For Confusion Road, 'Gas of the Year' Leads to Story of the Year
Politics has always been a ripe target for satirists since the dawn of the genre a few thousand years ago. Online today, you can hardly surf for five minutes without running into a satirical article lampooning some elected official in the media. But increasingly, it's the media itself that is proving a richer target.
For satire site Confusion Road, it was an article targeting the media which led to victory in the second annual HumorFeed Satire News Awards. TIME Magazine Names Air 'Gas of the Year' beat out nearly 50 entries to be named best satire story of 2006 by a panel of journalists and humorists.
"On the face of it, this article targets Time magazine," said Confusion Road webmaster Chris Patterson. "But, more broadly, it targets the entire news media and its gutless puff pieces. Even more than that, it targets those of us who seek out and expect gutless puff pieces - for example, the people who complain whenever Time selects a Man of the Year who isn't a nice guy. So, potentially, the target of this year's story is YOU, the reader, and that's the kind of satire I like best."
Patterson, a software developer from Edison, N.J., has been running Confusion Road since 2002, mostly as a hobby.
"I didn't really set out to start a web site," he said. "I just wrote a humorous article and sent it to some of my friends, and then I wrote another, then another...I enjoyed it so much that as time went on I started to refine it and turn it into something presentable."
His own favorite stories tend to be the ones with more than one target, such as the 'TIME' story and stories such as A Massive Asteroid Impact Would Be Disastrous For The Black Community, which mocks both those who "flagrantly play the race card, as well as anyone who sees a large problem through their own self-interested lens." His primary goal remains to entertain, though he acknowledges that satire is a valuable part of the media landscape today.
"Satire does play an important role in political discourse...[it] can really point out things that aren't obvious."
"I certainly don't have a mission in terms of having a political agenda," he added. "However, I think satire does play an important role in political discourse. Sometimes it can be sort of 'empty' in the sense that it just mocks a subject in an obvious way, but sometimes satire can really point out things that aren't obvious. For example, when the Daily Show takes a quotation from George Bush and then shows another one from a month earlier that completely contradicts it. That's something that conventional news programs don't normally do."
Confusion Road has already made a significant impact online, and has two strong performances in the HumorFeed awards (in addition to winning first place for best story of 2006, Patterson took second place in the 2005 awards). However Patterson sees his site as a continuing work in progress.
"My biggest ambition for Confusion Road is for it to be funnier," he said. "I have a dream when it comes to Confusion Road, and that is that I want to create great comedy, comedy that is so funny that people just have to share it with their friends, and they remember it years later. Like Dana Carvey's 'Gerald Ford' skit on Saturday Night Live. People were still laughing about that skit ten years after it aired. That's an achievement."