Monday, January 10, 2011

The Onion is coming to your TV

The Onion is coming to television. Tomorrow night at 10:30 PM on Comedy Central, Onion SportsDome will make it's much-awaited debut. Then, on January 21st at 10 PM, Onion News Network's FactZone With Brooke Alvarez debuts on IFC.
It's just tragic to see her like this," says Brooke Alvarez as she gazes at video footage of a woman encircled by menacing captors.

But it's not the reporter's condition that shocks the glam host. It's the victim's lack of hair conditioner. Alvarez's indignation flares. "It's hard to comprehend how anyone, even a terrorist, could treat a TV personality's hair that way."

That smell in the air is TV news' not-so-sacred cows being fried up by the folks at The Onion. The satire sheet started in 1988 by University of Wisconsin-Madison juniors Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson has bloomed into a multi-platform hotbed of humor.

This month, The Onion makes the leap to TV with two shows hoping to capitalize on the fake-news phenomenon pioneered by Comedy Central. The network already has turned Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert into headline-generating stars (and hopes to do the same for comic Jon Benjamin, whose newsmagazine spoof, Jon Benjamin Has a Van, launches this summer).[...]

Comedy programs riffing off the media are the best lure for reeling in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 age demographic, says Anne Libera, director of comedy studies in a joint program run by The Second City comedy troupe and Chicago's Columbia College.

"That young TV audience is so media-savvy today, which is why parody works so well," says Libera, whose housemate at Northwestern University was Colbert ("He'd make futon frames in our basement," she says). "There's a lot of comedy on TV now, but I'd argue that there's also a big demand for it from this generation. More than ever, it seems comedy is how people comment on the world around them."

Libera says The Onion has one distinct advantage over The Daily Show or Colbert, which trade almost exclusively in factual events. "By making a lot up, The Onion folks are not tied to the 24-hour news cycle," she says. "They can satirize an idea, as opposed to being forced to satirize an actual event. They've got comedic breathing room."

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