NewsBiscuit: 15 Years Of Typos
Interview by: Profile Editorial Team, 02/12/2020
Who - or what - is NewsBiscuit?
NewsBiscuit is often described as 'Britain's answer to The Onion'.
NewsBiscuit is a satirical online newspaper which has been running for 15 years. Internet years are like dog years - there are very few sites with this kind of lineage, so we're celebrating with a book containing a spread of articles from across that timespan. It's funny, irreverent and nostalgic (if your idea of nostalgia includes 2005).
With such a long history (in internet terms) NewsBiscuit is Britain's first satirical newspaper. It was set up by British comedian and comedy writer John O'Farrell to provide an outlet for new comedy writers. John cut his teeth on Radio 4's WeekEnding programme, which invited submissions from anybody. He wanted to give new writers a similar kind of environment in which to hone their craft - and NewsBiscuit was born.
It's a very democratic institution, run entirely by volunteers and accepting articles from literally anybody - as long as they're funny. Several contributors have gone on to various writing careers, including several published authors.
Are there any topics you won't cover?
That's a really good question in the context of a satirical site, especially now when social media seems to have turned the world against itself.
It's a satirical site, so we try to pick worthy targets - we punch up rather than down. There are sometimes debates among the writers about whether a particular story goes too far or addresses a subject which is too recent or too 'close to home'.
It's often said that comedy = tragedy + distance, and that certainly applies with NewsBiscuit - we're pretty ruthless when it comes to Ancient Rome. That Nero was a right bastard.
The subtitle is: 'Real Fake News' - has there been a change in news coverage over the 15 years NewsBiscuit has been in existence?
Massively. It's been difficult to satirise some politicians in recent years because the lying has been so shameless and blatant that they're effectively self-satirising. At times like this, comedy is more important than ever - laughter isn't just a pleasant release, it's also a way to assert some decent values and make sure the truth gets through.
I fancy contributing. What's the format of your stories?
If you fancy contributing, please head on down to http://newsbiscuit.com/forum and take a look at the work in progress. You'll be made very welcome.
NewsBiscuit publishes three main categories of writing:
- Full-length spoof news stories (approx. 250-400 words) – we publish one a day
- Shorter news-in-brief spoof news stories (approx. 80-130 words) – we publish two a day during the week, one a day at the weekend
- One-liner ticker headlines that run on a loop on our home page – we publish four or five a day
What's your proudest boast?
Possibly a story about Mike Tyson having a sex change, which was picked up by a few news outlets as a true story and went viral:
Really, every time somebody writes in and says we made their day is a boost. Comedy writers are as narcissistic as any artist - we love a bit of feedback, and it's great to know you've perked up the nation. Especially in the depths of winter, in the middle of a pandemic.
Who is this book aimed at? Do you have a particular demographic?
It's comedy - it works for every demographic.
Possibly wouldn't be appreciated by senior politicians or heads of state. If Donald Trump is your uncle I'd buy him something else this Christmas.
Otherwise, it's the ideal gift. Did we mention it would make a great gift?
Congratulations on making your 15th anniversary. In online comedy that really is an achievement. We'd like to give a shout out to some of John O'Farrell's other books:
Posted in: humour