Is the Onion still funny, or have you just gotten used to reading it so you haven't seen it decline from its '90s heyday to the pool of mediocrity it is today? How about Boing Boing, McSweeney's, CNN.com, or Perez Hilton? It's time to feel bad about what you like, for that is the path to enlightenment, or at least to not being that dink who IMs me month-old jokes about Bush.
When it was worth reading: In the 90s, when it was fresh and fake news hadn't yet been properly done. Articles started with an ironic lede and developed into a larger farce, like the 1997 story "Supreme Court Overturns Car," which depicted the Court as a wild frat. Just three years ago, the Onion still successfully mined the mundanities of modern life: Wikipedia sticklers, cops suspecting terrorists and teens, fat women1, and Christian rock bands.
Why you must stop: The Onion is like Dane Cook: where are the jokes?2 The schtick — ironic headline, similarly ironic lede, endless reiteration of lede — is tiresome. "Not So Horrible Thing Happens In Iraq" might have been funny four years ago. This parody of unfunny humor columnists feels witty until you realize you could write its series of non-jokes yourself.
Maybe the Onion didn't even change — it just looks worse against all the new competition. Politics is better satirized by the Daily Show franchise, celebrities better mocked by bloggers, mundanity better picked apart by more bloggers.3 All that's left for the Onion is the same observational humor that normal people make. Instead of telling a friend, "Hey, isn't that Wes Anderson movie just like all his others? Heh, and he always puts the Kinks in the soundtrack," you can send a friend the Onion article that says just that. Ha! Ha! This article is funny because it's true!4
What it's still good for: Mocking other lame publications, as in "Pitchfork Media gives music 6.8." And the AV Club is still neat.
Replace with: NPR puts its weekly news quiz, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me! online. It's not as hip, but that's why it has room to be funny. By the way, they had Colbert on this week.
McSweeney's Internet Tendency
When it was worth reading: About four years ago.
Why you must stop: Just like the Onion, McSweeney's has fallen into an endless schtick. Everything is either "A thing as if it were done by my family/co-workers/friends" or "I am an expert at normal life" or "Overextended metaphor"5 or "Basically an Onion column "Mundane thing done wacky!"
What it's still good for: Outsourcing your own jokes. The last funny article on this site was "Thomas Kincade's Experimental Period."
Replace with: Old Garrison Keillor collections. Try "Happy to Be Here" or "We Are Still Married." For fresh funny, read the humor section of The Morning News, or get over your wry self and read some balls-out humor at Corporate Casual.6
When it was worth reading: When the only other option was TV
Why you must stop: It's not news, it's fark: sensationalist stories that don't constitute world-changing news. The site's headlines, often with invitations to "watch this," have long been fodder for Gawker. The front page looks like an "oddly enough" section. So either take that to its logical conclusion and read full-on trash, or switch to a real news site.
What it's still good for: I dunno, knowing what other CNN readers are talking about?
Replace with: MSNBC for better (not perfect) mainstream headlines; Drudge for a quick screamy snapshot of the day's stories, and Fark for stupid news.
When it was worth reading
Why you must stop: It's vile, unimaginative pulp by a man who is friends with Paris Hilton. Perez's taste in celebrities is only outshittied by his writing style. Maybe everything that sucks has some connection to Dane Cook, because Perez's weak neologisms7 could have been coined by the inventor of the "SuFi."8
What it's still good for
Replace with: The Superficial has decent writing, Pink is the New Blog has better photo vandalism.
When it was worth reading: When one blog could catalogue all the wacky things on the Internet.
Why you must stop: The net's too big now, and Boing Boing misses plenty. That's fine, it's not their job to make sure no one sees something funny and weird before you do. But the best stuff shows up in a million other blogs anyway, so Boing Boing is no longer a must-read.
What it's still good for: Boing Boing TV (a new series) has original . Xeni Jardin9 interviews people like the director of the Simpsons movie and Bill Gates's Microsoft co-founder.
Replace with: Tumblr blogs, which have all the junk-drawer appeal with none of the context or commentary. Try Tumbl.us, Scribbling.net, and A Garden of Varied Delights. If you want something higher-class, savor the baroque feel of Kottke and Fimoculous.
Click to view1Whatever the Dove campaign says, fat women will always be fun to laugh at.
2Or like Steve Wright's unfunny cousin. Or like New Yorker cartoons in which, says Gawker, "the rate of humor is the exact same as naturally occurring humor in the world."
3And "The Office."
4Before I realized how desperately unfunny it would be, I originally wanted to write a parody article called "Onion makes observation about modern middle-class life, stretches premise out to 1000 mildly amusing words."
5See also: 1, 2, 3. I thought about just listing McSweeney's headlines and hoping you'd get the picture, because that seems to be the style McSweeney's readers respond to.
6Disclosure: The writer of "Corporate Casual" sometimes writes for the same publisher as mine. This isn't even really a disclosure, I just want him to notice me and maybe Facebook message me, like, "thanks doug for the plug."
7"Fauxmance." Okay, not even his word.
8It's the finger, but with the ring finger extended too. It's a "super finger." He named a company after it.
9Fun Fact: If Hillary Clinton is Data from Star Trek10, Xeni Jardin is that sexy Cylon from Battlestar Galactica.
10Or Johnny Five from "Short Circuit"
Nick Douglas writes at Valleywag and Too Much Nick. Those things you like? He is over them. But he listens to Billy Joel, so you're still ahead.