76 of 79 people found the following review helpful
For those of us who live in Wisconsin, one of the few bennies is close proximity to ground zero for the Onion, one of the strangest (not to mention funniest) free publications anywhere.
If you haven't been clued in to what the Onion does, it is a dead-on, straightfaced parody of American newspapers. It is beautifully crude and sophomoric in a manner Mad magazine no longer aspires to, and for readers looking for some deathly funny satire in this politically-correct, can't-we-all-just-get-along, sissified age, it is a lighthouse in a stormy sea.
So what's Our Dumb Century about? It is a parody of those fin-de-siecle commemoratives most major newspapers put out last year, ignorant of the fact that we still have a year left in the 20th century.
The book allegedly reprints the front pages of the last 100 years of the Onion during critical times in the nation's history. The writers accurately ape the style of newspapers throughout this period, from the cluttered text columns of the early 1900s to the graphic-intensive layouts of today.
Of course it's the stories themselves that hit you where you live. 1902-"Republics Negroes Still Waiting for 40 Acres, Mule--Agriculture Secretary Faults Low Mule, Acreage Availability at Present." 1918-"Corpse-Eating Rats Now Largest Military Force in Europe." 1934-"FDR Creates 300,000 Jobs With 'Tunnel to New Zealand' Project." 1945-"Hitler Commits Suicide; Ravaging of Europe a 'Desperate Cry for Help', Say Therapists." Or my favorite from 1963-"Kennedy Slain by CIA, Mafia, Castro, LBJ, Teamsters, Freemasons--President Shot 129 Times from 43 Different Angles." Oliver Stone was right!
If you're up for slaughtering some sacred cows with a smile and have more of a sense of humor than your typical Thought Police apparatchik, this may be the book for you.
60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 1999
The Onion is satire at its very best - I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who has been looking for a refreshing cocktail of intelligent humor mixed with pop cultural references.
This book contains the most savagely keen and witty commentaries on American culture I have EVER read. Not only has this book consistently made me <literally> laugh so hard that tears came rolling from my eyes - but it also made me rethink some of my long held perspectives on U.S. history and world events.
Every concise, perceptive, hilarious article (and there are hundreds) is a masterpiece! Everyone with a sharp wit and sense of humor should read this book! I am giving it to all my friends (mostly because I want them to stop borrowing my copy! ).
Read it - I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2002
A parody is a dangerous thing to maintain. Often you get caught in your own cleverness and lose steam (or lose your readers' interest). Our Dumb Century has gone beyond all that. Here is 20th century America skewered for all it is worth, leaving no shortcoming unnoticed, no historical event unmasked.
This book is not simply a "goof" on history. The writers really know their stuff. I mean REALLY know it. Each entry is the "front page" of The Onion (gee, we never knew it was THIS venerable...) from the 1900 to 2000 (okay, it came out in 1999, but you can stretch things). Not only are issues of the day dealt with in a hysterical manner (1955: Whites Invent 'Rock and Roll' -- New Caucasian-Based Teen Craze Sweeps America; 1945: WAR OVER! 50 YEARS OF NUCLEAR PARANOIA BEGIN TODAY!), but the typeface, the layouts of the pages, and the quality of the photos match the period. Find an old newspaper. Hold it up to the "equivalent year" in The Onion. It is a match.
Conservatives are blasted. Liberals are skewered. Apoliticals are tarred and feathered. Everyone gets their due in this volume.
Worse yet, you might even get an education reading this book. If nothing else you'll probably have to go look something up to just understand some of the jokes. I know I did...
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2007
This book is simply genius comedy. Some of the best work The Onion has ever done. This is a must-own for all history buffs with a sense of humor. You really have to have a good grasp of history to fully appreciate all of the jokes, but just about anyone should be able to enjoy it on some level.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2000
Good satire/comedy is a difficult task. It is not enough to just have a good idea or opening line, and then let that try to carry the day. Our Dumb Century succeeds where many have failed: the satires are hilarious from beginning to end. Great satirists know how to work with a kernel of truth and give it hilarious angles and take it to absurd places. The authors know their history and have a knack for latching onto some of the mainstream values and prejudices of each era, exaggerating them, and incorporating them in the headlines and stories. For example, a typical 50's headline reads "Eisenhower Vows to Address Growing Problem of Overdue Library Books," or the small print lead from the 1907 satire, "Foreign child labor a 'great threat' to American child labor, say captains of industry." There are no sacred cows here. All political viewpoints are skewered. Check out the Russian revolution headline: "Pretentious, Goateed Coffeehouse Types Seize Power In Russia." How many humor books have left you laughing until tears roll down your face? This is that rare book!
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 1999
_Our Dumb Century_ had me rolling-on-the-floor, gasping-for-air, ecstatic with laughter. This is the funniest book I've read for years.
The headlines are clever, clever, clever. What separates this great humour book from a lesser one is that the faux news stories themselves--the text under the headlines--is just as funny as the initial joke. These people are trenchant comics and masters of deadpan parody.
