Nowadays I'm developing TV shows for The Onion and heading up a training program at The Second City in Chicago to teach people how to write Onion-style comedy. A book to that effect is being released as we speak called "How To Write Funny." I think only the kindle is available now. Print edition any day now.

Before The Onion, I created the daily comic strip Jim's Journal. A new book of strips just came out: "I Finally Graduated From High School"

I also just published a comedy screenplay in book form. I wrote it with another Onion writer. It almost got produced, but it's been long enough we decided to publish it as a book. It's a war satire about Eskimos conquering America:

Trivia about me: I am (or was for 4 years until last week) the announcer voice of the Onion Week in Review web video, I am T. Herman Zweibel (it's my picture, made to look old-timey), and I wrote the Smoove B column, at least in its first dozen or so iterations, then Chris Karwowski took it over.

Thanks for the questions, everybody! It's been fun. I'll hang out till 2:30 central, then say goodbye.

Comments: 253 • Responses: 78  • Date: 

karmanaut66 karma

There is a community on Reddit, /r/NotTheOnion, which highlights real life news stories that seem like they could be articles in the Onion.

What is your favorite instance of these real stories that you wish you and the writers had thought of?

dikkers41 karma

this is different from when people think Onion stories are true, which I think is much funnier. So, I'm actually not too into "Not The Onion" -- it's like National Lampoon's News of the Weird, which I was never a fan of either. Or what's that website, anyway, just not my thing. I like made-up stuff.

Sherlockiana21 karma

Have you seen the website: Literally Unbelievable? Basically just examples where people believe FB shares of onion articles.

dikkers31 karma

Oh yes. that's the definitive resource.

senatorskeletor20 karma

What about when Onion stories become true? I'm thinking things like "Fuck Everything, We're Doing Five Blades."

dikkers40 karma

There's a special place in my heart for those stories. I love Five Blades. The Bush one is another like that:,464/

here's another, published two months before he died:,4300/

EnderBoy18 karma

Hey Scott. UW Madison Alum. When I was touring the campus in 1994, I remember seeing The Onion on stands and thinking it was an April Fools joke from a real paper titled The Union. I'd never seen anything like it and in my time there, I couldn't believe it continued to be consistently funny week after week. I even saved every week's paper from 1995-1997 until The Great Reckoning of Mother forced me to recycle the whole lot of them.

So question: do you have any idea where I can find the infographic "Is Mike Tyson as smart as Stephen Hawking is strong?" I've been looking for that sucker online for years.

dikkers16 karma

I wrote and drew that one. Totally forgot about it until now. I have no idea where to find it. So now I'm sad.

slop_machine14 karma

Why did you decide on the name "The Onion"?

dikkers34 karma

business tip: you can never go wrong naming a product after a food item.

slop_machine7 karma

Thanks so much for answering! Huge fan.

Does this mean I should name my future endeavors "Meat" if I want to achieve success?

dikkers10 karma

I wouldn't change a thing

chooter3 karma

Follow up question: how do you feel about The Chive?

dikkers8 karma

There have been many Chives and Turnips over the years. I like when people start up new comedy publications that are completely different from The Onion.

GuyWhatAxesQuestions3 karma

Really? I read that back in '88 you and your roommate were so broke you were living on onion sandwiches for a time. Have I been spreading lies??

dikkers4 karma

That story is about Tim and Chris. I saw Chris make an onion omelette once, but can't verify the onion-sandwiches story.

BTBishops14 karma

Hey Scott thanks for doing the AMA. This is my all-time favorite Onion piece and it is the stuff of lore among my group of friends. Let's just say we quote it...often. Have any insight in terms of who wrote it, the inspiration, anything?

dikkers7 karma

I wasn't there for that one. sorry! I am disappointed, however, that I am not the "man from the future" listed. I often play that character, like here,1013/

snarkypants3 karma


dikkers7 karma

This one worked better in print, with big photos. The Internet version is still good though:,504/

BTBishops3 karma

You have a futuristic vibe about you...

dikkers4 karma

it's an ironic quality. I actually wish I lived 70 years ago

MagicMicah14 karma

What is your favorite piece from the onion?

dikkers43 karma

from the year 2000:

Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over"

The writer was Todd Hanson. One of the most amazing pieces of comedy every written.

