May 1999
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The Onion: Our Dumb Century

Review By Todd McCafferty

The Onion For the unenlightened, The Onion is a weekly satirical newspaper, available on the web or in traditional print form. Chief editor Scott Dikkers and his extremely sharp witted and intelligent staff consistently churn out some of the most intelligent humor in recent memory, all in the form of fake newspaper articles. I thought the same thing you must be thinking now…doesn't it get old, isn't the "fake news article" thing too gimmicky to last? In the hands of just about anyone else I would have to concur, but to my continuing astonishment, The Onion writing has only gotten better since my first encounter with it.

Considering my already glowing enthusiasm for The Onion and its brand of humor, I was greatly looking forward to their newest creation: a compendium of front pages and headlines from the last 100 years of The Onion, titled Our Dumb Century.

Our Dumb Century takes the Onion concept and transposes it throughout the past 100 years, from the optimism of the century's dawn to the fearful millienial close, dousing everything with a jaded cynicism. What really is a credit to the writing talent of the Onion's staff is that much in the same way they fit their articles into the standard format used by most newspaper reporters, in Our Dumb Century the styles of the times, such as yellow journalism, are similarly used as molds. Here is a taste of some of the headlines represented in Our Dumb Century:

*May 29, 1905: "The Machine: Will it Replace the China-Man?"

*August 15, 1945: "War Over! 50 Years of Nuclear Paranoia Begin Today"

*January 30, 1969: "U.S. Troops Pull Out of Vietnamese Peasant Girl"

*July 30, 1981: "Secret Pac-Man Patterns Fall Into Russian Hands"

As you can see, The Onion has no compunctions about handling some pretty touchy topics. I mean, Pac-Man, what cojones!

There are two reasons why Our Dumb Century works so well. The first is that it strikes a balance between dealing with events as if they were reporting for a reader from that time period, while at the same time utilizing the knowledge that we are all living in a post-ironic era and have a much different perception of the past. Secondly, it satisfies our craving to undermine power structures by poking fun at all the major institutions and ideologies which govern our life. I guess there are three reasons actually. The third is that it is so damn funny! I literally laughed so hard I got stomach cramps, that is the literal truth right there. It is the little things, the slight allusions, the sly commentary slipped in between the straightforward laughs, the recurring names and groups which pepper the whole spectrum of time periods, that knock this a notch up from most comedy writing. The Onion's Our Dumb Century is one of the funniest reads I have ever come across. High praise indeed and furthermore I urge every single person who reads The Shrubbery to buy it because if you think we're funny, then you'll blow a gasket over The Onion.

Buy Our Dumb Century at!

Editor's Note: Even though the Shrub considers The Onion to be it's only real competition (we wish!), we shall provide you with a link, only if you promise to come right back. Promise? Okay, good.

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