The Onion Sells Itself to China, and a New Comedic Genre Is Born

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As you may have heard, The Onion has been sold to the Chinese. Not really, of course, but you could be fooled by their site this week. It’s a much-needed comedic shot in the arm after the recent sad news that their California print editions are shutting down.

The funniest bit isn’t actually any of the China-related content on the Onion homepage, but the website they set up for their fake Chinese parent company, Yuwanmei Amalgamated Salvage Fisheries and Polymer Injection Corp. From the “Company History”:

Founded in 1998 without incident or legal complication, what is now a glorious 300,000-square-foot processing center began as a humble 230,000-square-foot warehouse.

Clicking through the Yuwanmei website I can’t help but think that we’re witnessing the birth of a new—and potentially game-changing—comedic genre: the fake website. While fraud and deception are nothing new to the internet, and fake websites have been sometimes innovative promotional tools for movies and TV, the culture is still barely scratching the surface. Besides the Chinese Onion, the best example I’ve come across is an extensive spoof website featuring the comedian Charlie Murphy as Leroy Smith, the man who motivated Michael Jordan. Nike is apparently behind this project, which explains the bells and whistles, like the Leroy Smith video game. The ease with which this stuff can go viral (Leroy’s website comes fully equipped with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and iPhone apps) has to have entertainment execs salivating.

Look for Hollywood to follow the lead of the website for the new Apatow flick, “Funny People”, which features long fake trailers for the fake movies its protagonists star in.

Have a favorite fake website? Leave your links in the comments. But first, watch a video of Charlie Murphy (yes, Eddie’s brother) as Leroy Smith, the man who motivated Michael Jordan, after the break.

Update: The Onion has taken it even farther than I had realized. Check out the Yu Wan-Mei Corp. Twitter feed (h/t to commenter Yu Wan Mei).

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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