Twohundertseventy7 karma

I'll throw in my favorite one (it's very dark humor, though), in case you want to remember a good oldie from 2001:,305/

stephenbawesome11 karma

I must say that the HOLY FUCKING SHIT - ATTACK ON AMERICA and subsequent remainder of that issue really gave me some levity. I probably remember more from that particular issue than any other, because it gave me some laughter when hadn't been.

No question. Just a thanks.

dikkers7 karma

I wish I could take credit. It was an amazing piece of work. Editor Robert Siegel and writers Todd Hanson & Carol Kolb did a good thing there. I think Dave Barry won the pulitzer that year.

xyatropos9 karma

Have any of the articles you've put out gotten you guys into any hot water? If so which got you in the most "trouble"?

dikkers28 karma

We get threatened by lawsuits once in a while, but no one's every pulled the triller. My favorite was the George W. Bush white house. The sent is a Cease and Desist letter. We completely ignored it and they never did anything. We called their bluff.

blueskieslara17 karma

Damn, ignoring a cease & desist from the White House? I get scared when we get one from the taco shop down the street. You're my new hero, I think.

dikkers20 karma

ha! we should all be more scared of a taco shop than of George W. Bush

SubZerosLeftIceCube9 karma

How do you react whenever people take Onion articles seriously?

dikkers35 karma

It is the best thing in all the world.

SP4CEcowboy8 karma

From your knowledge, what is the worst incidence of a person mistaking an Onion article for a legitimate news piece?

dikkers33 karma

Kim Jong Un being named Sexiest Man Alive was reprinted in legitimate newspapers and websites across China and North Korea. That was the worst (best).

snarkypants6 karma


dikkers17 karma

Second time this question has been asked, so it needs an answer: those poor souls got stopped on the street the get their picture taken some time in the mid-1990s. They signed a blanket release, not knowing they would be in every issue of The Onion from that day forward, saying some of the most outrageous and offensive things imaginable.

In general, this is how we've always found people for photos -- just people around the office or on the street.

This Jesus was just some hippie walking through a park in Madison one day when we were racing against the deadline and losing light fast. It was sunset and I gave him a crown of thorns and a white scarf and had him jump a few times with the sun glinting on him. I had no idea if the shot would turn out (there was no digital then), but it fused so well with this NBA shot. It's one of my favorites. That's when photoshop didn't have layers. You had to "option-erase" to do this shit:,1996/

snarkypants3 karma


dikkers6 karma

what does this computer gobbledegook mean?!

dfan6 karma

Hi Scott, big fan all the way back to when Jim's Journal was in my college newspaper in the late 80s.

Now that The Onion has been around for so long, there's a clear "Onion-style" sense of humor that is used by many people (e.g., reporting banal situations as if they were newsworthy). Do you think that this style of humor is pretty original and that you guys brought it on to the scene, or are there threads going back to other humorists that you were specifically inspired by when you first started out?

dikkers5 karma

I think we "invented" it (as much as you can invent anything in the arts). People will often point to the National Lampoons Sunday newspaper as a precursor, but I never saw that until years later. We came to the voice through trial and error. Early Onion writers like Rich Dahm, Todd Hanson, Andy Selsberg, John Krewson and Maria Schneider, then later Ben Karlin, and even David Javerbaum (a mere freelance contributor) all helped forge that voice. But the biggest influence was Robert Siegel. He was one of the writers to nail it first.

RadomirPutnik6 karma

Hello, Scott. I just wanted to finally apologize for cutting Jim's head off in the Badger Herald (on the tiny chance you remember that.) You guys got me good by dedicating the whole next day's comic page to making fun of me.

-a former "competitor"

dikkers1 karma

ha! I remember that. Funny how Jim parodies always had to go for the shock humor. Hope you're enjoying a fruitful career as an executioner.

Lilgherkin6 karma

I love the Onion and would like to thank you for all the jokes that you may have written that made me laugh; I never really looked at who wrote them, but my favorite was the "NASA reveals Moon landings were a secret mission to kill God".

Have there ever been any articles that you enjoyed that never made it? If so, what were they about?

What has been your favorite article that you wrote that was published?

What was the worst article that was brought to you?

dikkers4 karma

thanks very much for the positive word! That's a great nasa headline. I also like this one:,1997/

Since I was usually the editor, I never really had any articles that I loved that didn't make it in. If I ever had pet ideas, I would either lobby hard for them, or I would trust the collective wisdom of the group if they all hated it.

