Site Delivers 'Some of the News, Most of the Time'

The pranksters at 236.com bring sharp political satire to the election cycle.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALISON STEWART, host:

How are you? Hey, I'm shaking hands with our next guest. I'm going to attempt to read the intro, too. Here we go.

LUKE BURBANK, host:

Okay, go.

STEWART: In a world where real headlines seem comical, media outlets like The Onion or "The Daily Show" make a real point through humor. Favorite of mine: once Jon Stewart said, a new country was being formed to hate America because we'd run out of them and the name of the country would be Iraq-orea(ph).

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Kind of funny. There was a new Web site started by Barry Diller's IAC Company and the Huffington Post - entering into the fray. Instead of covering news 24/7, it covers it 23/6.

BURBANK: …ish.

STEWART: …ish. And that's the URL, 236.com. It promises some of the news, most of the time; that includes blogs, columns, and a section called, Our Tiny, Tiny TV. Widely featured is a series of Swift Kids for Truth clips, a slap at both the Swift Vote politics we saw in '04 and the current trend of using children to make political points. Swift Kids for Truth took on center at Hillary Clinton this way.

(Soundbite of Swift Kids for Truth clip)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Child #1: Hillary Clinton disparaged the act of baking cookies.

Unidentified Child #2: I eat cookies all the time. My mom bakes cookies. Does baking cookies for me make my mom a bad person? Hillary Clinton thinks so.

Unidentified Child #3: Why put down cookies then offer up a recipe for cookies?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: This has great graphic in the…

BURBANK: That tiny child raises a good point, though. Thanks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Laurie Kilmartin is a comedian and staff writer for 236.com. Thanks for coming in the studio, Laurie.

Ms. LAURIE KILMARTIN (Comedian; Staff Writer, 236.com): Sure. Thanks for having me.

STEWART: So I understand some people - they don't really understand that as a joke.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Yeah, there are people that have actually thought it was real and thought it was horrific that the Republicans were using children, you know, like, they'd shrunk to that level. And then there's people that think it's funny because they actually think they're going after the Democrats. So - but we don't care who laughs at it, or who does or doesn't get it as long you watch it.

STEWART: So when you guys sit down for your meeting - you have a morning meeting…

Ms. KILMARTIN: Right.

STEWART: …much like a lot of news organizations do.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Right.

STEWART: How do you decide what's good fodder and what's not?

Ms. KILMARTIN: We just pitch a bunch of ideas on whatever seems doable in the next three hours. We (unintelligible) time frame.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Hey, that sounds like this show.

STEWART: Take at a look at this show. I think it's interesting about the site is there is the comedic part of it…

Ms. KILMARTIN: Yeah.

STEWART: …and then there's always a link to the real story underneath. Why is that?

Ms. KILMARTIN: Right, yeah. We just want to - we want you to know we're not making this stuff up. And we'd - if - it's kind of like if you read our story and you think it's kind of interesting and you want the actual facts to double check our work, you can go to the New York Times link at the bottom. But it's all - all of our comedic takes are based on real stories.

STEWART: How many people are on staff?

Ms. KILMARTIN: There's about five writers that are full-time. We have a lot of freelance writers submitting things. And then there's our freelance bloggers that do The Room, which is the right half of the site, which is editorial and the opinion op-ed type of pieces.

STEWART: Now, are guys comedy writers or do - are you frustrated news people who couldn't take it anymore?

Ms. KILMARTIN: I'm a frustrated comic who can't take it anymore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KILMARTIN: I'm a frustrated American who can't take it anymore. Yeah, well most of us are - we're comedy writers. I'm a comedian and there's some other people that perform and then there's some just pure writers also.

STEWART: That's interesting that you said you're a frustrated comedian…

Ms. KILMARTIN: Yeah.

STEWART: …and you can't take it anymore. Is there a certain amount of - do you get to exercise political demons?

Ms. KILMARTIN: Definitely. You know, it's actually kind of hard to talk about that stuff onstage. I don't think audiences necessarily want to hear about politics onstage. They want to hear about your personal life and who you're dating and who you're not dating and all that stuff. And that can get kind of frustrating. So it's, you know, if you want to unleash on Hillary Clinton, it's easier to do it on the Web. People seem to want to read about that stuff.

STEWART: I got to mention, the presidential campaign is a God-send for you, guys, this year.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Yeah.

STEWART: Let's play this clip. It's a takeoff - it's like a NASCAR trucking ad for…

Ms. KILMARTIN: Yeah, this is great.

