment?
Jason: There might be over time. We would like to. If something comes along that we can’t ignore we will definitely do it.
So we’ll see how many videos total in this series?
Katy: There are six web episodes total, and then each web episode has a bonus episode—it’s called an endnote. Vice does this with their episodes where the reporters talk about what they want from the report, answer questions, and so on. Endnote is our way to sit down and answer questions about the previous episode.
Jason: We offer the dumbest reflections you’ve ever heard about the dumb thing they just did.