Buy this book if you want to remember history with verve and humour. _ODC_ ranks with _Dave Barry Slept Here_ as one of the funniest bits of American history (so to speak) ever produced.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 1999
By far one of the most ingenious books to be published in recent times, Our Dumb Century successfully weaves the incredulous course of events of our twentieth century with a dry, subtle, sarcastic, daring, provocative, and profound sense of journalistic humor found in none other than The Onion. The result is absolutely hilarious to say the least.
No important event is immune from the harsh, spirited bite of The Onion's ridicule--the invention of the airplane inspires an expedition to the sacred kingdom of Heaven, the discovery of a yeasty morsel makes front page news during the Great Depression, and Richard Nixon's attempts to annul the Watergate scandal go dreadfully awry.
True with any newsstand edition of The Onion, Our Dumb Century contains, without a doubt, some tasteless and profane articles as well. Much of it is in the context of times past, and however offensive it may be, the satirical nature of the writing makes for some interesting consideration of how we perceive past events, past leaders, and how we as a people learned (or didn't learn) from those experiences.
The authentic look of Our Dumb Century is the icing on the cake. In showing others the book, it took some explanation for them to understand that the majority of the pages were not published at the time. The layout, use of illustrations, headline fonts, and vocabulary encourage a strong sense of nostalgia while one is already glassy eyed from uncontrollable, prolonged laughter.
I wish I could give this book more than a mere five-star rating.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2000
I read this book, and at times I was debilitated because I was laughing so hard. I mean, I was laughing, then coughing, then doubled over on the floor wretching and gasping for breath. This isn't a good thing, almost needing hospitalization because of a book, but I have to say that it was worth it. "Our Dumb Century" is dangerously funny, but if you take precautions (a glass of water beside you, a reliable person nearby who can rush you to the emergency room) you'll be fine.
This stuff isn't for everybody, the language is a bit rough and the politics not always correct (thank God, too). But if you like humor that is at times completely over the top, at others subtle and witty, and at others ridiculously absurd, you'll love "Our Dumb Century". If you don't like funny stuff like this, well, buzz off.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2000
Format: Audio Cassette
I see "Our Dumb Century" as the Onion's chronicle of some parallel-dimension 20th century, where 'truth in media' is held as an absolute, and our obsession with consumer/celebrity culture is amplified to the nth degree. It is a great piece of meta-media, with a sense of humour so addictive that you'll need to chew a pack of gum just to get on with your life.
I read the online Onion in short spurts, quickly scanning the headlines and very rarely actually reading whole stories. The reason for this, I guess, is that I find the regular paper falls into familiar patterns in an attempt to satirize the mundane nature of everyday life. When a story begins "Area man...", I usually know where the story is going. But when they train that sharp eye on the hypocrisy of history, The Onion staff really shines.
The headlines here are strong. 'Al Capone's Reign of Tax Evading Terror Comes to an End', 'Pentagon Develops A-Bomb Resistant Desk', 'Holy S--t, Man Walks on F-----g Moon', and 'CNN Deploys Troops to Iraq' are just a few examples of their Haiku-like precision in taking aim at their targets. My favourite has to be from the September 3, 1939 issue, which proclaims in bombastic 144-pt type: 'WA-', and then just underneath 'Headline continued on page 2'.
The great strength of the book, though lies in its stories. They are consistently crisply written parodies of journalistic integrity, and the public's need to be pacified, with the added bonus of using hindsight's ability to reconstruct history. Witness the opening paragraph in the story of the sinking of the Titanic: "Officials of the White Star Line have confirmed the sinking, during her maiden voyage, of the R.M.S. Titanic, the world's largest symbol of man's mortality and vulnerability." Or a story in the September 6, 1997 issue: "Princess Diana is being remembered as a 'wealthy, wealthy woman' following her death in a Paris auto accident last week." Every paragraph contains one of those rare feats: a sentence that makes you think deep thoughts and laugh deep laughs. My favourite kind of writing.
As the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe once said, "God is in the details". Well, the details here are what makes the parody so great. Check out the paper's changing mastheads, from the simple, patriotic icon in the 1910s, to the bombastic Eagle-infested coats-of-arms in the forties and fifties (complete with Latin motto "Tu Stultus Es", which calls attention to the foolishness of the whole modern enterprise), to the late sixties where the Eagle is replaced by a (psychedelic?) flying onion logo! And the company slogans that accompany the mastheads are great as well, my favourite being from a 1951 edition: 'Safeguard the Norm/Supporting Paranoia'. When flipping casually through the book, just don't forget to pay close attention to the marginalia. It's worth it.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2007
This book provides HOURS of entertainment. The page with the huge headline "MAN LANDS ON F%@!ING MOON" and accompanying transcript of the conversation between the lunar lander and ground control ["Lander: Holy Sh#t! I'm on the f#$%ing MOON!" Houston: "Holy S#@T!"] alone is worth the price of the book. But there are countless smaller nuggets, such as a small entry in one of the pages from the early 1900s: "German Philosopher Posits Possible Existence of 'Supermodels'".
Without a doubt the funniest book I have ever read.