The Flipside: Punchy Parody

When researchers discovered a genetic distinction between FroSoCoans and homo sapiens, it reported the story with tact.   When residents of Haus Mitteleuropa began a forceful occupation of La Maison Francaise, it challenged our passive campus to take action.  And when Congress was laid off in order to cut costs, it applauded the Administration’s bold decision.

Despite having only arrived on campus in fall of 2008, The Stanford Flipside has undoubtedly made its mark as one of Stanford’s most unique, hard-hitting – or at least, knee-slapping – student publications.  Combining pop culture, social and political commentary, and campus-specific humor, the weekly parody newspaper aims to relieve student stress and boredom with witty headlines and concise, lighthearted articles.

Headlines range from the ironically mundane (“Report: Student is Tired”) to political satire (“Obama Unveils Economic Stimulus Plan Consisting of Selling Obama Shirts and Buttons”).  Puns also make a frequent appearance, though recent issues have featured an increase in satirical coverage of world news and events.

*Flipside *founder and President, Jeremy Keeshin ’12, confirmed that one of The Flipside’s potential goals is to produce articles that are somewhat less “tame” in the future.  “Satire,” Keeshin explains, “is a way to sidestep the normally hypersensitive discussion about controversial topics.”  On a campus like Stanford, combating political correctness is a daring feat – but with playful humor, the message instantly becomes more palatable.

Editor Adam Adler ’12 agrees that one of the best parts of writing for The Stanford Flipside is that writers can “provide commentary without taking ourselves too seriously” and “make a point without being boring.”  Keeshin mentions that receiving reader responses, too, can be interesting.  A few readers actually believe some of the articles – “Stanford Opens White Men’s Community Center” in particular – while Stanford Dining, in good humor, re-tweeted The Flipside’s “Stern Goes Plateless” photo shoot on their Twitter account.

Yet above all, according to Keeshin, The Flipside’s purpose is to bring comedy and entertainment into students’ lives.  With a spirited manner and a ready smile, Keeshin remarks that “If you laugh – once a week, for five minutes – then it’s all worth it.  If you laugh, it makes my day.”

Keeshin’s insouciant attitude clearly carries over to The Flipside’s Tuesday night meetings, where he leads the staff as they make idea webs, play games, and use other creative methods to brainstorm headlines.  In the meeting’s fun, open atmosphere, no idea is rejected – resulting in a massive list of off-the-wall ideas from which writers can draw inspiration.

In terms of content, The Flipside may invite comparison to national satirical newspaper The Onion – though with an additional Stanford emphasis.  However, much of its popularity draws from its innovative format, which renders it accessible to even the busiest of Stanford students.  Rather than sprawling into a full, folding-out newspaper, The Flipside limits itself to a single page.  On the front, readers will find eye-catching headlines, images, and articles, each only a few paragraphs long; on the back, readers can entertain themselves with a number of various word puzzles.

Keeshin, who says that he is “majoring in Comedy in Computer Science,” explains the rationale behind his publication’s compact format.  “Everyone here is busy; there are probably only two people on campus who read the full *New York Times *or [Stanford] Daily.” Yet with The Flipside taking only a few minutes to read, virtually every Stanford student can find the time (and attention span) to read it.

Furthermore, the newspaper’s grassroots distribution strategy ensures its ubiquity across campus.  Its staff sprinkles stacks of *The Flipside *like pixie dust, reaching dorms, lecture halls, dining halls – and on at least one occasion, even passing them out in the grueling, twenty-minute line to pick up packages from the Stanford Post Office.

Keeshin reveals that the philosophy behind The Stanford Flipside’s format comes from years of experience.  Keeshin first created The Flipside as a satirical “underground newspaper” whilst a sophomore in high school.  Originally, the newspaper began with a conventional, multi-page format; however, Keeshin realized that it could be produced far more easily, inexpensively, and frequently if it were reduced to a single page.  The decision paid off, as The Flipside is currently enjoying its fifth year of publication in Keeshin’s former high school.  Several of Keeshin’s friends – as well as an unassociated student at Harvard – have also taken the concept of The Flipside to other schools across the country, including USC and Northwestern.

“There’s stuff to make fun of everywhere,” remarks Keeshin, “and I think The Flipside is a great format.”  But as Keeshin points out, there’s a special appeal to humor that’s inspired by a campus’s specific culture.  “I’d really like to see more campuses with satirical newspapers,” he says, “even if they’re not Flipsides.”

For students who desire more than a page of Stanford satire a week, additional articles, images, video, and other media can be found at Keeshin reveals that one of The Flipside’s upcoming projects will be introduced through their website: a Sporcle-inspired page of brain-teaser games where, via integration with Facebook, users can compare their high scores to those of their friends.

Meanwhile, whether it’s having the chutzpah to satirize university policy, to produce unflattering PhotoShopped images of celebrities, or to publish a cheesy pun, we can expect many pages more of daring jokes and articles from our own Stanford Flipside.

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