The Onion brings new webisode series to Chicago


As the Onion media empire relocates its headquarters from New York to Chicago in July, it arrives bearing gifts: three new webisode series. They’ve been filming at Foundation Content and on location.

The new shows – one a reality and the other a talk show — are part of the Onion’s expanded web-based productions. They’ve partnered with YouTube on a premium channel, The Onion Channel, to create a continuing number of series. Rights to all The Onion shows are owned by YouTube.

The first series airs July 12 on YouTube’s Onion Channel.

Each of the two series consists of nine 7-minute episodes. Production of a third series of shorter episodes is underway.

Although the expectation is the show’s content will have The Onion’s unique satirical flavor, “We want it to be a surprise,” says Grant Jones, executive producer of the shows.

YouTube awarded the Onion a “minimal” budget, Jones says, and Illinois’ 30% tax credit for producing web video helped, too.

“We’re really proud of the production value we’ve gotten out of the shows, largely thanks to the Chicago production community,” says Jones, who is currently commuting to Chicago from New York until the staff transition to River North offices is completed.  

Producer Sandra Gordon oversaw both series’ predominantly local cast and crew.  “[The Onion] is a great example of someone moving their business here and wanting to work with us,” she says. “Strength from the community is what makes this happen.”

Creative director Geoff Haggerty and executive producer Grant Jones filming in a private River West loft.

“We’ll be doing another shoot in late July,” says web series creator, creative director/executive producer Geoff Haggerty. Local Onion producer Matt Corrado will be running the show. “I think we’ll use a lot of the same folks if we can,” says Jones.

Under head webisode writer Sam West, the series were scripted by Onion comedy writers throughout the country. Haggerty directed and Mark Niedelson was DP and lead camera on all the episodes. Mark Corrado produced.

Megan Guerrant was the senior producer in charge of Foundation’s postproduction on the series.  Christina Stumpf was lead editor.  Robert Stockwell was one of the editor working with and on several of the episodes with the support of Foundation’s post production staff. Tom Rovak was colorist, Dave Kresl was the mixer.  J.J. Shebesta was visual effects superior.

The Onion moves into River North headquarters

The Onion is moving from New York back to the Midwest – the paper was founded by Scott Dikkers when he was a 22-year old University of Wisconsin/Madison student in 1988 – for cost-saving reasons. 

When the move is completed next month, the staff of 100 or so will have settled into offices at 212 W. Superior St., where sister publication A.V. Club has been headquartered since 2007.

The number of staff writers who were expected to move was significantly reduced when they rejected a relocation package and opted to remain in Manhattan.  Among the key editorial staffers who are coming is the return of Dikkers as editor-in-chief and general manager.

The Onion’s free weekly newspaper has a circulation of about 500,000. A partnership with the Chicago Tribune covers local production and advertising. Its Onion and A.V. Club websites have a combined 10 million unique monthly visitors.

Freelance writer Paige Wiser contributes frequently to Michigan Avenue magazine and reviews movies each Friday on ABC-7’s “Windy City Live.” You can reach her at paigewiser@me.com.

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