I was catching up on some Onion Radio News reports recently and wondered if we’d ever hear a bloopers compilation. Anchor “Doyle Redland” (left) has had to have cracked up while reading stories like “McDonald’s Stock Tumbles As Consumers Turn To Food.”
I asked Redland (aka veteran alt-weekly cartoonist P.S. Mueller) and here’s what he emailed:
“I’m sad to say the Onion Radio News bloopers series will never exist because we recorded all of my voiceovers digitally, thereby eliminating the “cutting room floor” altogether. Also, I was more or less downsized out of the Onion nearly two years ago, though every few weeks I do pull Doyle from a musty old trunk and force him to read a few commercials, most recently for Audible.com. Between 1999 and 2009 I did co-write, co-produce and serve as the voice of Mr. Redland, completing somewhere around 2,500 segments.”
How did you keep a straight face while reading the reports?
It is true that some of the scripts were damn hard to get through without losing it completely. One of the hardest for me was one we did about Jerry Lewis undergoing “emergency gefloigel surgery.” [Warning: Audio kicks in immediately with most of these links.] It was all that compressed schtick that got to me. I would send you the script for it, but all that stuff, including Doyle, remains the intellectual property of The Onion, Inc. and they would surely have me stalked and maimed.
Some of my favorite Onion Radio News segments from over the years, and there were many, include: Jews To Celebrate Rosh Hashasha Or Something; Civil War Enthusiasts Burn Atlanta To Ground; Microsoft Sold To Crows; Denny’s Introduces ‘Just A Humongous Bucket Of Eggs And Meat’; and “Kim Jong Il Unfolds Into Giant Robot.”
How did the Onion Radio News reports come together?
During our first year Scott Dikkers pulled together text from stories in the Onion’s archive every month and sent me half of them. Separately, we took the pieces and converted them into radio scripts before meeting for all-day marathon editing sessions where we put together anywhere from thirty to fifty final drafts. Then we went into the recording studio, where we tormented Doyle into reading as many twenty to thirty scripts in a single day. Generally, we managed to push those scripts all the way through post-production in a week or so. I think we did over 400 segments that first year in order to fulfill a contract the Onion had signed with Westwood One.
After that first year, Westwood One dropped us, Dikkers left the company, and I continued drawing cartoons. Later in 2000, however, the Onion’s then CFO Pete Haise called me and asked me to come to work for the Onion and create the Onion Radio News full time. (Until then I had worked as a subcontractor.) Since I was already busy as a full time cartoonist, I said sure, I’ll just work two full time gigs, which is what I did until November of 2009. I believe we began producing all new content for the Onion Radio News around 2005 when we began the iTunes podcast.
This is where I should masterfully manipulate my story by including what I have been doing since the Onion Radio News went into perpetual rerun rotation two years ago.
Long before my departure from the Onion, my recording engineer Steve Gotcher and I had talked about creating a satirical cast focusing exclusively on the dire economic times we began calling “The Great Re-Depression.” I decided to lighten up Doyle’s delivery, rename him Stanley Douglas, and force him upon the world, which we have since been doing for the past year and a half at Howdyland.com and on iTunes. Our initial plan was to attract enough listeners, or subscribers, to allow us to make a buck by selling ads through any of the various brokers who place ads on poplar podcasts. People love Stanley, but so far we have been largely unable to get as much as a mention from any of the cool kid sites like Huffpost, Firedoglake, NPR, etc. And yes, we do find this mystifying, especially since we are, unlike The Onion, quite political, and as far as I know, the only satirical audio-cast devoted to this kind of content. Then again, though Steve and I have worked in radio for most of our careers, we don’t pretend to be marketing experts.
Nevertheless, we are doing Stanley Douglas With News From The Great Re-Depression as much to preserve our sanity as much as we are for money. Plus, we have heard through the grapevine that God will kill us if we stop. This is a project we have to shoehorn in between our separate and busy schedules. Steve co-owns what may be the last successful independent recording studio in Madison, and I am lucky enough to somehow continue making a living (a steadily declining living, but a living nonetheless) with cartoons. It’s a damn good thing he and I get along well.
Sometime in the next few months I will appear as a minor character in an upcoming episode of The Family Guy. Whenever that finally happens, we plan to milk it for all it’s worth in an attempt re-promote and reintroduce The News From The Great Re-Depression.
Meanwhile, we continue to record and produce five new segments every week, while I continue to plug the hell out of it as a regular guest co-host on the web radio feature Turn Up The Night With Kenny Pick.
And finally, I thought I should mention it because it is, to me at least, a nice milestone: this month marks the 32nd anniversary of my arrival as a freelancer for The Chicago Reader [PDF]. Having just turned 60, I figure I can probably continue doing this until 80, when I plan to seek out the pleasures of heroin and a life of petty crime.