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Monday, September 15, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 48.0° F  Fair
The Daily
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Tell All: Has The Onion run out of jokes?
Gag me

Dear Tell All: Is The Onion totally out of gas? I've been a fan of the humor newspaper for years but find little to laugh at lately. It seems like they're telling the same handful of jokes over and over, and have run out of ways to make the variations funny.

I'm looking at the issue on my desk, which has several versions of the old "headline that discusses something mundane as if it really mattered." For example: "Vomiting Woman Sorry." Um, okay.

Then there are the headlines - an increasing percentage - that have almost no humor content whatsoever. "Niece Entrusted with Lumber Store's Facebook Account." And the paper has completely run out of variations on the ancient "area man" gag. "Hundreds of Horrified Onlookers Gather Around Wreckage of Area Man."

Today's Onion feels kind of like a lifetime .300 hitter who's batting below .200 in his last season.

Area Woman

Dear Woman: The Onion's batting average may have dipped, but it still hits a decent number of home runs. I liked this recent headline: "Enraged 500-Foot Bin Laden Emerges From Sea."

The company is perhaps putting less creative energy into its print and web products now that it's getting into movies and TV. Some would point to its recent decision to turn its newspapers into franchise operations as a sign of disengagement. The business entity that buys a local Onion franchise prints the paper, distributes it, and sells advertising, while The Onion provides the content.

Not unlike the McDonald's business model.

The Onion sold its Madison franchise to Capital Newspapers, publisher of The Wisconsin State Journal, The Capital Times and various niche periodicals. Here's a quote from State Journal publisher Bill Johnston on the deal: "We looked at it carefully and we feel it's a really good fit for our business.... It's a nice niche business to have with our other businesses like Agri-View, Wheels for You and Nursing Matters."

That's right - Capital Newspapers sees The Onion as the humor equivalent of Nursing Matters. If only we had a satirical newspaper that could make fun of a business deal like that.

Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? Write Tell All, 101 King St., Madison, WI 53703. Or email

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