The Blowfish blow-up
In the Village's cushy TV lounge, 20 students-12 men and eight women-gather for a Blowfish meeting. The satirical newspaper started this past spring and students attend weekly meetings to brainstorm ideas. This Sunday, the students joke among themselves and nibble stale pizza. Dave Klasko '07, a co-founder of the paper, looks around, trying to see if it isn't too soon to start. Many of the students chatting and pitching ideas are familiar faces from the Brandeis improvisational and sketch comedy scene: Jay Judah '08 and Ashley Glicken '09 of To Be Announced, and Joshua Louis Simon '07, Jessica Exel '09 and Klasko himself, of Boris' Kitchen. "Did you hear about that plane crash? That's funny!" whispers Sam Roos '09.
"I think the TenniBator should be brought up at some point," suggests Klasko.
"Have we missed our opportunity to do a Halloween issue?" asks Glicken.
"I think we should write an article about how the Justice is writing an article about us," says Jay Judah '08.
Klasko responds, "Yeah, let's write an article about Bernard."
I look up.
"Bernard, we're not going to interview you, we're just going to write what we want," he adds.
Klasko's eyebrows raise excitedly, as though he's placing a chess opponent in check. Finally, an actual, viable idea for a story is provided.
"Something about how the Shapiros purchased all of Nigeria now that their leader has died," Klasko proposes. "That's it. All of Nigeria will be replaced with oxidized copper buildings and Einstein Brother's Bagels."
Jon Kay '07 chimes in. "I think Carl and Ruth have a rotunda in the MFA and something in MGH?"
Simon turns to Kay, enraged. "They're cheating on us for sick people and art? Forget them."
The satirical paper's founders and editors-Jonathan Krisch '07 of Allentown, Penn., Klasko, also of Allentown, Roos '09 of Portland, Maine and Simon '07 of Long Island, N.Y.- all seem to care deeply about their mischievous little brainchild, which in less than a year has become among the most widely read publications on campus.
Simon says the paper has received positive feedback all around.
"Alwina loves it, Callahan loves it, Shula likes it, Scott Edmiston loves it. ResLife is also a big fan. Jehuda we have varying reports on," he snickers, refering to various administrators and the wife of University President Jehuda Reinharz.
Simon recalls the weekend in Manhattan that spawned the idea for the Blowfish.
"Dave said to me over winter break, when we went to see an Ed Albee show in NYC. 'We should start this satire newspaper,' and we thought the idea around for a while." Simon shoots up his eyebrows and begins listing what were then the prospective names for the publication, like "the Injustice" and "the HooStice."
"Dan Levy '07, then a writer for the Hoot, actually thought of the idea of the name for the Blowfish," Klasko says, noting that the very first issue was printed as an inset in the Hoot.
"The Hoot let us print with them, and Dan Levy said we're Hootie and the Blowfish," Klasko says, smiling nostalgically.
Klasko, in a rare moment of seriousness, explains that he and his co-founders had a mission for the direction of the paper, that they had more in mind than just being funny.
"Freedom, independence from any other paper-we wanted to make sure that we could do it our way," says Klasko. It is this type of freedom that allows the Blowfish to turn Brandeis events into hilarious satire.
"The week we needed to put out the paper, the water main broke and the bomb threat to the Economics building occurred. When the water main broke on Rabb steps, water was spilling out all over Rabb," Klasko says nodding happily, as if the mess that had been created was a golden comedic opportunity on which to capitalize. "So we ran a story in our first issue that said that all this could have been avoided if Jehuda had cleaned his pipes."
Simon continues, "Mariah Carey, Condi Rice, Curious George, Darius Rucker and Tupac were staff writers that issue."
A proud Krisch interjects, "We printed a crossword in that issue, but there was a printing error, so we printed a revised version the next issue."
"We're not in it to offend, or push the limits of vulgarity. We've never really singled out individuals," Klasko says. "The paper works so well, comedically, actually, because it helps so much to have staff edit staff."
Preliminary writers' meetings are held every other Sunday, and staff writers mostly submit articles during the week. The editorial staff then edits them down before meeting again the next Sunday, when articles are passed around so that staff can insert jokes wherever the opportunity presents itself.
Klasko explains what goes on at a typical production night. "A production night for us is like a production night for the Justice, except it's on one computer instead of 10," he says. "Someone comes in early, usually me, does a prelim layout, and then there's editing all night for content."
"We do most of our crosswords Tuesday. They're real and they're homemade, we have a Web site with all of our archives," adds Krisch.
To point to the growth of the paper, Klasko says the paper is now accepting advertisements.
"We've made an ad for the Ethics Center, and we are told to make it both funny and appropriate enough for them to approve it," says Krisch.
Klasko returns to a more serious tone to sum up his feelings about the paper. "We've learned a lot and grown a lot since we started this," he says. "Comedy is something that takes a lot of work and each new issue we find a new way to go about things."
And while the group lists The Daily Show, Arrested Development and The Onion as some of its comedic influences, Klasko insists that Brandeis is its greatest inspiration. "It's great to do Brandeis humor, because we have a lot of common experiences, and we can all appreciate what's funny about being here.
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