The Onion: 20 Years Later — March 22, 2000
As we battle coronavirus, we can empathize with "Area Man's Got A Ton Of Shit On His Mind Right Now, Okay?"
Welcome back to The Onion: 20 Years Later. Today, we’re looking at Vol. 36, Issue 10, from exactly 20 years ago: March 22, 2000.
I know it’s a weird and difficult time for many of us. I hope this offers a helpful distraction. If you know someone who loves The Onion — or just needs something that’s not #coronavirus to read, please share!
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What issue is this?
This is the 10th Onion issue of the 2000s. The photo above is from The Onion’s collection of front pages and is what print readers saw. Here’s the website in 2010 and 2020. The story “Lack Of Second Car Preserves Marriage” is miscategorized on the 2020 page but was definitely part of this issue.
What was the top story, and other impressions?
Finally, I have photographic evidence of the front page! “Gore Already Regretting Promise To Help Clinton Move Out” is a fun but extremely quaint Onion way of looking at presidential politics in the pre-9/11 style of “Bush Finds Error In Fermilab Calculations” and the more recent “Diamond” Joe Biden.
The Gore campaign was famous for freezing out Bill Clinton (and possibly cost itself the election and forever changed America by doing so), and so I like to think this was a clever reaction to that rift. It’s also a nice parody of that adult friend of yours who likes to ask for inconvenient favors, like helping him move:
"I told him I was thinking about running for president, and he said I could expect his full support if I did. But then, right at the very end of the conversation, he slips in, 'Oh, by the way, are you going to be free on moving day?'" Gore said. "That's so Bill: He totally waited until I needed his political backing before asking me."
Let’s credit The Onion, also, for creating this ridiculous photo from 1993 of Gore and Clinton struggling to move a box labeled “CHELSEA’S BOOKS”:
There is so much good stuff in this issue that I’m not going to get to all of it. Apologies to the clever “Local Woman Has Story About How She Got These Shoes” and “German Auto Engineer Issued Lab Coat,” especially.
We also have some articles this week that show our society hasn’t changed all that much in 20 years. For example:
The headline-only joke “Charlize Theron Has Opinion” is fantastic, especially as someone who wishes more celebrities would shut the hell up. Great job by The Onion in picking a movie star who is still relevant.
My only problem with “Area Man's Got A Ton Of Shit On His Mind Right Now, Okay?” is that it’s not longer.
“Diversity Celebrated With Compulsory Luncheon” reminds us that we still do a lot of staged events at work around diversity and inclusion. (Is it worse today that we don’t even get the free lunch?) There’s some cutting commentary here, such as this quote from Gene Ralston of the Wisconsin Multicultural Council (P.S. The Hmong reference is on point, as that population in Wisconsin doubled in the 1990s):
"Take a look around at your co-workers," continued Ralston, addressing the overwhelmingly Caucasian crowd. "Black, white, Hispanic, Native American, Hmong–regardless of your race, you all have something in common: the threat of docked timecards if you did not attend this luncheon."
“Elderly Patient Threatened With Suppository” is a dark headline, and thankfully not a situation I’m personally familiar with (I have one grandparent left, who lives on her own). But, um, are we sure our elderly relatives aren’t receiving this threat?
“Apartment Full Of Jesus Stuff Brings Date To Screeching Halt” probably happens less often today. But that’s only because Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and whatnot help people filter out all sorts of things they don’t like about each other. I formally disapprove of the ghosting our protagonist did — saying he left his car door unlocked and never coming back. Not nice. Also, I have other questions about this article:
Why is this church-going person inviting someone over on the first date?
Is it just me, or is Concrete Jesus a great name for a band?
Could there be a separate article just about the “heavily highlighted book titled Living Your Faith”?
Were the infographics good?
The Census! These are goofy jokes but high-spirited, which we can use right now. I do like that even in 2000, The Onion was already crapping on Gen X with “Permitting retro-loving Generation Xers to fill out 1980 Census instead.”
It’s not all fun and games, though, as The Onion saves a couple entries to rib the racial undercounting inherent to the Census.
Speaking of goofy, this is really silly, although credit to The Onion for having the percentages add up to 100%. I especially enjoyed “Fall from castle tower” — what a visual!
Finally, we have “Smart Stock-Market Investing,” which feels relevant when the Dow has shed 3 years’ worth of gains in a month. This is an excellent and timely list of jokes. My two favorites:
“Keep a close eye on Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. They may try to outfox you and your cold-hearted brother.” I excitedly shared this with my girlfriend, who had no idea what I was talking about. I was aghast.
“When your stock begins to drop, gesticulate wildly to coax it back in the right direction. (Note: Also works in bowling.)” The parenthetical really makes this work. I would have accepted “Also works for Carlton Fisk.”
What real-life events/people were mentioned?
Al Gore. Bill Clinton. George Stephanopoulos. Ron Brown. James Carville. Joe Lockhart. Bill Richardson. Janet Reno. William Cohen. Jesus. Janeane Garofalo. Kathy Griffin. William E. Kennard. Carrot Top. Jennifer Tilly.
