Did You Know Elon Musk Can Teach Us About Satire In His (Not) Latest Book? The Onion’s Scott Dikkers Shares Latest Hit

Published on January 18, 2019

From Tesla to marijuana, Elon Musk has been the major subject of headlines over the past few months, as we start our early journey into 2019, the public still wants to know what is going on inside that large, scientific brain of his.

The author of Trump’s America: Buy This Book and Mexico Will Pay For It is back with another satirical hit, but this time, focusing in on 21st century billionaire and doobie-smoking, Elon Musk, in his latest hit, “Welcome to the Future, Which Is Mine, By: Not Elon Musk

Photo Credit: Grand Central Publishing

I spoke with Scott Dikkers, the author and founding editor at The Onion about what makes someone like Musk worth putting on that satirical pedastool. Dikkers is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 humor books. He founded the world’s first humor website, theonion.com in 1995 and co-created the Peabody Award-winning Onion News Network, which has spawned countless viral video hits and three television shows. Ranked by Time Magazine as one of the world’s top 50 “Digital Elite,” he’s also a winner of a Peabody Award, several Webby Awards and the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

Part Stephen Hawking-like visionary, part Neil deGrasse Tyson-like evil genius, part Steve Jobs-like cornered-at-a-party creep, Not Elon Musk explains in WELCOME TO THE FUTURE why Not Elon Musk is so ready to fix Earth but also, possibly, leave it. It even offers a fictitious foreword from Mark Zuckerberg that tackles Facebook’s controversial terms of service in a humorous and all-too-real way, not to mention, interesting tidbits below!

The Inspiration

The idea of “fake news” today actually dates back to the origins of outlets like The Onion and The Onion Network. I remember when I was in high school, slowly gravitating towards these outlets, believing it to be extremely entertaining and stress-relieving, because high school is exhausting, am I right?

But, I was most curious about Dikker’s inspiration behind writing satire.

Scott Dikkers: It goes back a long way, and the source of it, is in-character humor, which is the type of humor I’ve been doing for many decades. I started doing impressions, then moved to writing in-character voices. For example, The Onion is a character voice—it’s an archetype which contains serious Associated Press (AP) news-style voices that is communicating non-sense. Anytime within that voice, you have other voices, which we may decide to do wacky editorials written by some random, wacky person.

But while not everyone may fully appreciate the style and humor Dikkers brings to the world of satire, it’s definitely a piece of art that still communicates intense volumes of value. As a millennial, it’s a fun way to read and learn about news and topics that you may not be completely familiar with. How you ask? In today’s atmosphere, where the world is becoming as sensitive as glass, by taking trending topics in the news and making them light-humored, often times forces the reader to learn about the context behind the joke, eventually ending up on the actual news source and learning about the event. Self-education…genius.

“You can always find context in satire,” Dikkers added.

Andrew Rossow: Why Elon Musk this go-around?

SD: The more direct antecedent to my latest Elon Musk book, is one from 2016 about Donald Trump, and it was written in his voice and of a supporter, which did really well. This time, my publisher thought of me for an Elon Musk book, which was interesting, because I had never really thought about Elon Musk. I loved the idea of him and loved the idea that he’s this real-world supervillain in a way—he has all this technology and talks really interesting. Besides that, Musk had actually been stealing writers from The Onion to start a secret comedy publication and I found this fascinating, and reached out to some of them to inquire—just radio silence. Obviously, NDAs were signed, but I thought, hmm, perfect, this will be fun and jumped right in.

 Creating the Voice of Elon Musk

While everyone may have something to say about Elon Musk, Tesla, or him lighting up a doobie on a live podcast, developing and shaping his voice is an incredibly difficult task.

According to the author, it took a great deal of time to craft, at least with the book itself. The audiobook, narrated by James Adomian, is a great depiction of Elon Musk and Adomian really brings the voice to life.

“In terms of the book, it was a two-month process, which was absolutely insane,” Dikkers explained.

“The Trump book I did started in the summer of 2015 and it took almost a year, and any kind of big comedy book like this which is graphics heavy, takes a lot of time. Developing a voice like Musk’s, took time, because we didn’t have the luxury of knowing the voice, so I had to put a team together. The first thing we did was write a bunch of funny headlines for essays, charts, and listicles, trying to find his voice in each of those. Whatever was funny, we rose to the top, and then we tried writing content in his voice. Whomever wrote the funniest bit, was the one I would point to and say, ha, that’s the style we need.”

