25-Sep, 20:52

11:15, March 09 498 0

2017-03-09 11:15:04
Reductress Takes Its Satirical Voice Beyond the Internet

Stumbling unaware into a standup show is a mistake New York City tourists make daily. But at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Chelsea, on the second Thursday of January, audience members did not seem confused as to why they were sipping beer in a dark cellar, awaiting the first act of the monthly comedy night staged by Reductress, the soon-to-be four-year-old satirical online magazine. The self-selecting crowd appeared, like the site’s readership, to be made up of liberal-minded women.

“That does mean we have to castrate all men before they leave the basement,” Nicole Silverberg, the website’s associate editor, said before introducing the performers, who included writers from “Broad City,” “Late Night With Seth Meyers” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

The crowd could take a joke. But online, some people still don’t get Reductress, which Sarah Pappalardo and Beth Newell started as a blog in April 2013 and which now receives more than one million unique views a month. In a segment that she calls “Meet the Commenters,” Ms. Silverberg highlights the unconversant readers who troll the site’s social channels, asking where they can find the (nonexistent) print edition, questioning the objectivity of its “reporting” and more.

“We have certain articles that sort of eclipse our normal readership, and that’s when we’ll start to get a flooding in of people who a) don’t understand what it is that we do and are not aware that it’s satire, or b) are very hateful of whatever idea we’re trying to communicate,” Ms. Silverberg, 26, said after the show, which she hosts.

That the site registers as sincere to some readers could be seen as a mark of its skill, akin to Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, retweeting The Onion. Reductress’s editors excel at parodying lifestyle articles (beauty tips, first-person experiences, personality quizzes — anything you might find in the pages of Cosmopolitan or on Bustle). At the same time, mistaking humor for journalism may be a sign of the times, as fake news continues to thrive online.

But for all the readers who don’t get Reductress, there are many who want more of it. And so in the past year, the editors have expanded their offerings, with “Haha, Wow!” at the Chelsea theater and a bicoastal comedy tour; a podcast called “Mouth Time,” which Ms. Silverberg and Anna Drezen, an editor at large, will record live on March 23 with Phoebe Robinson of “2 Dope Queens”; a fresh line of merchandise; and the mock self-help book “How to Win at Feminism.” The staff remains small: Three editors and two part-time contributors share an office in the Flatiron district.

“We rotate panhandling outside the co-working space,” Ms. Pappalardo said, joking. “It’s way more profitable than display ads.”

The website’s founders met at New York’s Magnet Theater, where they worked on sketch shows together.

“Most of the sketches Sarah and I were writing at the time were not women-focused, because we were mostly working on projects with a lot of dudes in the room who didn’t really get those jokes,” Ms. Newell said.

But when they started hosting workshops for women, they found that certain types of jokes were suddenly resonating. Ms. Pappalardo, Ms. Newell and several comedian friends began writing satirical stories in the key of women’s magazines. Reductress.com went live after they had accumulated about 50 pieces.

“I think a lot of the comedy historically that’s made fun of women’s media has come from a male perspective that’s like, women are dumb, that’s why they do this dumb media,” Ms. Newell said. “It’s not taken on the fact that women are smart, and they deserve better content.”

In “How to Win at Feminism,” Ms. Pappalardo, Ms. Newell and Ms. Drezen take aim at the commodification of feminism, the beauty industrial complex, the limitations of “lean in” and empowerment, whatever it may mean.

“The idea of empowerment is a great thing,” Ms. Pappalardo said. “I find it odd that it’s never being marketed to men, only to women.”

The book, written during summer 2015, frequently name-checks Hillary Clinton, who was newly on the campaign trail. The authors were ardent supporters.

“The day after the election, Beth and I had to go L.A. to promote our book that just launched,” Ms. Pappalardo said. “We were expecting to get on a plane celebrating the glory of our new female president, and instead we were dealt this blow.”

Back last summer, the editors of Reductress made a statement in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault when they covered their home page with assault-related stories. They hadn’t planned to make quite as big of a splash for the election, but they did have a lot of stories in place to mark Mrs. Clinton’s becoming the 45th president of the United States. They hadn’t considered Donald J. Trump’s victory possible and were, accordingly, unprepared for that outcome.

After the election, Reductress’s voice became louder. At the Upright Citizens Brigade show in January, Ms. Silverberg opened with an appeal to the audience to call their representatives expressing dissatisfaction with President Trump’s cabinet appointments, and every comic’s set began with a tone of exasperation or helplessness.

“The first show was the night of the second debate, the second show was two days after the election,” Ms. Silverberg said. “They’ve all been surrounding political events that have made people feel a lot of anxiety.”

Headlines like “Our Favorite Bath Bombs and Also Why Voter Fraud Really Is a Massive Problem,” “Our Favorite Looks From Melania Who Loves Her Husband Very Much” and “Beyoncé Alleges Huge Crowd Size in Uterus With Zero Evidence” dominated the site in the weeks following the election. Reductress’s recent tour was advertised in a post titled “6 Safe Spaces Reductress Is Holding for You in This New Trump Era.”

The editors have since softened their focus on politics and returned to publishing the evergreen stories that had been the magazine’s signature.

“Good political satire is hard,” Ms. Pappalardo said. “We’re so busy with other stuff that we, in house, haven’t been able to devote time to doing it right. And we’d rather not do it at all than not do it right.”