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Oakland’s Satirical News Source Back In Action

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Oakland’s OG satire news source is getting a reboot!

Bay Area humorists, rejoice: Oakland’s premier satirical news source is back. 

If you’ve lived here since circa 2012 (or, like me, you left and came back), you may remember Oakland Unseen. The satire specialist covered local controversies like Occupy Oakland, police brutality, and the annual unwashed tide of Burning Man patrons. The paper ran for two years before entering indefinite dormancy. Now, after a series of fits and starts, “Oakland’s version of The Onion” will return to life on February 15th.

With the launch of their “revamped website and Instagram presence, Oakland Unseen covers the Bay Area’s most pressing stories, such as ‘Bay Area advertising industry single-handedly kept afloat by Shen Yun ads,’ and ‘Rumors of Pete Davidson Dating SF Mayor London Breed.’” 

“So much of the news today is dark and depressing,” said creator and editor-in-chief Matt Werner in a recent press release. “I wanted to bring a little bit of fun to the news…to show a non-dystopian view of the Bay.” Werner, inspired by satirical forerunner The Onion, pursued similarly ironic takes on the Bay Area’s then-hot topics. “Oakland’s 911 Response Time Down to 72 hours,” quipped one headline in 2013. “AC Transit to Unveil First Bus to Go Over 20 MPH,” cracked another. 

As true now as it was then. So what’s the scoop on this parodic periodical?

Two Boys, One Write-up

“Much of the story ideas in the latest issue were generated by my collaborator and longtime friend, Joe Sciarrillo,” said Werner. Sciarrillo understands the often bleak origins of sarcastic humor. He currently does social work in San Francisco, a responsibility that sometimes lands him in stressful situations. His duties include administering Narcan to overdose victims. “It’s a grim reality,” Werner said. “As sort of a coping mechanism, we come up with novel ways to remix and view in a positive light the challenges we live through.”

“Yes. You can view the bottle of Slurricane as half empty or half full,” joked Sciarrillo. “We always have a full bottle of Slurricane… is E-40 giving us residuals for this product placement?”

Satire can be difficult to pen. Like all writers, the pair of jokers bat ideas back and forth until something sticks. “E-40 and Thomas Keller teaming up on a restaurant called Bay Laundry” is one. Werner and Sciarrillo imagine such an establishment might offer cocktails like “Sex on Lake Merritt,” or the “gentrification-themed Whites Rush-In.” Another possibility is Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff compensating for his manhood in an article titled “Just The Tip.”

Why do guys always photograph it from this angle?

Past press on the 2013 edition:

“‘You wanna know who’s really gentrifying Oakland? According to Oakland Unseen, the three main groups are 29% SF transplants, 26% hipsters, and 16% fuckin’ hipsters… Oakland Unseen is a satirical look at The Town, presented in the style of The Onion and The Colbert Report. Edited by Oakland native Matt Werner, the fake hyper-local newspaper touches on real issues that affect the city and the Bay Area, such as gentrification, crime, and government shortcomings.” — “Oakland’s Real Issues Covered in Fake Newspaper” by Sarah Han, The Bold Italic

“‘It’s the unseen, unheard stories of Oakland,’ said Werner, author of Oakland in Popular Memory and editor with Thought Publishing. ‘The big irony is that Oakland has such extremes that you are often confronted with the absurd in your daily life. Life is kind of absurd in Oakland.’” — “Oakland Unseen, Satirical Newspaper, Comes to Art Murmur” by Sam Levin, East Bay Express

Oakland Unseen riffs on the region’s politics and our prolific hipster culture…Responding to criticism that there are too many data points on their Oakland crime map, Oakland Crimespotting is releasing the new version of their popular crime-mapping tool that just shows where crime isn’t happening in Oakland.” — “Oakland Gets Its Own Version of The Onion” by Allison McCarthy, 7×7 Magazine

Oakland Unseen is handing out free copies of their first newspaper since 2013 at SF Sketchfest, and at Oakland’s First Friday and other events in Oakland between January–March 2023.

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Jake Warren

Jake Warren

A Potawatomi nonfiction writer and Tenderloin resident possessing an Indigenous perspective on sexuality and a fascination with etymological nuance. Queer decolonial leftist, cannabis industry affiliate, seasoned raver, and unofficial earthquake authority.