Editor in Chief Joe Randazzo and Senior Writer Dan Mirk described their brand of sharp, cutting humor that characterizes The Onion (www.theonion.com). The newspaper and website turns biting, sometimes excruciating, satire toward instances of and spokespersons for hypocrisy. They were the guests of the Los Angeles Loyolan, LMU’s student-run newspaper that pays tribute to the rights all U.S. citizens enjoy under the Constitution every February through its First Amendment Week.
Randazzo and Mirk, true to form, were hilarious. They told a few amusing lies about the birth of The Onion in the 1760s, then quickly reviewed almost 25 years of shining satirical light on foibles and vices. But not lost among the laughs was The
Onion staff’s knowledge of the First Amendment’s protections: freedom of speech, assembly, religion and the press, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.
“We’re taking the limits, pushing the limits, putting a limit on how far the limits can be pushed, then pushing again,” Randazzo
facetiously explained. But limits were a key point in the presentation. He mapped out territories The Onion treads carefully: jokes made at the expense of victims, children and U.S. military personnel. And then he outlined the legal limits of First Amendment protections: treason, incitement, copyright infringement and defamation. “Defamation,” Mirk added proudly, “is our wheelhouse.”
By evening’s end, punch lines and a few gross images were not the most shocking part of the lecture. It was being reminded of many countries, today and in the past, where Randazzo and Mirk could not have talked about their work, or do it.