Headline Silliness


Canadian Borg, different versions in various places on the web; original source unknown

I‘ve always wished I were funny. Humour is a craft that seems to come easily to some, and for others seems almost impossible to pull off. And of course it’s highly subjective. I happen to like puns, but I choose to limit them mostly to my posts about crosswords, a world where they are accepted.

Recently I’ve become a big fan of satirical ‘news’ sites that post headlines that are made up, but somehow (to me at least) extremely funny. They’re the ultimate one-liners — the punch line without the joke. I guess I admire their brevity. Sometimes the authors try to write a full satirical ‘news item’ to go with the headline, but they are rarely as funny as the headlines, and occasionally overkill. Occasionally they need an accompanying photo to make their point.

To me, the masters at producing these are the folks at The Beaverton, Canada’s answer to The Onion. Canada seems to be the source of a disproportionate number of funny writers and actors. Perhaps you need a sense of humour to live here.

Some of these mock headlines will only be understood if you’re a Canadian, or for some unknown reason read Canadian news, but with that caveat here are some of my recent favourites:

  • Canada approves another vaccine that you won’t get for like six months
  • Trudeau pledges to vaccinate at least eight more people by end of September
  • Ontario scrambling after discovering vaccines need to be actually administered to population
  • Alberta removes education from school curriculum
  • Trudeau clarifies that Saudi Arabia isn’t an ally, just an acquaintance we sell a fuckton of weapons to
  • Amber Alert issued by Edmonton police for Alberta premier Jason Kenney who is nowhere to be found. The 52-year-old has the accountability of a five-year-old and suffers from delusions of being stalked by evil environmentalists.
  • Canada searches for new country to compare ourselves to now that U.S. is too sad
  • COVID replaces racism as #1 thing Canadians think they handle better than the States
  • Canadian doctors warn vaccines may contain high levels of immunity

For readers who aren’t amused by the above, here are some of my favourite Onion headlines, with a more US/international flavour:

  • Florida GOP introduces ballotless voting In disenfranchised communities
  • Georgia amends voting law to allow people in line to be hydrated with fire hoses
  • Capitol security review reveals that Mike Pence is still missing
  • Government lobbyists call for members of Congress to play a little harder to get
  • ‘I am under 18’ button clicked for first time in the history of the internet
  • World death rate holding steady at 100%
  • Giuliani to be first guest on “Lou Dobbs’ Total Landscaping”
  • Defiant Marjorie Taylor Greene creates own House committee on Semitic aerospace weaponry
  • Experts worried students will fall behind after spending past year in US education system
  • Inspector General reveals CIA has mistakenly been using black highlighters that obscured millions of pages of critical intelligence information for 50 years. “Almost invariably it’s the most crucial passages” that are rendered impossible to read, the report says.

No? I’d like to see you try! This is hard work. Here are my own mock headlines, most of them appropriately Canadian and obscure to those who aren’t. Warning: They aren’t in the same league as the Beaverton’s or Onion’s. But it was fun trying:

  • Oil price jump has increased value of the Canadian Dollar to the point it is worth almost as much as Canadian Tire money
  • Canada to reimburse US for 4 million of its surplus vaccine doses by sending them 8 million Coffee Crisp bars
  • Canada proposes to legalize kerfuffles, provided it’s OK with the US
  • After environmental review, BC’s Site C Dam to be renamed Site D-minus Dam
  • Celebrity charity leaders shocked to discover Armani suits don’t qualify as a deductible expense.
  • After discovering the Canadian national anthem was plagiarized from Mozart, the government proposes to replace it. The three finalists are Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Saddest Word”, Timbaland’s “Apologize”, and Feist’s “So Sorry”. The government has conveyed its regrets to the Holy Roman Empire for the theft.
  • NHL insists its new official hockey pucks bearing the American flag are “as Canadian as British Columbia”.
  • Canadian telecom plan prices “not exorbitant” says Minister. “Why, I spend more than that just for my monthly flight to Buffalo to get my MRI test”, he said.
  • Think tank decries claims Canada lacks a “national identity”, insists “We’re not like that at all”

I tried to think up funny headlines that spoofed Canada’s insanely high housing prices, Canada’s lame new right-to-die law, and BC’s awful record addressing fentanyl street poisonings. But I suspect nothing can make these subjects actually funny.

