Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Backstage at the Onion's New TV Show

One day, maybe not that far off, we won’t distinguish between video we watch on the Web and the stuff we see on TV. But for now, TV is still the big leagues–the place you go if you want the biggest stage, and the most money.

Which might explain why the Onion has not one but two shows on TV right now, both based on the great stuff the satirists are already doing on their Web video site.

There’s SportsDome on Comedy Central, a beat-for-beat replication of ESPN’s SportsCenter. And starting tonight on IFC, there’s the Onion News Network, an uncanny amalgamation of News Corp.’s Fox News, Time Warner’s CNN, Comcast’s MSNBC et al.

Here’s a representative sample:

Snowy Conditions Proving Hazardous For Nation’s Idiots

I think it’s pretty great, but I’m a 100 percent biased observer, since I’ve been friends with some of the Onion crew for forever–think pre-Netscape. If you want a less objective take on the new show, you can check out this glowing New York Times review, or this measured one from Time.

Last week, I stopped by a promo for the show–a real/fake press conference starring the fake newsreaders, in character, moderated by Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter, who appeared as himself–and then sat down for a chat with Carol Kolb, a longtime Onion writer (and a pal–see above).

We talked in a makeshift green room set up at the very serious Paley Center for Media, and midway through, our conversation gets interrupted by the show’s cast. But that just makes it more real, right? If your coworkers aren’t cool with a few f-bombs, then this isn’t safe for work:

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik