Inside 'The Onion' : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders Sam visits the Chicago offices of the satirical news publication for a headline pitch meeting and conversations with Editor-In-Chief Cole Bolton, Executive Editor Ben Berkley, Managing Editor Marnie Shure, and Head Writer Chad Nackers. They talk about comedy and President Trump (and why he makes their jobs harder), feuding with Sean Hannity, covering Barack Obama, crossing lines, and being socially awkward at parties. Email the show at samsanders@npr.org and follow Sam on Twitter @samsanders.

Inside 'The Onion'

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(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SAM SANDERS, HOST:

Hey, y'all. Sam Sanders here. IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. So every Tuesday, we bring you a deep dive. And today - something different. Instead of a single interview, I am bringing you along with me for several. We're going inside the Chicago headquarters of The Onion, that news satire publication that has been making a mockery of America and its news since 1988.

What they're doing is even more interesting now in 2017 because the news feels more and more like a parody of itself. So their offices aren't really like a newsroom at all. It kind of looks like a Silicon Valley startup office or something - a lot of sleek cubicles and young people with headphones on and hoodies. But it's much quieter than you would think.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: There's this big and talented staff of writers there. And when I got the chance to visit them, I wanted to talk to more than just one person. So what you're about to hear is me hanging out with the staff at one of their headline pitch meetings. We will also dip in and out of it to hear some conversations that I had with senior editors and writers there at The Onion.

I talked to Marnie Shure, who's the managing editor of The Onion, Cole Bolton, editor-in-chief, Chad Nackers, the head writer, and Ben Berkley, who is the executive editor at The Onion. We will start at their headline pitch meeting. This is a meeting in a decent-sized conference room that has framed Onion headlines and stories all over the walls. The headlines are where The Onion's biggest jokes live. And they come up with them at this meeting.

So one, thanks for having me here. I'm Sam with NPR - big fan of you guys. I'm going to be a fly on the wall in this meeting. But just so you aren't alarmed, that's recording right over there, that's recording there.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: And I'll have this mic.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: So everything you say will be notated. Also...

COLE BOLTON: Jerry's (ph) never been more concerned in his life.

SANDERS: Yeah. I mean, basically, like, feel free to talk louder than you usually do just so we get everything.

BOLTON: Well, we're very nervous people, so I think this is a very unusual thing for us. So...

SANDERS: So that's Cole. He's the editor-in-chief. He runs that meeting. And he has this big list of headlines with submissions from every person around the table. And Cole reads through them one at a time. And if the headlines get a laugh, or if the group responds positively, the headlines go on to this, like, next round of whittling - vetting. So whether or not a headline gets a thumbs up, it was really interesting to me. The room seems to make this decision really quickly, almost on instinct.

Also a side note - it's so weird to hear these headlines now because they're a total snapshot of that week that I was there with them, which was way back at the beginning of June, which feels like forever ago at this point. That week, there had just been a terror attack a few days earlier on London Bridge in the U.K. Fired FBI Director James Comey was scheduled to testify before Congress that week. And the president's travel ban - remember that? - that was still winding its way to the Supreme Court.

BOLTON: All right, I guess I'll get started then with this thing over my shoulder.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLTON: Run, Run, Holy [expletive], We're All Going To Die, Says Defiant Trump In The Face Of London Terror Attacks. Death Rides A Horse Bathed In Blood. This Is The End Of Us All, Screams Filthy, Robed Trump On D.C. Street Corner. It's OK. Victims Of London Terror Attack Can't Believe They Have To Spend Emotional Energy Condemning Donald Trump. That's OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Sure.

BOLTON: Trump Refusing To Come Out From Under Desk Until America Makes All The Muslims Go Away.

SANDERS: That one was good.

BOLTON: No, you can't laugh.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Oh, I can't laugh.

BOLTON: Guests aren't allowed...

SANDERS: Why can't I laugh?

BOLTON: Guests aren't allowed to laugh

SANDERS: (Laughter).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: That's your laugh - one laugh.

BOLTON: One laugh. America Will Defeat Islamic Terrorism, Whispers Trump Through Thin Slot In White House Bunker Steel Door.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Sure.

BOLTON: James Comey's Struggling To Collect Congressional Testimony Notes After Big Gust Of Wind Scatters Them All Over National Mall.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLTON: Report Finds Only 18 Percent Of Americans Properly Check Selves Before They Wreck Selves.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLTON: I really thought that was going to be a tick joke, like, check yourselves for ticks. Check yourselves for ticks before you wreck yourselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: So first things first, give me both your full names and your titles and what you do here at The Onion.

MARNIE SHURE: I'm Marnie Shure, and I'm managing editor of The Onion.

BOLTON: Cole Bolton, editor-in-chief.

SANDERS: You know, what's so - what I found so interesting is that, like, I can't read The Onion quietly. I'm laughing out loud. I'm telling my friends, did you read this? But this office is so quiet.

BOLTON: Oh, it's...

SANDERS: What's the deal with that?

BOLTON: None of us are really talkers. I think we're all just like...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BOLTON: ...We're people who much prefer to be in our own little cocoon of, like, quietness. And I think we're just all probably fairly introverted people on staff.

SHURE: Yeah. Like, God help you if you ever run into a gaggle of us at a cocktail party (laughter).

SANDERS: Why? Are y'all just like y'all sitting there in silence?

SHURE: It's not the easiest thing in the world to talk.

BOLTON: It's actually pretty funny. You know, we're so introverted. It's - after, like, we have a social event - like, we'll do a - you know, someone will have a party at their house, or whatever. Like, we're - say, it's - someone's leaving. We have a goodbye party, or whatever. The next day, when people come in with their headlines, it's all about how awkward people felt at the party the night before.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BOLTON: Like, one of them was like - what's the one about the dog?

SHURE: Like, Anti-Social Man At Party Really Hitting It Off With Dog.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLTON: Everyone thought that headline was about them. They're like, oh, yeah, last night, I was playing with Will's (ph) dog. That was me. I was like, I felt too nervous about the conversation, so I went over and played with the dog for a while.

SANDERS: That's funny.

BOLTON: Yeah.

SANDERS: That's funny. Explain, both of you, briefly, what the editing process is for a fake news magazine (laughter).

BOLTON: It's actually really intricate. We care an obsessive amount about quality here and about - it sounds weird because we are, you know, a site that publishes news that's not real...

SANDERS: I love how you say it so deadpan.

BOLTON: Yeah.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BOLTON: But we put a lot of time into making sure that everything is accurate in the story except for the thing that we're satirizing, like, or that we're switching out. Like, we want to make sure that the people that we're quoting are, you know, the real names, all the details of, like, legislative bills are correct. Like, we don't want anything that's not the joke to be made up because that's - that makes our satire work. It's usually one thing we're switching out in the story.

SANDERS: You guys have fact-checkers.

BOLTON: Yes, and we're...

SANDERS: That's amazing.

BOLTON: Yeah. We actually don't have fact-checkers.

SANDERS: But you fact-check.

BOLTON: We fact-check, yeah.

SANDERS: Oh, my goodness. I never thought about that, but I guess it makes perfect sense.

BOLTON: Yeah, the jokes don't really work if you just, like, go to crazy town and just make up fake senators and make up, like, fake bills. Like, we're satirizing the real world, so we have to have the real world in every article.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BOLTON: Arctic Glacier Called To Melt Before Senate Energy Committee.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLTON: Trump Boys Chasing Wounded Hog Around White House.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLTON: Cut - they got him in the haunches. Report - More Americans Willing To Accept Female Wonder Woman.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLTON: Man Optimizing Experimental Conditions Before Weighing Himself. I mean, I like that idea, I guess...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Yeah.

BOLTON: ....Like, the scene. "Fox & Friends" Terrorized By Hundreds Of Miniature Sean Hannitys Running Amok Through Studio. Funny.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Sure.

BOLTON: We're still on his homepage, if you guys go there.

SANDERS: OK, I'm just going to pause right here. At the beginning of June, The Onion was in this feud with Sean Hannity. He is the Fox News television host. This was all happening just after the death of Roger Ailes, who founded Fox News.

What happened?

BOLTON: Sean Hannity got really upset about an article we did after Roger Ailes' death. And he tweeted about it and then spoke about it on his show last week.

SANDERS: What'd he say about you guys?

BOLTON: I think he said we're a really good company.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLTON: So what was the headline on that? It was...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: It was...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Hundreds Of Miniature Sean Hannitys Burst From Roger Ailes' Corpse.

BOLTON: Yeah.

SANDERS: I mean, I see why he'd be mad.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLTON: Yeah, I can sort of see why he'd be mad, too, but, I mean, it's, like...

SANDERS: So part of the context here, at least the staffers thought this was the case, was that the original article came out, like, two weeks before. So they thought that Hannity was just playing this up and stoking a conflict he could use to fill the air on his show. When Hannity tweeted the article, he wrote, quote, "what is wrong with the left that they think these sorts of things are funny?"

BOLTON: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: And he definitely, like, dug it up.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Or something.

BOLTON: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Yeah, he also said something about his daughter having to read it.

BOLTON: Yeah, that's...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Well, yeah, (unintelligible) a week after he had talked about it.

BOLTON: Yeah, he's like, my daughter can see this.

SANDERS: This was another part of the story - it ran with this, like, very graphic but also very cartoonish illustration. It's a bunch of little Sean Hannitys covered in blood, crawling out from between the buttons of an expensive-looking dress shirt. Hannity brought up his 15-year-old daughter on his show when he talked about all this. He said that she didn't find it funny to see her dad portrayed like that.

BOLTON: Yeah, he's like, my daughter can see this. If you were worried about what your daughter thought of you, then shouldn't be a conspiracy peddling blowhard. Should I keep going?

(LAUGHTER)

BOLTON: Fawning disciple of a sexual predator and a propagandist.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Just to be clear, this happens every week. He goes on a rant against Sean Hannity.

BOLTON: I don't think we've ever mentioned Sean Hannity in here until Roger Ailes' death, but whatever. OK, that was fun.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLTON: Aide Trying To Explain Qatar To Trump, Just Lies And Tells Him He Has Hotel There.

SANDERS: So this was really interesting to me. Like, whatever you think of Sean Hannity, it is clear that Cole and the entire staff of The Onion, they approach their work with this very substantial sense of morality. They're thinking a lot about right and wrong, and they are passing judgment on who of the powerful deserves to be taken down a peg. Here's Cole again with Marnie, the managing editor.

BOLTON: I think the thing is that we love hitting everyone. Like, our motto is tu stultus es, which is Latin for you are stupid. And we just want to...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

BOLTON: ...We want to indict stupidity wherever we see it. Like, intolerance, greed, hypocrisy, lying, anything that's trying to, like - that we see as [expletive]. Can I say [expletive]?

SANDERS: You can say it. Oh, yeah, say it again.

BOLTON: [Expletive].

(LAUGHTER)

BOLTON: So liberals aren't immune to that. In fact, we love - like, we love hitting Obama for, like, extralegal surveillance and for drone strikes against U.S. civilians. You know, it's - we made fun of Hillary a ton during the...

SANDERS: She liked it, right? She tweeted one of y'all's articles about her, right?

BOLTON: She did. It was I Am fun. It was an op-ed written by Hillary Clinton. It was I Am fun, which was the most wooden writing in the world. It's like, I am fun. Things that are fun that I enjoy are as follows.

SANDERS: (Laughter) And then she - when she tweeted it, what'd she - she had, like, one word. Like...

SHURE: It was humorous...

(LAUGHTER)

SHURE: ...Exclamation point.

SANDERS: So, I mean (laughter) - I'm sure some of them - I mean, like, I'm guessing you're speaking to an audience that is perhaps a lot - skews liberal and who holds the nation's first black president in a special place in their hearts. Like, how did you have to dance around - were there ever folks who were like, oh, that article was racist?

BOLTON: I'm guessing maybe for just, like, the jokes, like, Black Guy Asks Nation For Change And Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job. I mean, for those, I think it's because the - it's kind of a shocking headline maybe, or, like, kind of, like, you see it, and you're just, like, oh, that's an interesting thing to read. Like, maybe...

SANDERS: It's weird to see the words black guy written down.

BOLTON: Yeah...

SANDERS: Yeah.

BOLTON: ...I think it is. But I think that's - part of the jokes in these things are talking about how people are uncomfortable with talking about race a lot of time and how, like, it's sort of surprising to see a headline like that. I think, for a lot of people, it was really surprising to see a candidate like that.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

BOLTON: So that was something we brought up in Black Guy Asks Nation For Change And Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job when he was elected.

SANDERS: And when he left, what'd you have?

BOLTON: Black Man Out Of Work.

SANDERS: (Laughter) That's the best one.

(LAUGHTER)

SHURE: Yeah. And as with the Obama coverage, just with our - as with our Trump coverage, any joke we make is going to be one that an entire room's worth of people have vetted, and it's a joke that we can stand behind. And we never - you know, we never punch down. So because of that, we can cover any presidency that you throw at us. We have a process in place to make sure that we do so well.

SANDERS: What is it - is it good for a news operation covering Trump so much to not be in D.C. or to not be in New York? You're in Chicago. Was that an editorial choice? How does it affect the coverage?

SHURE: So editorially, we are in Chicago for not, like, creative-based reasons. But I think that this publication could be written from anywhere because it's got a unifying philosophy and is pretty, I think, unaffected by the location and the atmosphere. What do - would you agree?

BOLTON: Yeah, I would. I would completely agree. I think - I do think that maybe D.C. would not be the best place. Like, I think we could do it from D.C. I just feel like, I think we went a little mad during the election, or I think we're going a little mad during this presidency, like I said, just keeping up and finding all these angles on it.

SANDERS: Every little headline is, like, the biggest thing ever for D.C. Like...

BOLTON: Oh, really?

SANDERS: ...Me being there, every time that The Times or The Post has anything new, everyone's like, whoa, my God. It's like a dog with a squirrel. And there's a new squirrel every five minutes. But you never catch that squirrel. You're just like, squirrel, squirrel, squirrel, squirrel, squirrel. And I feel like you guys are chasing fewer squirrels.

SHURE: Yeah, best-case scenario - yeah - being out of that politically steeped environment gives us a chance to, like, reflect on what the greater trends are, especially because this election was one that showed the power of places outside D.C. making their voices heard.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: Both of you, first, give me your full names and your titles here at The Onion.

BEN BERKLEY: Ben Berkley, executive editor.

CHAD NACKERS: Chad Nackers, head writer.

SANDERS: How long have you been here?

NACKERS: This is my 20th year at The Onion.

BERKLEY: Showoff.

SANDERS: Whoa.

BERKLEY: Such a showoff.

SANDERS: So you're, like, the spiritual godfather of this place.

NACKERS: (Laughter) Closer to dead is probably...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

NACKERS: ...Where I'm at.

SANDERS: So then - OK, so like, how has what The Onion does and what the ethos of the place is, how has it changed over time? Like, would The Onion of 20 years ago recognize The Onion of today?

NACKERS: I think The Onion of 20 years ago would not recognize the world today. You know, that's where it's crazy is, like, back then, you could appreciate, like, oh, they're just making fun of Bill Clinton or making fun of whatever Republican was in charge. And now I feel like people look at it, like, you guys are making fun of this thing, but you're not making fun of that thing. You know, it's...

SANDERS: Yeah.

NACKERS: ...Like, whereas, they can't enjoy both jokes for some reason now. So yeah, it's just a different world. And then you go into the Trump era, where it's kind of like he's stealing our work from us, you know, with all this craziness, you know.

SANDERS: You're saying he writes the jokes for you?

NACKERS: Well, he doesn't write the jokes for us. He makes it so nothing seems - nothing and everything seems plausible at the same time, you know, that, like, he'll come up with something that you're like, wait, did he just say that?

SANDERS: Ben, your thoughts on this?

BERKLEY: Yeah, I think it's just - it's a hard thing to do. You know, we've heard - we've all heard a lot of people in our lives say, oh, this Trump thing, you guys must be having a field day. It must be - so much fun. It's not, really.

SANDERS: It's not fun?

BERKLEY: And I think it's not necessarily even Trump himself so much as it's just the pace of the world - of the media world. You know, something happens in an instant, and then you've got thousands of tweets...

SANDERS: And hundreds of hot takes right away. And it's like...

BERKLEY: Absolutely. And so for an organization that prides itself on being there with something original and thought-provoking, that's a hard thing to do.

SHURE: It's really different.

SANDERS: How so?

SHURE: Because with Trump, I think, the public fully expects and demands that jokes be made about - that we skewer Trump. We try not to go to any of the wells that we see people joking about online already. The hue of his skin or the qualities of his hair are not things...

SANDERS: So you don't do those.

SHURE: No, we try to find uncommented upon areas. Either his policies or the people who surround him in his administration are worthy targets.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

BOLTON: White House Groundskeeper Admits It's Nice Having Steve Bannon Around To Control Rose Garden's Rabbit population. Excessive Government Oversight Forces Dozens Of Russian Backchannels To Close. U.S. Economy Expands At Infinite Pace Following Disaster At Fed Fiscal Centrifuge. Subhead - Quadrillions Of Small Businesses Opened, Closed, Reconstituted Into Atoms In Past Micro-Second Alone, Report Terrified Economists.

SHURE: Sure.

BOLTON: Soot-Covered Ben Carson Emerges From Talks With Nation's Top Chimneys.

SHURE: Sure.

NACKERS: He opened an umbrella (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: All right, time for a quick break right here. More from my visit to The Onion in just a bit. BRB.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: All right. We're back. So it is very true that The Onion has been pretty savage about President Trump and members of his White House. Here are some headlines from just the last week - My Work Is Done Here, Smiles Contented Bannon Before Bursting Into Millions Of Spores. Here's another - Trump Inspires Thousands Of Kids To Believe They Could One Day Grow Up To Be President Of The Confederacy. Another one - Trump Blasts Critics Who Judge Neo-Nazis By Most Extreme Members. But here's the thing, I have to imagine that the Onion's audience probably doesn't mind this kind of tone against President Trump that much.

Flipside, though, is that the next time there's a Democrat in the White House, the Onion's audience might have to reset expectations. Chad Nackers is a head writer for The Onion, and he told me there's something that they always think about there in the office but they never let it really take hold of them - this idea that someone is always going to find something they do not funny.

NACKERS: We always cross someone's line. And that person always says, I loved The Onion until you made fun of this. And so I think right now, we're living in a country where every single person is like, no one's allowed to talk about this thing that makes me mad. And so I feel like - all I'm seeing is I see more outrage just in general. It's like there's just so much outrage. And it's not necessarily - it's about...

SANDERS: Speaking of, that siren just went up - the outrage siren.

NACKERS: It's not even like that it's just outrage about us. I just think that everybody's expressing their outrage, and they're annoyed about every group. And, you know, everybody seems to be very frustrated by this. And so...

SANDERS: Does that make it harder for you guys?

NACKERS: I don't think so because I don't think we ever look at, like, what the reader's opinion or their comments are going to be. We don't care.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

NACKERS: You know, we'll take their praise, but, you know...

SANDERS: And there's another angle here, too. Sometimes The Onion isn't exactly trying to make fun of anything. Occasionally, when the news is really serious, they'll do some really poignant work. You know, they're known for running the same article after any and every mass shooting here in America - No Way To Prevent This, Says Only Nation In The World Where This Happens. So they just change a few of the details each time, but the headline stays the same. And something like that, that kind of story, it's on the edge of satire, but it is also not funny. Here's Cole and Marnie again, followed by Chad.

BOLTON: It's kind of this thing that's part of The Onion ethos where we - nothing's off limits to us. Like, no jokes have limits. And there's no too soon in our world. Like, a lot of the things that happen, we feel like the time to discuss the underlying issues behind them is in the aftermath of things like that. That's when it matters most. We're - I think we're well-known for our coverage after, like, mass shootings in the United States.

SANDERS: Where you guys have that one article that you kind of repurpose, which is very powerful.

BOLTON: That's right. Yeah - No Way To Prevent This, Says Only Nation Where This Happens. And we just change the details in them - the location, the number of victims, just to sort of comment on, like, the boilerplate nature of not just, like, the coverage but, like, just the fact this happens all the time in a different place. And the only thing that's different is, like, the place and the number of people who died.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SHURE: And because we aren't going for a laugh or much less a cheap laugh in the wake of these tragedies, there is no such thing as too soon. You want that comment to be fresh and immediate because the commentary that we're making is relevant to that scenario. And we want to capture the national mood in the wake of these things. So to say too soon kind of implies a cheapness that we aren't going for.

SANDERS: What was the biggest moment of evolution for The Onion? I've heard some stories that, like, 9/11 was really big for the organization, but, like, was there a moment where everything changed for The Onion?

NACKERS: I think that was a pretty huge - I think, actually, if you want to go back, I think Bush getting elected was probably - like, I think we went to darker satire at that point. I mean, our immediate thing was we kind of threw out our initial issue that we were planning and we just worked over the weekend and did, like - it was like this chaos thing, where like Nader Rides Blue Up The Hoover Dam. And, like, there's all this crazy stuff. And it was just like a nation in chaos. And I feel like that theme sort of continued into the Bush administration and with 9/11, with the Iraq War, the stakes had been kind of raised. And we were, like, hitting more serious issues at that point, you know?

SANDERS: Yeah.

NACKERS: It was like less about Bill Clinton acting like a goof ball, you know.

SANDERS: It was like some serious stuff.

NACKERS: Yeah. So we hit satire in that way. But also, it was like, everything around us. I mean, we'd all just moved to New York City, and there's smoke billowing above Manhattan, you know, while we're going into our offices still.

SANDERS: So, like, how do you as a comedic writer deal with that? You know that the world has never been more serious when an event like that happens. And your job is to be funny. Did you ever just say, maybe we shouldn't publish The Onion for a few weeks? Maybe we should just, like, wait this out.

NACKERS: Oh, like right around 9/11?

SANDERS: Yeah.

NACKERS: Well, we didn't come out with anything right away. We actually - our first print issue was supposed to come out in New York basically on, like, September 12 or something. So we did hold back. We waited a whole week before we did anything. And we brought every single person in our office into the room to look at the board with our headlines and stuff and made sure that, like - because we didn't want anything to come off as offensive, you know. And just - it was all, like, a lot of double-checking. which is the trend in comedy too is where, like, you can't just - if you're trying to make a serious comment on society, you can't just cook the facts so that they work for your joke.

SANDERS: OK. So we've saved that the most interesting part of The Onion headline meeting for last. After they've gone through all of that day's headline submissions, the whole team returns to that list of headlines that have cleared the first round, headlines that got a laugh or a few of them agreed on it, the ones that have potential. Then what they do with those headlines is actually completely unfunny. It is just almost clinical dissection of what exactly is happening with each headline, what makes it funny or not and why. And that informs the actual story that will be written for those headlines.