Favorite article I wrote? I'm particularly fond of this one:,11054/

Worst article brought to me is tough. There have so many bad ideas submitted. I try not to remember those. Thankfully we have a system whereby those articles aren't actually written -- we reject ideas at the headline stage to save everyone a lot of grief.

Kknowsbest6 karma

If they made a movie about your life, who would play you (other than yourself)?

dikkers5 karma

Everybody says I look like Woody Harrelson, which will be handy when they make the movie because he's also an accomplished actor.

Professional-Genius3 karma

I can see the resemblance.

dikkers2 karma


GringoJones5 karma

Was there ever at any point something that made you go, "Nope, we can't make fun of that."

dikkers10 karma

Yes. we don't make fun of people who wear glasses. That's crossing a line.

skin874 karma

The discontinuation of the Milwaukee edition of the onion made me super sad. Was it a hard decision to abandon print?

dikkers6 karma

No. Our new owners looked at the spreadsheets and made the decision quite easily one morning at a shareholders meeting. Nobody from editorial was involved.

arkuna4 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA, Mr. Dikkers.

My question is, what initially inspired you to create the Onion? Do you feel like it has stayed true to that?

dikkers6 karma

I did not create it. It was the brainchild of Tim Keck and Chris Johnson. I merely helped them, then they sold it to me after about a year of working as their editor for free. I've always tried to stay true to their vision of what The Onion could be, because even though they were primarily business-minded guys focused on making money with The Onion by selling ads, they were super smart and funny and The Onion was this magical thing that was always a work in progress, heavily influenced by all who came to work for it.

PeBeFri4 karma

  • The Onion has, relatively recently, blossomed from a printed newspaper that also has a website to a sprawling multimedia franchise. What challenges did you face in translating the Onion’s brand of humor to different media? Are you concerned that by gaining more visibility, the Onion risks losing its voice as a satirist from the sidelines rather than the mainstream?

  • Do you think the Onion has gotten more... partisan over the years? And if so, do you worry that it’s increasingly difficult to relate to portions of its audience? For example, this probably didn’t have the effect on me that was intended, given that I’m a staunch supporter of gun rights. Do you worry you are alienating some of your readers?

dikkers13 karma

Good questions. transitioning the onion to new media has been my favorite thing to do since the beginning. the first thing we did was radio, then we tried some TV pilots, which failed miserably. We did a comedy CD. also a failure. When it came time to go online in 1996 we had made enough mistakes by then to have actually learned something, but we still did it wrong (we just put the paper online -- there was no interaction or special web content -- we finally decided to start doing that in 2012). Our first book was next (Our Dumb Century). We've gotten really good at moving from one medium to another by now. I'm working on a new TV show now.

There's always the danger of watering down material when you get more popular, but the thing is we've always wanted to be popular. I never liked it when we only had 15,000 readers, all in Madison, WI. The current writers and editor Cole Bolton are doing a great job keeping The Onion fearless.

DBDude-1 karma

I'd love an Onion treatment of "New Law Bans Shoulder Things That Go Up" and in general parodying other anti-gun idiocy and ignorance. There's an extremely ripe field here, like "Bloomberg creates grassroots anti-gun movement with $50 million budget" that goes on to show the redefinition of grassroots in their minds.

dikkers4 karma

We're covering guns pretty well now, I think

Slow-moving-sloth3 karma

I just wanted to say THANK YOU - the Onion has had me laughing for almost 20 years now! Still as sharp, irreverent and funny today as it was then.

dikkers2 karma

very kind of you to say!

Belle_Whethers3 karma

I adore the "area man" and "area woman" titles so much. My favorite was "area man wants something made of titanium".

What was your favorite area man/woman story?

dikkers4 karma

It's quite fortuitous you should mention those given the new TV show we're working on -- that's as much of a hint as I can offer.

I love them, too. I like "Area Man Could Eat"

TheStabbingHobo3 karma

What's your favorite type of Campbell's™ soup?

dikkers7 karma

I'm actually eating tomato now, but I made it myself. Who eats that canned crap?!

TheStabbingHobo2 karma

How do you make your tomato soup?

dikkers10 karma

some tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, tumeric, salt & pepper and a blender.

Let's hope this AMA turns into a recipe-sharing thread

TheStabbingHobo2 karma

That sounds pretty good. I'm not much of a soup person, myself.

dikkers4 karma

it's raining here today - perfect soup day

soapandfoam2 karma

What are your requirements to be an onion writer? Also I'd like to be one.

dikkers4 karma

Traditionally, the requirements were that you had to be a depressed and out-of-shape loser in Madison, Wisconsin. That would shoot you right to the top 5. Nowadays, it helps to be an intern or a writing fellow first. Taking Basic Writing with The Onion at The Second City doesn't hurt either.

AdamColligan2 karma

Do you think there has been any significant change in the type of humor that is appreciated by the new generation that has come of age since you have been in publication? Are there types of joke that 20-year-olds loved 25 years ago but that fall flat with today's 20-year-olds, or vice versa?

dikkers4 karma

yes indeed. the younger generation likes more madcap (absurdist) humor, but with subtext. I like their style of humor very much. My generation is more parody and irony.

AdamColligan2 karma

Has this resulted in there being a generation gap in the writers' room over what's funny? Or is everyone in tune with the audience enough that Onion staff of all ages usually agree on what joke would be effective even if they differ in how funny they personally find it?

dikkers2 karma

it's not as big as the gap between people who just have different sense of humor.

halfmast2 karma

Can you offer some advice on writing comedy that is meant to be read rather than performed?

Why aren't there more comedy fiction books?

dikkers2 karma

I'd be happy to. I just wrote a book about that very topic that I'm now officially feeling like I'm plugging too hard here, but I keep getting asked the question!

beernerd2 karma

Scott, I own a shitty little community weekly newspaper in Texas. I bought it from the aging owners with a pack of smokes and half a bottle of Jim Beam.

What the hell do I do now?

dikkers2 karma

congratulations -- freedom of the press belongs to those who own one

AnnaKaren2 karma

Thanks for the AMA! Do you regret certain articles? And what do you think about the saying that people should be able to make jokes about everything?

dikkers4 karma

I could probably drudge up some regrets from the early years, but what would be the point? We were young and brash. I do think people should be able to make jokes about everything. Humor is a wonderful coping mechanism.

Greasier2 karma

My question to “Diamond” Joe Biden wasn’t very well-received (or answered), so I thought I’d let you field it instead. Your thoughts?

dikkers3 karma

We enjoy that character and had fun doing the book. Is that what you're talking about -- the autobiography? It actually did quite well. Biden tweeted about it, then Obama retweeted. That was nice.

karmanaut2 karma

Somewhat unrelated, but since you brought up the Diamond Joe Biden AMA, I just thought it would be cool to mention that the real Joe Biden saw that AMA and asked his own question.

dikkers1 karma

Oh - the AMA! Right. That was cool. And we were of course delighted he asked a question.

GoGurtFart2 karma

Did you receive any "flak" from a prominent person/business for creating one of the first online source of popular satirical media? I feel as if even today some people don't realize the stories are fiction and get their panties in a bunch.

dikkers5 karma

We got a lot of "flak" in the early years, before anyone knew who we were. We'd get legal threats and angry phone calls all the time. Pepsico tried to sue us over this one (they used to own taco bell).,918/

But nowadays when we do stuff like that the company will send us a bunch of shwag. They're just delighted to be in The Onion.

FinerBroJetsonPH2 karma

Do you have a personal favorite(s) articles that you have ever published?

dikkers3 karma

I already listed one, but here's another. We'll call this second favorite:,11376/

written by Megan Ganz

lizlemon932 karma

Hi Scott! This is kind of cliche, but what is your best advice for young comedy writers? What's one thing you would suggest for those looking to get their name out there?

dikkers4 karma

Seriously, buy my book "How To Write Funny." It's all in there -- 25 years of my life's wisdom about comedy writing condensed into a humbling 130 pages.

chooter2 karma

Can I just say that I love your work beyond much.

Favorite columns that you contributed to?

What was it like in the early days? Would the Onion get letters to the editor, etc?

How did you pick the stock art for the "man on the street" opinion columns?

dikkers4 karma

thanks for the kindness you show me.

