With comedy in general and with The Onion in particular, the astute perceptivity of human life is the wellspring of humor. The Onion’s articles are often funny because they are so observant and honest about the aburdity in our daily lives. The effect is sometimes light and sometimes cruel, but we laugh when the comedian surprises us with the familar in an unfamilar way.
You can find a good example of this talent in The Onion’s September 11, 2001 commemorative issue, especially “Not Knowing What Else to Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake.” It both presents American culture sympathetically and lovingly mocks it. The result is funny, touching, and insightful all at once, which is quite a difficult feat. I remember laughing and tearing up when I first read it back in October of that dreadful year.
Less impressive but still quite funny is the article about a college girl who inadvertently opens an e-mail message from her aunt, “E-Mail from Aunt Accidentally Opened.” If you receive an endless flow of forwarded messages from a friend or family member, you will appreciate this story. Delightful!