Hey, humor fans: put down that copy of The Onion. Did you know that one of the nation’s funniest papers is based right here in Austin — on campus, in fact? The Texas Travesty, official humor magazine of the University of Texas, has been showcasing brilliantly offbeat and irreverent wit for years, and they show no sign of slowing down.
This Friday, December 9th at 9 p.m., the Travesty will host a release party for their third issue of the Fall semester at Caffe Medici (on Guadalupe). A celebration-slash-comedy showcase, the lineup will feature a roster of comics curated by the Travesty’s resident experts; stand up performers include Ralph Hardesty, David McQuary, Kerri Lendo, Jake Flores, Chris Tellez, Lashonda Lester and Seth Cockfield.
While it’s often labeled the “largest college humor publication in the nation” (recently boasting a readership of around 90,000), it’s actually one of the newer additions to the list of highly respected, university-based humor magazines.
Founded online in 1998 by brothers Kevin and Brad Butler, and moving to print a year later after successfully rallying support from the Texas Student Publications Board (now the Texas Student Media Board), the Travesty quickly earned accolades from fans both on campus and around the country. It’s not uncommon to hear the paper mentioned in the same breath as organizations like the Harvard Lampoon — a mag traditionally regarded as training grounds for the SNL writer’s room, with a diverse array of alums including Conan O’Brien, Simon Rich and even John Updike — and The Yale Record, the nation’s oldest college humor magazine (founded in 1872).
The Travesty showcases creative, campus-focused content; regular features include:
Around Campus: Possibly predicting Twitter, this section presents real and imagined “overheard” one-liners that exemplify UT life.
Tower Talkie: A recurring blog written from the exaggeratedly bumbling perspective of university president Bill Powers (a frequent good-natured Travesty target).
Sports: One of the paper’s biggest sections alternately pokes fun at UT’s intense sports culture, and offers up pointed jabs at current national athletic news.
Interviews: The Travesty also highlights some of their favorite comics, setting aside the sarcasm in this series whose past subjects include Anthony Jeselnik, Demetri Martin, Marc Maron and David Cross.
The paper’s style draws plenty of comparisons to The Onion, a satirical news outlet that reports on absurd premises with deadpan journalistic sincerity. (The Tumblr Literally Unbelievable collects examples of Onion articles mistaken for factual news — it happens a lot.) Behind the scenes, the Travesty maintains a similar editorial approach as The Onion, with writers submitting long lists of potential headlines (like “Cats Discover Internet, File Massive Lawsuit,” or “Business Student Looks Cute as a Button Dressed in his Big Boy Suit”) that are rejected or accepted based on strict criteria. Being on staff at the Travesty requires long hours, non-stop working weekends and the ability to throw out rejected ideas and quickly move on to the next. In short, it prepares humorists for fast-paced, real-life, rigorous careers in media.
So, it’s no surprise that staffers tend to end up in great places after their Travesty tenure. Editor-in-Chief emeritus Ross Luippold (‘08-‘09), for example, spent time on the Conan set before becoming an Associate Comedy Editor at the Huffington Post. Matt Ingebretson, EIC ’09-’10, is currently a writer for Funny or Die and MTV. Former editors Todd Ross Nienkerk and Kristin Hillery (EIC ’03-’05 and ’05-’06, respectively) went on to found the incredibly popular That Other Paper. (Nienkerk and David Strauss, EIC '06-'07, went on to found web design firm Four Kitchens.)
It’s no understatement to say that well respected, notable international humor and media outlets are very aware of the Travesty; in fact, organizations like The Onion go out of their way to recruit writers. Last year, they had two Travesty alum on their (very short) list of candidates for a competitive fellowship; recent grad Jermaine Affonso won the spot, while the other contender, Dan Treadway (Managing Editor ’09-’10), is currently an Assistant Editor at Huffington Post Sports and a frequent contributor to The Onion.
The Travesty holds weight in the humor writing community, and with the increasing opportunities that a solid web presence offers, the possibilities for future growth are endless. The staff regularly contributes clips to Atom.tv, and they’re working on expanding their website to offer more frequent, funny updates.
For something with such a seemingly silly tone, the Travesty’s managed to establish itself as one of the most consistently beneficial and powerful organizations on campus, grooming staffers for high-profile positions and setting standards of excellence that raise the profile of the university in the media community.
“Working for the Travesty was undoubtedly the most important part of my college experience,” says alum Ingebretson. “If you are looking to go into entertainment, specifically comedy, there is no better stepping stone on campus than the Travesty. Working there teaches you how to be productive in a writers room, hit tough deadlines, and take a never-ending barrage of criticism on your work, which are all necessary components to being successful working in entertainment. And if you are not going into entertainment, the Travesty can still provide invaluable opportunities learning how to market the paper or give administrative support to the creative team.”
What are you waiting for? Kick start your comedy career by getting involved with the Travesty today.
Don’t miss the Travesty’s winter comedy showcase, Friday, December 9 at 9 p.m. at Caffe Medici.