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Fox News Shows How Satire's Done

by Steve Young

on Fox News

One of the hallmarks of great satire is a story structured so realistically that the audience thinks that this thing could be true. At National Lampoon, where I spend time as political editor, we've spent thirty-five years putting out hysterical material that we worked diligently to sneak up on the reader and do just that. We actually thought it was hard work. Not presidential "hard work," but still, challenging.

Then Fox News showed us it isn't all the difficult.

While it's so difficult to find anything that outdistances talk radio and the Lords of Loud for great silliness in the guise of seriousness, Fox News has superceded broadcasting expectations. But that's because they changed the rules... the rules of satire we wish we had changed first, dang it. And now you can do it too.

Here's how:

First, get a legitimate reporter, say chief political correspondent Carl Cameron. Have him write a fake news story mocking Senator John Kerry. Report that you received the information from a credible source. We recommend The Drudge Report so that fact checkers will never be able to verify the information.

Next, to push the reality quotient, have your reporter go on with one of your lead new guys...try Special Report with Brit Hume. Time it to where it would have the most affect. Pick a a hugely consequential event like a presidential debate. Here your reporter could embellish the story. Satire needs slow embellishment with someone like Cameron saying...

"Suffice it to say, in his hotel spa, some of the ladies today were particularly amused and excited about their appointment with John Kerry to get him set up for tonight's debate."

Have Brit Hume do a solid news anchor followup.

"I've had a manicure in my life. It was a rather pleasant experience. But do you think it was the thing to do today?"

Remember...enhance. Have your legitimate pundits go at it something like this:

FRED BARNES (The Beltway Boys co-host): This is a man who needs to stop windsurfing, stop getting a manicure and desperately needs to go bowling.

MICHAEL BARONE (Fox News Channel political contributor):: Well, he does -- I mean, this is a man who lives a lifestyle that's very dissimilar to that of the ordinary American person with five palatial houses.

HUME: You've got to wonder. This gesture, John Kerry, reporting for duty didn't work. I don't know that this will either.

If at all possible have your other network hosts report on Kerry's "pre-debate manicure" numerable times, as if it is a big story, for at least three hours prior to the debate. It works even better when no other cable news channel mentions the story. And if you can get a supposed liberal correspondent like say, Susan Estrich, to chime in, even better.

ESTRICH: What John Kerry needs to do tonight, among other things, is make a connection with average working people. And probably the way to start doing that is not with a manicure. Now, you've had them. But my guess is most men don't stop on their way to an important event with a manicure. But my hope is for John Kerry's sake, is that tonight people will forget about the manicure.

Now here's where you pound home the story, where audiences will start to get the joke. Go to your most watched show, where no spin is allowed, for the killer punchline...The O'Reilly Factor:

NEWT GINGRICH (Fox News Channel political contributor): Well, the first thing I would tell him [Kerry] to do is don't get a manicure. I can't imagine a dumber thing going into the debate than the last four hours of news broken, I think by Carl Cameron here on Fox News -- because it makes him look silly. And it guarantees that everyone in the country's going to look at his fingers early in the debate. I know that sounds small, but it's the little thing like Dukakis in a tank that just doesn't come across right and sort of jars people who are looking for an excuse to vote for him.

Have your no-spin host add in another story that was never substantiated.

BILL O'REILLY: Well, he did the tan thing, too. He did the spray-on tan thing, which I thought wasn't very smart. I mean, my line was, gee, you know, what do you think Osama bin Laden's going to think about this spray-on tan? Is that going to frighten him? I don't know if it will.

Keep it going...

PAT CADDELL (Fox News Channel contributor and pollster): I'll tell you what, as a Democrat, I don't quite understand the fact that, you know, while the president's out meeting with people who've been, you know, hurricane survivors, my candidate is out there getting a manicure today"

And finally, let everyone in on the joke.

Fox News Channel spokesman Paul Schur: "This was a stupid mistake and a lapse in judgment, and Carl [Cameron] regrets it."

Brilliant. We here at National Lampoon send kudos and an invite to Carl Cameron to join our staff. Doesn't hurt to learn a thing or two on farce from one of the best.

Steve Young is political editor of National Lampoon ( and creator of

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Albion Monitor October 6, 2004 (

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