PAPERBOY: Slow-Jamming The Alt-Weeklies

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!


CP: With a title referring to an obscure historical event and a slavish devotion to black-and-white print production, the Defenestrator wouldn’t appear to have much staying power. But it does, and has stuck around West Philly for more than ten years now, making the Lancaster Avenue Autonomous Space (or LAVA) a hive for radical activity, as Matt Stroud found out.

Over a couple of months, The Defenestrator collective will build material. When it appears they have enough for a release (generally 24 pages worth, though it has been as few as four pages in the past, for special issues), they start designing and look for ways to fundraise. When they have enough cash to print, they do. cp_2009_09_10.jpgFive-thousand copies, black and white, just as wide and about 2 inches taller than the publication you’re holding. The printing bill is normally about $700, and they mail copies to inmates in various prisons statewide. […]

To over-summarize, The Defenestrator‘s motives are activist in essence: Pretty much every article comes with a call to action, an opportunity to participate in a movement forwarding their beliefs. Imagine a publication that not only doesn’t pay its volunteers, but also uses all its editorial content to publicize news that requires even more volunteering. Nothing pays at The Defenestrator. And that’s the idea: Every article is its own crusade, so getting paid to amplify those crusades would feel a little like capitalism — which the publication tries to avoid at all costs. In The Defenestrator‘s April edition, Onion wrote an article called “We Can Live Without Capitalism,” containing “calls for people to organize alternatives to capitalism by removing deposits from banks, ceasing payments of debts and mortgages, and developing self-managed institutions to meet people’s needs.”

It’s heavy stuff, and Stroud’s approach is a little too black-and-white. Apart from the opening anecdote about vegan spaghetti on the Central Library lawn, there’s not much action or many people. He may have caught them at a down time in anarchist activity. He mentions mounting activity for the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, and waiting to include a segment on Philly’s anarchists heading to Western PA to stir things might have spiced things up a bit. Nevertheless, it’s a worthy subject, and both the nitty-gritty and noise-making come across loud and clear.

PW: We shouldn’t want It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to be as Philly-centric as it is. Hell, they use the facade of the coffee shop down the street from my apartment. (It’s where the Waitress works.) The show is bizarre, profane and nihilistic. Schemes inevitably fall flat and frequently involve drugs. It besmirches our fair city, and yet we — and many other FX viewers, it seems — love it. BMac digs into the show’s origin to figure out why this is so.

asipcover090909_lg_1.jpgThe show hit the airwaves in summer 2005 with all the subtlety of a fart in church. It began by chewing up and spitting out taboo subjects, and never looked back. Tune in on any given week and you just might see the silhouette of a penis being jammed through a glory hole, or hear talk of bleached assholes. Nothing is sacred, and everything finds its way into Sunny’s riflescope: abortion, pedophilia, incest.

“We ask ourselves, ‘What part of our culture are we not seeing anywhere else on TV right now?’ Then we explore that,” says the show’s creator Rob McElhenney over the phone from Los Angeles, where he’s currently editing Sunny ’s fifth season (premiering Thurs., Sept. 17 on FX at 10 p.m.). McElhenney portrays Mac and is one of the show’s writers and its executive producer, along with Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton, who play Charlie and Dennis, respectively.

Charlie is the wild card on the show, but the wild card of the cast is, without question, Danny DeVito. An uproarious indie comedy that started with a filmed-for-under-$200 pilot somehow lands an established TV actor? You couldn’t make it up. Same thing with a touring musical (!) based on “Dayman,” a song that could have been just another of Sunny‘s failed schemes. BMac nails how something so anarchic has to be underpinned by vision, dedication and careful planning. It’s enough to make you want to put on a green body suit and dance wildly in the street.


CP: Burnin’ rubber with bicycle polo. Serious Seoul food. Jacking up and stripping the Eagles bandwagon. For “advanced students of booze” only: Hell, I’m working on my booze doctorate.

PW: Twice the DeVito: It’s like a whole regular person! Make the bald man stop. Unlikely liberal agitation: Make 9/11 a holiday. Striking a pose with no clothes.

WINNER: PW takes it. The Sunny cover story executes some fine cultural criticism in a way that hearkens back more than 10 years, when TV critics were the power players at every daily newspaper. Makes me misty-eyed just thinking about it.

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