And so now the list of the 24 finalists. And you guys are going through and, like, doing what?

BOLTON: We're going to circle the ones we like or make notes, possibly, like, alter the headline if we don't think it's quite there, if we like the idea. And then we'll decide which ones we want to write up.

BERKLEY: Did you guys like one?

BOLTON: One? I was OK on one. Death Rides A Horse Bathed In Blood, This Is The End Of Us All, Screams Filthy Rogue Trump On D.C. Street Corner. I just don't know if that rhetoric at the beginning felt like the - felt like a straight-line heightening of his tweets to me. I don't know what you guys think.

BERKLEY: I mean, it's more just like a crazed, you know, street corner preacher-type doomsday prophet thing, right?

NACKERS: Yeah. The escalation here is Trump's propensity to go to apocalyptic mode the second a terrorist attacks happens and be alarmist. So I think that's the escalation that's the connection and kind of satirical.

BOLTON: Yeah. It just feels to me that the bigger thing to take away from his tweets is just, like, pushing his agenda, not the, like, the end is near kind of language.

BERKLEY: Yeah. I see what you're saying. I guess I still fall back on the idea that he's incredibly alarmist, and that's, I think, a criticism that he's gotten in the past.

BOLTON: I completely agree. I just feel like it's never like the end is nigh kind of thing. I think it's just more like, we live in a world - we live in a dangerous world. Let's arm. Let's, like, militarize the police kind of stuff. I own a sword. We're live on NPR right now, right?

(LAUGHTER)

BOLTON: What else?

SHURE: Fourteen.

BOLTON: Fourteen. I liked 14. 40 I thought it was kind of funny - Trump Boys Chasing Wounded Hog Around White House. We get the thing of them with their, like, guns slung over their shoulders.

SHURE: Crashing into the room.

BERKLEY: Squealing as it ran through the, you know, the East Room, knocking over tables and...

SHURE: Clearly making it panic more than trying to get it to run into this sack they have.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Yeah. He's holding a sack.

NACKERS: Smashing the bust of Winston Churchill, clamoring - onto the Resolute desk.

BERKLEY: Is he trying to capture it alive?

BOLTON: No. I think the parallel should probably be like the trophy hunting thing, right?

BERKLEY: Yeah.

NACKERS: I'm kind of interested in 23.

BOLTON: Twenty-three - U.S. Economy Expands At Infinite Pace Following Disaster At Fed Fiscal Centrifuge. I like this scene. I like the world that can be built. I'm just - it just feels a little too made-up right now, if we find that one semi-real thing to play off of. But yeah, I love that scene. I think it's a shopper. That means that we're going to workshop it and pitch it again.

SANDERS: All right. How long is the workshop period usually?

BOLTON: It - sometimes they never come back. It's up to each individual, whoever wrote it, to, like...

NACKERS: Anywhere from like 10 seconds to infinity.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: What's the, like, ideal output for one of the writers?

BOLTON: Ideal output? Wow. Oh, we're getting...

BERKLEY: More qualifiers.

BOLTON: I don't know. I think - it's - everyone, like, writes stories. And everyone's on a rotating thing where they write videos, but I think everyone has, like - writes - I don't know what's the average number of headlines people get in. That would start getting real weird if we started talking about that.

SANDERS: Real weird, I'm sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

BERKLEY: Can we go to our safe space?

(LAUGHTER)

NACKERS: Don't tell Dan (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: All right. Thanks to Cole Bolton, Chad Nackers, Marnie Shure and Ben Berkley, along with the rest of the staff at The Onion. Also, their staff did a big project this summer called The Trump Documents. They call it, quote, "leaks" - I'm using quotes here - "leaks of hundreds of documents, memos, emails, even secret recordings all obtained from the Trump White House." You can explore the entire collection on their website. All right. Back again on Friday with our regular wrap on the news and the culture and everything from the week. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Sam Sanders. Talk soon.

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