STEWART: John Edwards' poverty tour.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Yeah.

STEWART: Listen.

(Soundbite of clip from 236.com)

Unidentified Man: The John Edwards Road to One American Poverty tour kicking of Monday, July 18th in New Orleans, and hitting some of the poorest places in America like rural Appalachia, the Deep South, the Mississippi Delta, and the Rust Belt. Eighteen hundred miles of deep, soul-crushing poverty. The John Edwards Road to One American Poverty tour - featuring photo-ops with the unemployed, coal miners, old folks, and black people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: We'll sell you the whole seat, but you'll only use the edge.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: So it must be a great year for you, guys.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Yeah, it's shaping up to be a lot of fun.

STEWART: All right, we're going to ask you to stick around for a minute?

Ms. KILMARTIN: Definitely.

STEWART: Laurie Kilmartin is a staff writer for the new Web site, 236.com. We'll dive in a little more and find out who their audience is and how they differ from The Onion and "The Daily Show."

BURBANK: And after that, the comedy just keeps rolling on the BPP. Good for Jews - they're going to be here to enlighten us on Hanukkah. I just learned it's not called Chanukah. You learn something here every day living in New York.

Ms. KILMARTIN: I just learned that a second ago.

BURBANK: Yeah.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Wow.

BURBANK: That's what they get for going up in Seattle.

STEWART: That's why you listen to NPR, so we can learn you.

BURBANK: That's right.

STEWART: Get smarter as they.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Er - smarterer.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Smarterer.

BURBANK: All coming up on THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News; that's what this show's called.

(Soundbite of music)

BURBANK: Welcome back to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. I'm Luke Burbank.

STEWART: And I'm Alison Stewart.

And we are talking to Laurie Kilmartin from 236.com - talking about how they take the news of the day, try to twist it around and make it satirical and funny. I think it's interesting you actually have a poll question about Iran's nukes today.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Oh, yeah.

STEWART: How do you take something that's sort of serious like that and try to find a punch line?

Ms. KILMARTIN: Well, sometimes it doesn't work. But…

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Have you had those times when you're, like, this is just not even funny.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Yeah, yeah. There is - yeah, Pakistan is one of those things where you're, like, oh, what do we do with this? It's always driving us crazy. But Iran's sort of like that country where they kind of, you know, they say there are no gays in their country and the holocaust never happened. And they pretend they're like they were making nukes and now we find out they aren't. They kind of remind me of a country that was like a nerd in high school, about how he said he was doing the cheerleaders and you're, like…

BURBANK: Yeah.

Ms. KILMARTIN: …you don't even know a cheerleader. You're in the chess club.

BURBANK: He said she was - his girlfriend was Canadian.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Yeah, right. You even spot a - Iran a girlfriend; that's nice.

STEWART: Yeah, the poll question says, why has Iran been pretending it's making nukes? One, it wants to be attacked so it can destroy Israel in, quote, "self-defense." Iran just likes to pretend, like fantasizing about no homosexuals in their country. Or third, the ladies love it when Ahmadinejad asks, care to shield your eyes from the nuclear explosion in my pants?

Ms. KILMARTIN: Yeah, I think number three is the top option.

STEWART: Top option? I think that is the one that got the biggest response.

BURBANK: Are you surprised at - for like - before we start doing the show, I hadn't really worked on something that was - had a large life on the Internet and have had a number of people that - this sounds like the oldest thing anyone's ever said - but the number of people that go on the Internet everyday and watch video clips and stuff totally blows me away.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Right, right.

BURBANK: Like maybe, you know, when you get hired to work on a Web site, you might have thought, oh, Web site, shmeb(ph) site.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Yeah.

BURBANK: But does that kind of amaze you? They're, like, traffic.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Yeah, it is - yeah, it's stunning especially when we - Huffpo does a lot of - will link to us and the traffic we get from our Huffpo link is unbelievable, I mean, they're very dedicated readers. But, yeah, the video stuff is - it's crazy. Like, I don't watch that much video online, you know, I - but people do. And thank God they do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: The name of the site is 236.com. You can check it out. They've got links to other Web sites, not THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT yet, but…

Ms. KILMARTIN: Are you serious?

STEWART: …shameless.

Ms. KILMARTIN: I'm on that at the morning meeting, which starts in 45 minutes.

STEWART: All right, well, we'll let you go. Laurie Kilmartin, thanks for being with us.

Ms. KILMARTIN: Thank you.

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