"We're not going to explain a lot," former Features Editor of "The Onion" Joe Garden told me about Thing X, the parody website created by he and fellow former "Onion" employees for Adult Swim. And it's a good thing, too, because perhaps the best part of this new venture is how ominously baffling it is.
This summer, Adult Swim seized an opportunity to band a free-floating group of newly unemployed satirists together to form a website, and according to Garden, they didn't do too much explaining either.
"They have not told us what they want at all. They said, 'Make a website.'" Garden said of Thing X's parent company. "The prospect of breaking up 'The Onion' was pretty depressing for everybody, but since the end of June we've had the opportunity to expand and do something we normally wouldn't have done. We have the same freedom that we did at 'The Onion' without the constraint of a newspaper format."
Aside from the occasional report on bear mating, Thing X is definitely not about fake news. Garden, along with Joe Randazzo, Nick Gallo, Chris Karwowski, John Harris and several other former "Onion" employees who stayed in New York after the publication moved to Chicago, spent the rest of the summer making ThingX.com the home of a suspiciously evil media company/web content producer claiming to be, "The Future Of Free Will."
You could draw a parallel between Thing X's vaguely evil corporate ownership and the persona of made-up "Onion" publisher T. Herman Zweibel, but Thing X has a much more subversive feel than "The Onion." In one of the site's first video, Randazzo explains that there will be "videos, polls, incantations, recipes, quizzes and blogs, or whatever," but it's really more of an anti-website.
"We have regular columnists and the humor will sometimes be topical, but it's not a news site. It's more like a portal site, like Yahoo!" Garden said, "Like a bad or evil Yahoo!."
So far, the "blogs or whatever" are opinion pieces echoing "The Onion" editorials, but video comprises a large portion of the content. The segments range from corporate training-style videos, awkward one-sided interviews, eHow-style instructional videos led by hilariously inept instructors and slightly disturbing non-sequiters a la "Tim & Eric." Soon to come: a song about getting a haircut, a parody podcast hosted by a man who's really uncomfortable about sex, a stop-animation series about objects in an apartment and more.
Although owned by a TV network, Thing X is web content-only, aside from a handful of 15-second bumpers appearing on Adult Swim, but Garden said that Cartoon Network has left open the option to run a series in the future. For now, we can expect to see familiar Adult Swim personalities making appearances on the site, such as an upcoming cinema talk show featuring Tim Heidecker.
As for the name? ironically, "Thing X" was the placeholder name, according to Garden, and after a brainstorm the team decided it was the perfect fit (after a minor dispute with the previous domain name owner). See Thing X's first few videos below and leave your thoughts in the comments.