In 1991, I launched a publication which was a monthly “review of the news” using editorial cartoons, humor columns and a “fake news” section, ala The Onion, to entertain and amuse people who were getting a bit fed up with bad news. The paper is a funny way of looking at the world, through the eyes of some very talented and amusing writers and artists. The genesis of the periodical was a version that was distributed free and depended on local advertising in the Sacramento, California area – where it all began. (I’d name the publication, but can’t, according to the writing rules on this site, but see the info at the bottom of the article.)
The first issue came out – appropriately enough – on April Fools Day. However, the joke was not the paper itself, but the real-life politics that the publication lampoons. I had just left another small publication I co-published in the Sierra Nevada foothills about an hour’s drive northeast from Sacramento, and was inspired by the Santa Cruz Comic News, another editorial cartoon paper out of Santa Cruz, California, to start this one.
Sacramento seemed like a good home for such a political humor paper, being the state capitol and a political city. The first issue, hitting the streets right on the heels of the first Gulf War, contained a short “history” of that war, told in editorial cartoons, with accompanying “quips” that string them together to form a narrative. It made a big splash, and was an immediate success with political satire lovers in Sacramento.
I launched my little “rag” with some very minimal loans from a few friends, giving me enough for the first printing and some expenses. I opened a small office in the basement of a bookstore whose manager appreciated the paper, and they even traded an ad in the paper for the rent. I had to sign up for food stamps the first year or so to make ends meet, so as you might imagine, it was very much a shoestring operation. But I toiled hard, pounding the pavement to sell ads, working the phone, and putting the paper together on a light table – cutting and pasting the old-fashioned way. I couldn’t really afford to hire help yet, but friends lent a hand here and there, and somehow, I got by.
Month by month the ad sales increased, and the feedback I received from readers was inspiring. I would get calls like one from a woman who said, “I don’t smile or laugh much these days, with what’s happening in the world. But after reading your paper, it had me roaring!” Those kind of calls and letters kept me going. Indeed, the paper was making quite a splash, a unique addition to the city’s culture, and I even got some good press in the other monthlies and weeklies.