Early days were crazy. We never knew if each issue would be our last. Nobody got paid. Literally, we worked 80-hour weeks and didn't get paid for like 5 years

Favorite thing I contributed to is Our Dumb Century. Also the Onion Radio News. I'm sure there's a ton more, but it would take a while to remember/list them.

chooter2 karma

I read OUR DUMB CENTURY religiously when I went to Europe one summer. It was my carry-along book of joy. The fake ads were sublime.

dikkers2 karma

I think you can still order the anti-masturbation harness

stellargrooves2 karma

Do you have a favorite version of "The Aristocrats?" Do you have your own?

dikkers3 karma

I wish I could have seen Chevy Chase's -- it was cut from the movie because it was too offensive, as legend has it.

terriblehashtags2 karma

What do you say to friends/family who think they're funny, but really aren't? Considering you're a kinda-sorta authority, I'd think you'd have to weigh your responses carefully. (Weird question, but honestly curious!)

dikkers5 karma

See the best in people. everybody's funny sometimes.

terriblehashtags2 karma

Can you come and tell that to my family who says I should just stop trying? :)

dikkers2 karma

oh, I see -- they think YOU'RE not funny? That's an entirely different problem.

sportsworker7772 karma

Huge fan of the Onion. Has there been any story or video that The Onion found itself in particularly hot water over?

dikkers5 karma

we nearly bankrupted the Make a Wish foundation with this one:,14202/

And there was a great one where an Iraq war widow was a part of a home depot promotion on Today Now. We had to pull that one because home depot was really going to sue. So, no link. Just imagine it being super funny.

SolarMoth1 karma

What is your favorite comedy movie?

dikkers5 karma

that's a tough one. there are so many

airplane! raising arizona the blues brothers ferris bueller's day off anchorman the king of comedy E-Day!

SP4CEcowboy1 karma

The Onion often rags on prolific figures. Do they often respond? Any memorable responses?

dikkers6 karma

Donald Trump and Micheal Bay frequently issue hilarious complaints. Then there was the threat of legal action from the White House legal affairs office, which was also very funny.

GhostOfPluto1 karma

What is the funniest thing that never made it to print?

dikkers5 karma

what a great question!

answer: Army Man

readitgotitgood1 karma

If an apocalypse type event ever occurs, I hope the only evidence of the previous world are articles from The Onion.

Thanks for all your contributions to The Onion! I will check out your other work.

dikkers2 karma

It's been my great pleasure.

dikkers4 karma

I hope to at least confuse future archaeologists

buddythebear1 karma

What are the backgrounds like of the people who write for The Onion? Is it true that The Onion doesn't take applications for writer positions, and that you all just handpick people whose work you have been following?

How come we haven't seen any Tim Duncan headlines lately? Those are the best.

Edit: Didn't notice this story from a couple weeks ago.,35865/

dikkers2 karma

They come from very humble backgrounds: dishwashers, bank tellers, liquor store clerks, interns. And they're often very smart. I always made it a habit to hire writers who were smarter than I was. I was feeling good when I was the dumbest person in the room.

NukeTheEwoks1 karma

How often do people mistake you for an actual editor?

dikkers2 karma

Not as much as I would like

nimishsdll1 karma

Do you like Indian curry?

dikkers4 karma

it's ok

Dudeimshawn1 karma

What's your favorite joke/story/article about a car salesman? (Spoiler alert: I'm a car salesman)

neutrinoscoop1 karma

Has there ever been a time when you had to have a writer dial it back because an article or topic was too offensive? If so, what was the subject?

dikkers2 karma

yes. we wrote a really mean story about Tina Yothers, and she totally didn't deserve it, so we axed the story. But really, the main reason I felt okay about cutting it was not that it was mean, but that the headline wasn't that funny. ("Tina Yothers Miscast")

beetnemesis1 karma

How did the AV Club come about? While I love it, it doesn't really seem related to the Onion at all.

Also, my absolute favorite article is the one about the bear who rapes and kills a zookeeper, written in a cheery "human interest"-style tone. But it was taken down! What happened? ("Black Bear Attacks, Rapes, Zookeeper " for reference)

dikkers3 karma

you snuck in just under my goodbye, so I'm going to respond to you here... So many readers thought the coupons in the Onion were fake. Advertising was our livelihood and we needed people to know the coupons we ran for local pizza places and the like were real. So, we created the AV Club to give some legitimacy to The Onion. It reviewed real movies that were showing in town, real showtimes, and real music you could buy. I named it for the little club of geeks in my high school who ran the videos for basketball games. At first, Rich Dahm and I wrote all the reviews, trying our best to write as well as Spy magazine. Then we hired Stephen Thompson (who now works at NPR) to be the editor, and he really made it ultimately became.

The bear story is a classic. Too bad they took it down. Was it ever up? I think it might predate the website.

TaiTheOracle0 karma

whats you favorite section of the onion?

dikkers1 karma

The Editorial page. I love the editorial cartoon (by the immensely talented Ward Sutton), the op-eds. Love 'em.