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Radio Survivor's Top Radio Shows – Matthew's #4: Onion Radio News

I need a good laugh about once every twenty minutes, especially these days. So I listen to Onion Radio News.

“A giant 6-year old devastates a local ant community!” announces ORN’s hard nosed reporter, Doyle Redland. “Ant-hill scouts reported today that a mammalian destructo-beast some ten thousand ant-links in height smashed a nearby ant-hill and left thousands scurrying to rebuild.”

The kid was caught on tape, Redland continues, “using a Stone Cold Steve Austin action figure to pummel the colony flat.” Though reports from the scene are sketchy, “all stress that The Queen is unharmed,” Redland emphasizes. “Repeat. THE QUEEN IS UNHARMED.”

At a time when so much on line humor is about being snarky or trashing people, ORN somehow finds a way to be laughing-out-loud funny without being mean. The service succeeds in this by making whimsical fun of nobody in particular, just mythological figures , crash test dummies , “area” women and men, and recently deceased animals, often with salutation names. Redland’s but-seriously-folks voice is provided by the actor and cartoonist Pete S. Mueller.

“If there’s a Ferret Heaven, an area woman’s dead Ferret is in it!” Redland disclosed in an April 15, 2008 exclusive. The breaking story (and one of my favorites) boils down to an interview with former ferret owner Kelly Isgold, who says that if a ferret heaven exists, “her recently deceased pet Mr. Slinky has been given a gold halo” and a full pass.

“I just imagine that he’s up there spraying musk on Saint Peter’s robe and getting into trouble,” Isgold says.

But no, interrupts Doyle. “This just in. Mr. Slinky’s soul has been sent to giant prairie dog heaven by mistake, where he will be tormented for all eternity!”

Pass the coleslaw

To be fair, science, the economy, and international politics all get their share of coverage on ORN. There’s a feature on the prospect that North Korea may drop a nuclear bomb on itself, and a new report released by the Department of Sides and Garnishes indicating that 85 percent of all U.S. coleslaw goes uneaten.

But I like the animal stories best.

“Wall Street analysts are giving credit to today’s surge in trading volume to an especially loud opening bell rung by an escaped chimpanzee wielding a large hammer,” begins a July news item . While brokers appreciated the stock boost, some were “privately alarmed” that an escaped zoo animal could get access to the New York Stock Exchange. “We all remember what happened when a pigeon got in here,” trader Ben Morganthal is quoted as saying. “We got lucky this time.”

We’re ruined

Every now and then, of course, the critters offer a social message, usually of the libertarian variety. “Abstinence only education ruined by trip to the zoo,” was the headline of the day for July 11. The parents of 14 year old Lily Dirksen have always dutifully kept the girl out of sex education classes, it seems. But all that virtue was undone by the sight of humping giraffes. “Though Mr. Dirksen has consulted the Bible about the problem,” Doyle concludes, “he says that there is absolutely nothing in it about accidentally letting your kids see a couple of masturbating wolverines.”

According to its About page, the Onion Radio News “has been the most highly regarded broadcast news source in the world since visionary Onion publisher T. Herman Zweibel made the bold move in 1922 to shut down the popular Onion Telegraph News and focus on the then embryonic medium of radio.” What a visionary—then, and now.

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