Onion's 'Known Knowledge' is an A to Z of goofiness
You may think you know everything about everything, but “The Onion Book of Known Knowledge” would beg to differ.
The latest book from the crackpots — er, writers — at the satiric news source have taken on the whole wide world this time out in this “Definitive Encyclopedia of Existing Information” (their words).
“We knew the whole appeal of doing an encyclopedia would be that we could make a joke about anything,” says editor Will Tracy. “There was no corner of the known universe we couldn't cover.”
And, so, the extremely funny “Book of Known Knowledge” starts at A and ends at Z, with a totally made-up letter somewhere in between. How does something so wide-ranging — it includes entries from chainsaw (“portable mechanical saw that doesn't fit in your briefcase, so you'll just have to get to work early that day and put it under your desk before your co-workers arrive”) to quince (“fruit native to the Middle East, and yet another goddamn thing that exists and must be catalogued”) come together?
“We had a running list of things we knew we had to have, like God and World War II, things that you'd expect to find,” Tracy says. “Once we covered those, it was sort of like, ‘Do whatever you want. You want to write a entry on Apple? Do that.' ”
This comprehensive approach may explain entries like “Jupsi: what Pepsi was called for some reason in a weird dream Muscatine, Iowa, resident Jessica Perrin had on the night of May 7, 2003.”
“I wrote that entry in the last few months. We were just starting to get nutty,” Tracy admits. “But we were light on J entries. I was just trying to think of something funny.”
With ideas flying in willynilly, the Onion writers have to trust their colleagues' feedback about what works.
“Sometimes, I think I have something really great, but the room doesn't go for it,” Tracy says. “Months later, I'll look at it and I'll think, ‘Yeah, that wasn't that great.' It happens less and less, though, the longer you're doing it. With this book we just had to watch out that the jokes would be something we'd already used. Trying not to repeat ourselves was hard.”
The Onion appears in many forms these days — via Twitter @TheOnion, a news channel, a website, in books — but there's one thing linking them all: “That main Onion brand core voice runs through it all,” Tracy says. “That's a language we all speak.”
Connie Ogle is a staff writer for the Miami Herald.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Review: ‘The Comedians’ taps details, voices to chart history of American comedy
- Review: Stephen King’s short stories in ‘The Bazaar of Bad Dreams’ still have bite
- Review: Therapy camp turns into hostage crisis in ‘The Masked Truth’
- Review: Jon Land’s ‘Strong Light of Day’ is wildly entertaining
- A la carte: Books make appetizing holiday gifts