What do the best joke headlines have in common? While I know better than to try to explain a joke, here are some of the qualities they may have:

  • Exaggerates or lampoons something or someone (often an unpopular or falsely popular public figure or government) that is frustrating, incompetent, or borderline absurd
  • Skewers duplicity, dishonesty, pomposity, false modesty, stupidity, narcissism, privileged behaviour, incompetence, procrastination, lack of self-awareness or hypocrisy
  • Uses one-up, double-down or ditting (“you think that’s bad, ….”) to exaggerate (kind of like a caricature but with words)
  • Takes shots at icons (people and symbols) by exaggerating their behaviour or significance
  • Uses self-deprecation (poking gentle fun at some quality of your own affinity group or country)
  • Absurdly recharacterizes something bad as being somehow good
  • Uses double-entendre, irony, clever word-play (but not puns) and surprise turns (two jokes in one)
  • May use “in” expressions or colloquialisms so reader relates to the humour
  • Surfaces a behaviour that the reader hadn’t recognized, as it mocks it (as we’re learning, humour can sometimes be more educational than ‘news’)
  • Avoids being mean, provoking anger, belabouring, exploiting the oppressed, and being manipulative (some popular TV ‘comedies’ notwithstanding, these are not characteristics of good humour)

If you have other examples of funny mock headlines, I’d love to read them.

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6 Responses to Headline Silliness

  1. Paul Heft says:

    Sigmund Freud found unconscious in his Vienna office.

    Canada beats US to the punch, as first nation to sanction Germany for buying Russian gas. (Biden, embarrassed, threatens to end immigration from Canada.)

    Internet, overwhelmed with memes, slows to a crawl. (CIA report blames Russian and Iranian trolls for 90% of hashtags since 2015.)

    (Ottawa:) Supreme Court rules that hockey masks give adequate COVID-19 indoor protection, on or off the rink.

    Brave COVID-19 skeptics are ready and willing to give lives to retain our freedoms.

    Psychiatrists and economists battle over who can claim “depression” when it comes.

    Parliament racing to pass “New Green Deal”, forcing US Congress to rebrand as “Newer Green Deal”.

    World leaders promise quick return to “business as usual”.

    NYT editorial: If red states change election rules, we will no longer be able to trust elections.

    Industry leaders explain how replacing workers with robots yields positive environmental impact.

    Attempt to unionize bloggers falls apart; organizers blame “contrarian” attitudes.

  2. Lottery winner spends record-breaking prize on half a house.

    Canada passes bold new want-to-die legislation.*
    *Some conditions apply.

  3. Bart Anderson says:

    >> Avoids being mean, provoking anger, belabouring, exploiting the oppressed, and being manipulative

    My wife didn’t like the modern American humor which depended on humiliating other people. She taught me to appreciate the gentler British humor of Alec Guinness We liked older movies like “Mouse That Roared” and the British movie in which a neighborhood in London declared itself to be an independent country.

    Many of the headlines you and Paul came up with make me laugh, but I find myself avoiding most modern humor.

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    You mean the Duchy of Grand Fenwick? “Loyalists declare the Royal Principality of Mar-a-Lago a sovereign state, with a king-for-life, no taxes, and immunity from prosecution and extradition for all properly-vetted, fully paid citizens.” Wait ’til you see the flag.

  5. Joe Clarkson says:

    World Saved After Being Hoist on Its Own Pollard
    Matt Gaetz Changes First Name to “Pearly” in Bid for Divine Intervention
    Biden Motorcade Halted After Flat Tire by Lack of Jack!

  6. Apneaman says:

    BC Government Lobbies US Congress For Alberta To Become 51st State

    Alberta Agrees To Become 51st State On Condition BC Covers Cost of Dismantling Health and Education Systems

    Alberta Unveils New Official State Motto: ‘Make Alberta Great Again’ (MAGA)

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