A busy week for real people, many of whom are in the “Gore Already Regretting Promise To Help Clinton Move Out” story. Carville and Stephanopoulos failed to show up to help Bill Clinton move into the White House in 1993, with Stephanopoulos claiming to have a meeting with incoming Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. Meanwhile, Richardson, Reno and Cohen all avoided helping Clinton move out in the present day. Lockhart was Clinton’s press secretary at that point.
Garofalo and Griffin are in the extremely 2000-era story “FCC Passes Mandatory Garofalo/Griffin Guest-Appearance Regulation,” as is then-FCC Chairman William E. Kennard.
And Carrot Top and Jennifer Tilly, amazingly, are featured in “Majestic Lowland Gorilla Exploited For Comic Effect” as part of a fake direct-to-cable movie called “Monkey Honeymoon.”
"The scene in question was not included gratuitously," a statement issued by Laff Riot Productions read in part. "The sequence was necessary to further the plot of the film, in which a bunch of escaped apes make a monkey out of Carrot Top."
Most “Hey, it’s 2000!” reference
It’s hard to top “FCC Passes Mandatory Garofalo/Griffin Guest-Appearance Regulation,” although an article based around a Carrot Top movie also seems like a strong contender. The one real-life Carrot Top movie gave us perhaps Conan O’Brien’s greatest interview.
What columnists ran?
He’s also got a new job at a hospital!
“It's not like I have to feed a bunch of dying geezers or nothing. I stand behind a sneeze guard in the cafeteria all day and ladle mashed potatoes and shit onto people's plates.”
The job pays badly, however, and so Anchower is forced to customize his 1988 Volkswagen Golf rather than pay for a new car. First, he fixed up some of the little things wrong with it.
“By the time I was done, I was pretty hammered, though, because nothing goes better with car repair than beer.”
Then he asked his friend Ron to paint the hood a cool color and design, and that description goes on for a surprising amount of time. And it did not end well:
Yesterday, a schoolbus full of middleschoolers pulled up to me at a red light, and they were all pointing and laughing.”
Meanwhile, Onion publisher emeritus T. Herman Zweibel returns with “You Do Not Deserve Me”! He is angry at his readership, and also at himself for using the printed word as propaganda instead of more direct means. Please note the last part of this delightful rant (emphasis added):
I could have used the much more cost-effective method of brightly colored propaganda posters and merry buntings, or had you economically manipulated by secret business-men's-clubs, or instructed Standish to have salt-peter dumped into the reservoirs, but as far as you know, I did not!”
In the end, he admits that his motivation is to produce a greater output than “that shit-ass” William Randolph Hearst, and who can blame him?
The other column is “At Work I'm A Prostitute, But At Home I'm Just Mom,” and … I think the joke here is obvious. It’s extremely dirty, FYI.
What was the best horoscope?
Gemini needs to be worried in this week’s horoscopes.
Gemini | May 21 to June 20
Beware of being influenced by the Moon in this phase of your life. That lunar bastard has his agents everywhere!
Was Bill Clinton mentioned? Was an animal quoted?
Indirectly, but he’s making Al Gore miserable! No animals quoted.
What holds up best?
I like all the local stories, such as “Local Woman Has Story About How She Got These Shoes” and “Parents Of 6-Year-Old Sorely Regretting Purchase Of Knock-Knock-Joke Book” — these are timeless situations of aggravation!
“Smart Stock-Market Investing” has been making me laugh all week, which is good comfort for having my investments down 30% or whatever.
What holds up worst?
I really wanted to like “At Work I'm A Prostitute, But At Home I'm Just Mom,” but I’m not sure it’s funny enough to outweigh the graphic detail. To use an analogy from the 2000 era, Eminem could overcome some of his most awful lines because the craftsmanship was so devastating, but lesser rappers couldn’t. This article is a lesser rapper.
What would be done differently today?
“Victoria's Secret Also Andrew's Secret” would probably be omitted. Obviously, we have a pandemic, so that would affect some of the articles.
What was happening in the real world?
The Onion published on March 22, but printing a newspaper requires an earlier deadline. Therefore, here are news items from March 13-March 19, 2000, as listed by InfoPlease and The New York Times front pages (subscription required):
Vermont legislators approve gay marriage bill. Clinton visits South Africa. Clinton, White House cleared in FBI files investigation. L.A. Times is key to Times-Mirror, Tribune newspaper deal. Stephen King publishes “e-novella” online. Revival in cash-only medicine? Dow index has biggest one-day gain. Smith & Wesson settles lawsuits, agrees to restrictions. Genetically modified food debated in Europe. Mortgage lender accused of using fine print for extra profit. Feds seek death penalty in 1998 embassy bombings. Clinton, Blair seek genome data sharing. Florida school voucher plan blocked. Prison labor increasingly common. US agrees to back International Monetary Fund candidate. Israelis and Palestinians agree on West Bank control. US loosens Iran sanctions. Ugandan mass suicide claims 235. Taiwan opposition party wins presidency. US troops lead raid in Albania. 45-million-year-old fossils called early human predecessor. NCAA basketball tourneys begin.