When I started this job five years ago, the possibilities seemed endless. No matter how absurd the pairing, I was pretty sure I would never lack the inspiration to write a humorous opinion piece written by an unlikely character saying unexpected things. It seemed like I'd be able to milk every single situation possible until I finally got recognized by some sitcom producer and hired away from here. But guess what? Those offers never emerged, and now, after writing this column week after week, my well of essay concepts seems to have finally run dry.
I am all out of incongruous opinion piece ideas.
Oh, sure, at first it was easy enough to put a piece together; I could almost do it in my sleep. Pick a subject, match him with a characteristic, and you're pretty much there. Outrageous racial stereotypes? Child's play. ("Hey, Emilio, I Can't Grope All The Women At This Puerto Rican Day Parade By Myself," May 23, 2003.) Violent characters displaying the same competitive instincts as respectable business types? Easy as pie. ("I Don't Know How They Did It At Your Last Prison, But I'm The Top Ass-Raper On This Cell Block," February 8, 2006.) Trenchant social critique masquerading as simple satirical humor? Not a problem. ("If I Had Known That My Entire City Was Going To Be Flooded Beyond Repair I Probably Wouldn't Have Looted So Many Plasma TVs," August 30, 2005.)
The formula, as I've said, is simple enough. Pick the topic and then tease out the most absurd elements at length, making it appear that the subject is deliciously unaware of the jarring incongruities in his essay, yet simultaneously earnest about his opinion or assertion throughout the length of the piece.
Also, always include two or three one-line paragraphs for rhythm.
But, honestly, it's getting harder and harder to pull off. "Well, Onion Writer, have you tried using historical references?" I hear you ask. Of course! From a naïve Nazi concentration camp guard ("For A Race Of Alleged Subhumans, These Jews Seem To Be Awfully Keen On Showers," March 8, 2004) to lascivious slave owners in the antebellum south ("I Say, Calhoun, Let's Do Something Crazy And Swap Negro Lasses For The Evening," October 12, 2006) to unsuspecting stockbrokers on the cusp of the Depression ("Mark My Words, Edgarton, With Hoover In The White House Our Obscene Profiteering Will Soar To Never-Ending Levels Of Rapacity," February 7, 2005), the past has always proved a fertile bounty.
Now I can't even come up with a good idea about a hippie realizing that the music at Woodstock sort of sucks and sitting in a tub of mud for three days is kind of ridiculous.
And writing from the point of view of an inanimate object no longer yields results. Sure, my widely-recognized essay by a malevolent light socket trying to murder a child ("Don't Be A Sissy, Timmy, Stick Your Wet Finger In Me, I Dare You," August 21, 2006) and other classics of the genre (my 2005 piece told in the voice of a Sharper Image catalog who was tired of being misused by fetishists, "What Kind Of Sick Fuck Splooges All Over An Ad For An Ionic Air Freshener?" won several awards at that year's Association of National Humor Publications ceremony) seem stale and tired.
I've even resorted to ransacking the Bible for concepts ("I Know I Shouldn't Let Her Cut My Hair, But, Man, I Want To Get This Chick In The Sack," March 3, 2007). Nothing seems to help anymore.
I don't know what to do. I think I'm going to ask the editor if I can switch over to something different. Maybe they'd let me do those recurring "Ask A..." features: Those fuckers write themselves. You barely even need a working brain. But something's gotta give.
Or, hey, maybe I can just replace the Puerto Rican in that parade groping thing with a Dominican. It's been four years, who's gonna remember?