The Onion Video is the New SNL

Growing up for the most part in the 1980’s, Saturday Night Live was the funniest regularly scheduled part of my week. It’s either gotten less funny over the years, or I’ve changed. Probably both.

One of the biggest problems SNL faces is that it must fill ninety minutes every week, although these days if you subtract out ads, music, and other filler/transitional material,  I expect it’s only thirty to forty minutes of actual comedy. Either way, a lot of SNL skits go on longer than necessary to deliver their comic payload. I expect this was actually true in the 1980’s as well, but I didn’t notice it so much.

Enter The Onion and its video content.  Freed from the confines of the television programming schedule, the Onion can make its online video clips just exactly as long as the writers want, and release them on their own schedule. In recent months, they’ve been batting in the high 800s. E.g., Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results of 2008 Election Early (on a serious note, see Ed Felten’s recent Sequoia discovery and followup); Army Holds Annual ‘Bring Your Daughter to War’ Day. Or any of them, really.

White House Press Secretary Spins Wife’s Tragic Death As A Positive

Army Holds Annual ‘Bring Your Daughter To War’ Day

My only complaint about The Onion video content is that they have only one sponsor at any given time, and they make you watch the same exact ad (both as a short pre-mercial and a longer post-mercial) every time you watch a video. The repetition isn’t effective and I can’t imagine it’s the best use of the Onion’s advertising revenue. I suggest at least rotation ads — or better yet, only forcing an ad on the viewer after every nth video.

Thanks to Steve and Flour for the key insight about clip-length.

[Tags]The Onion, Saturday Night Live[/Tags]


  1. Florian Weimer Mar 21

    There’s an XML file that lists all the .flv URLs separately, so you can pick which one to download and watch.

  2. Richard Edward Horner Mar 21

    My favorite of the ones I’ve seen has a title along the lines of, “Bullshit Primary Concern Amongst Voters”. It’s pretty classic.

  3. Steve Laniel Mar 21

    Mine is “Missing Girl Probably Raped,” even though it’s horrifying. There’s just no better conceivable parody of CNN.

  4. rajbot Apr 4

    I like “Are We Giving Robots Too Much Power”

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