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Creators Of ‘Paul Ryan: The Magazine’ Discuss Their Satirical Project

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is both a media darling, who positions himself as a leader that can temper President Donald Trump’s extremism, and an embodiment of much of Ayn Rand’s most destructive ideology, who is eager to carry out the agenda of the Koch Brothers. He is a character ripe for satire.

Andrew Lipstein and James Folta developed an “unofficial” parody magazine called “Paul Ryan: The Magazine.” It is a single-issue project that will be in color and span more than 160 pages. It will hopefully be funded through Kickstarter, and it will satirize Ryan as well as magazines in general.

Both Lipstein and Folta worked together on the “Neu Jorker,” which they describe as a “cover-to-cover parody of New York’s most stimulating, mid-to-high-brow magazine.” It was a success and received some good press. As Lipstein recalled, “The idea of creating a magazine just around Paul Ryan was kind of the next level of absurdity.”

“To create a parody around one man just seemed so ludicrous, and at the same time, kind of believable in an alternative universe, which we’re apparently now in,” Lipstein added.

Once writers were solicited, they let them choose any magazine to parody, as part of the project. It could be Vogue or GQ or something more upper class. It could be magazines nobody wants to read, such as alumni magazines or in flight magazines.

One of their writers was a boy scout, and he still gets a boy scout magazine in the mail. He is basing his satirical piece around Ryan and Eagle Scouts.

Folta runs a humor reading night in New York, and Andrew runs a digital books store called Os and 1s. They had contacts from the “Neu Jorker” project, people who wanted to contribute to whatever they worked on next. So, they reached out to interested illustrators, cartoonists, designers, and writers.

The range of talent includes well established writers, some of them with deep roots in the comedy scene in New York. For example, a few SNL writers and contributors from The Onion will have pieces in the parody magazine. Writers from Clickhole, MAD Magazine, Reductress, and The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert also contributed.

For the most part, the project was fully conceived before the election. Neither Lipstein nor Folta expected Trump to win. Both went back to the drawing board and tweaked the project. They also pushed the launch of their Kickstarter to January so potential supporters would have time to process what happened.

“I don’t think this is something that would have been appreciated in the middle of November,” Lipstein suggested. “Once things have settled and Trump has taken office and he’s actually making decisions, I think that’s when the inkling and the urge to humor kind of creeps in—of this is actually reality now and people need a way to deal with that, and there hasn’t been a more time tested way than comedy.”

The general perspective of the parody magazine is that Ryan is this “avatar of conservatism, born of [Barry] Goldwater,” according to Lipstein. It is focused on satirizing how he embodies regressive politics, but also is a “pretty boy.” He is a bowhunter and archer. He hates women. He takes stands on principle sometimes, but oftentimes, he also is a mess of a person. All of those details form grist for the project.

Within the last few months, the project was recalibrated. The satire was sharpened to make sure the punches were in the right direction.

The project did not want to “glamorize” Ryan. “We want to make sure that the tone is right, and that we’re hitting in the right direction. Like with all good satire, you want to make sure your punches are landing where they’re intended,” Folta said.

As of January 30, the project crossed the $7,000 mark on Kickstarter and is nearing the $10,000 goal, which it must reach to receive any money raised.

If the project reaches its goal, they expect to produce about 1,000 copies of the magazine and distribute it in October.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."