AR: Any challenges or resistance from the media?

SD: Not like you’d expect. In terms of external audiences such as the readers, media, or news, I’ve considered all to be extremely helpful during the process, because all of them are curious about Elon Musk—they want to read about him or see him made fun of, which just helps me. The media has been very kind to this book by covering it, and we’ve had some great coverage with my previous book talking about Donald Trump. I find them to be very supportive of the arts and satire in general, which people seem to enjoy. I couldn’t ask for more.

Why Satirists Never Want to Meet Their Subjects

In my conversation with Not Elon Musk, I was curious on whether or not he ever met the subject (or victims) of his work. Strangely enough, meeting them actually weirds him out.

“It’s so much better for me if I never meet my subjects,” the former Onion co-founder told me. “It always weirded me out when the Saturday Night Live (SNL) actors and actresses would get invited to The White House by those subjects they so intensely mock and imitate on late night television.”

AR: Do you ever take into consideration how the subjects feel?

SD: I remember when The Onion first moved to NYC, we were working in obscurity in Madison, Wisconsin for over 10 years, and we could make fun of anyone or anything and no danger that we would run into them and they would be upset, or meet them before hand, and go easy. But, as soon as we moved to NYC, we did a front-page skybox (fake jump to inside story that doesn’t exist), and headline about Jimmy Fallon with his picture. I couldn’t remember the joke, but it was kind of mean—something along the lines of when he left SNL, he wouldn’t be famous anymore. Anyway, one of the writers ran into him at a party and turned out he was really upset. What readers need to understand is that as satirists, we are trying to make fun of the media and the culture; we never want to make it personal nor do we want to know that people’s feelings are hurt. If they are hurt, f*** them, because they are in the frying pan, and if they can’t handle it, get out. Satirists need to not care and do their job, but we all need to treat them with respect as human beings, and show respect to them with respect to their personal lives.

Dikkers gave me a really interesting analogy—think of satirists as clocking in and clocking out:

“Remember, we are at work from 9-5, making fun of them without personal feelings; but after hours, if we met them, we are clocked out of satire, and there are a different set of rules and level of conversation and respect; there are definitely lines.”

What Can You (Not) Expect to Find In This Book

An impressive resume belonging to Elon Musk.

 Having read the book myself, I must take a bow to Dikkers, as this is one of his best works yet.

A landmark volume written by one of the great minds of our time, Not Elon Musk’s WELCOME TO THE FUTURE explores such profound questions as:

  1. How will mankind travel through tubes?
  2. When will Alexa and Siri become self-aware and convince us to fall in love with them only to break our hearts?
  3. Why is the Tesla plant built in a hollowed-out volcano on a private island?
  4. And where are the best hidden valleys on Mars to survive the coming Hair Transplant Wars?
About the Author

NOT ELON MUSK, who did not write this book, is a South African-born Canadian-American business magnate, investor and friend to humanity. He is the founder, CEO, and lead designer of SpaceX, co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla, Inc. and co-founder and CEO of Neuralink. In December 2016, he was ranked 21st on the Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People. As of February 2018, he has a net worth of $20.8 billion and is listed by Forbes as the 53rd richest person in the world. He has 22 million twitter followers and recently announced plans to date your mom by 2023.

 But, more recently, you may know him as that really smart guy who lit up a giant doobie on the podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, back in September.

As a former editor of the Onion, Dikkers felt it was his duty to write a book making fun of Musk and has satirically narrowed down all the reasons people should read this book:

  1. It’s important to know the future that Elon Musk has planned for us all
  2. Exclusive looks and never-before-seen Elon Musk inventions!
  3. Tips for keeping Mr. Musk happy and avoiding being jettisoned into space!
  4. Workers at Elon’s business must buy this book, it is the new employee handbook.
  5. Comedians working on Elon Musk’s new comedy project are advised to consider this book a style guide to the kind of writing he wants.
  6. This book is even more up to date than the Internet, which you won’t need anymore.
  7. A less erratic investment than Tesla stock.
  8. Until Elon replaces our healthcare system with an artificially intelligent, euthanasia-dispensing phalanx of robo-doctors, laughter will still be the best medicine.

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

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