Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Why we love DerfMagazine.com
GINA DAUGHERTY | CIN WEEKLY
We love DerfMagazine.com because it makes us laugh. Out loud.
The online-only e-zine is a satirical look at everything Cincinnati. A lot sarcastic but only a little snarky, DerfMagazine overstates Cincinnati's idiosyncrasies and understates its problems.
Updated once a month with such headlines as, "To Avoid Losing Place in Airport Security Line, Local Man Removes Own Appendix," DerfMagazine.com is the work of three or four obviously bored young professionals.
They bait Norwood residents and west siders. They make fun of Hyde Park and cul-de-sac communities. Mostly, they make up hilarious headlines and post them on the site with accompanying fake articles.
Each month, Derf hosts a happy hour where fans of the site get together and mingle. The happy hours are reaching upwards of 400 people, with DerfMagazine.com newsletter subscribers reaching 10,000 people.
The next Derf happy hour is Friday, December 5, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Jefferson Hall on Main Street.
Most people are savvy enough to recognize that Derf is satire - and that the folks with the yellow billboards that say "We Buy Ugly Houses" didn't really buy all the houses in Norwood. But there are times when the humor is lost on some readers.
But not us. Here are some of our favorite headlines:
• Editorial: I Wish My Buddy Would Quit Singing Marvin Gaye Song 'Sexual Healing' Around Me
• Tragic Mixup - Area Woman Asks for Botox but Receives Buttocks
• Angry Residents of Cincinnati's West Side Asking, 'Where's Our Starbucks?'
• No Surprise - Report Says Drunks at Teller's Only Slightly More Polite Than Drunks at Arthur's
• When I'm Not Playing Video Games, I'm Getting My MBA!
• Local Man Flattered But Not Ready to be National Colitis Spokesman
• Single Woman Says: 'Having Unlisted Phone Number Makes Me Feel More Attractive Than I Really Am'
Other recent Derf press
Cincinnati Enquirer - July 7, 2003
By Gina Daugherty
E-zine laughs at Cincinnati
'Derf' pokes the city in its funny bone with a tongue-in-cheek look at its quirks
By Gina Daugherty
Just in time to spare Cincinnati from taking itself any more seriously is the funniest Web site you've probably never heard of.
DerfMagazine.com isn't advertised anywhere, and your favorite radio disc jockey isn't talking about it during the morning commute. Not yet, anyway.
But about 30,000 of you "get it" each month. And by "get it," we mean laugh at yourselves through DerfMagazine.com's portrayal of the people and places of Cincinnati. They take a pinch of truth, add a pound of exaggeration and poof: You've been Derfed.
No one is spared. The writers (the site has three but takes submissions from readers) for Derf come down on mixed marriages (those between east- and west-siders) and feature personal ads from native Cincinnatians whose goal in life is to "always live on the same street as my parents." They savage Hyde Park for being, well, Hyde Park - land of SUVs, Starbucks and long lines at First Watch.
Founded about a year ago by three or four (they claim to not remember exactly how many) local business professionals, the e-zine calls itself "Cincinnati's most irrelevant news source."
Yet it boasts 30,000 visitors each month, includes 10,000 e-mail subscribers and has a monthly happy hour attended by 300 to 400 young professionals. The happy hour is a movable party that happens at several locations in the city.
"There are few things where I can sit down and actually laugh out loud," says Elizabeth Cannon, a self-described DerfHead. "One of my favorites (on the site) was when the two women are supposed to meet at Starbucks in Hyde Park, but they keep missing each other because there are so many. And it's totally true.
"They are very topical. There are so many inside jokes to people who live in Cincinnati. It caters to our age group and the area we live in."
Like 'The Onion'
DerfMagazine.com is kind of like The Onion, the national satirical magazine and Web site (theonion.com). Only Derf specializes in making fun of Cincinnati, and you won't find any crude sexual jokes or hard-core cursing at DerfMagazine.com. This is Cincinnati, after all.
But they're plenty free about savaging the area's idiosyncrasies. Many readers liken it to British humor, and observe that Derf takes mundane details and blows them out of proportion, making missed coffee dates "disasters" and turning disasters into annoyances for local restaurant patrons.
Most people are savvy enough to recognize that Derf is satire and that the folks with the yellow billboards that say, "We Buy Ugly Houses," didn't really buy all the houses in Norwood. But there have been times when the humor is lost on some readers. People will e-mail Derf and complain that there really isn't a blind Bengals scout or a cul-de-sac community, where no one can get in or out. (The accompanying graphic shows a "double cul-de-sac" in GlenViewRidgeDaleHaven Oaks Estates. Where is that exactly? Probably in a cul-de-sac near you.)
DerfMagazine.com started as FredMagazine.com, when a friend of Mitch Tolokonsky's, named Fred (of course), had his face splashed all over the Internet.
"If you clicked on his head, the screen would become a big head of Fred and his face would spin around," says Tolokonsky, DerfMagazine's "CEO." "But he's kind of shy, and when people started coming up to him in the grocery store asking him if he was Fred from Fredmagazine, he got kind of freaked out and made us stop."
So they spelled Fred backward, creating Derf.
Other than that, Tolokonsky and his brethren at Derf reveal precious little about the origins of stories. And they never reveal who writes what. They do take submissions, which brings a tear to reader Steven Fink's eye, who got a story on the site.
"If I died tomorrow, I would the happiest man on Earth now that I have my story on Derf," says Fink. "I suggested that the tortilla press at Chipotle is the next big thing in exercise equipment, because it looks like they (the people who make the tortillas) are getting a good workout."
You, too, can get 'Derfed'
The Derf following has been by word-of-mouth only, with most visitors interested in the headlines and stories, which are updated each month just before the monthly Derf happy hour. DerfMagazine.com has always helped charities promote their events, but just recently they began accepting advertisements.
But don't bother calling any number on the Web site unless you're hungry. Along with "your unique Derf tracking number" that the "Derf tracking number team" advises you to write down, is a telephone number you are to call in case you lose your 10 digit tracking number. Why anyone might need this number is part of the game, but we tried the number to get in touch with the folks at Derf.
"Popeye's Chicken, can I help you?" answered a woman.
Humpf. We've been Derfed.
"We had one story where a kid was going to tell his parents that he was adopted. Then we said if you think you have adopted children, call this number, and it was Popeye's Chicken," says Tolokonsky.
He's evasive about why Popeye's Chicken takes so much heat in Derf's Web pages, but he did mumble something about it being annoyingly close to the gas station at Madison and Edwards Roads. In fact, they are in the same building. A point that Tolokonsky says makes getting gas and Slurpees even more difficult at the busy corner.
You might recognize Tolokonsky. His picture is on the Web site as Scooter Wellington, the award-winning Derf Happy hour doorman. There have been a few people who think his name is really Scooter, but mostly, no one believes anything that DerfMagazine.com says.
Or do they?
By Gina Daugherty
In its long history of Cincinnati satire, (OK, it's only been a year) the writers for DerfMagazine.com have amassed a special place in the hearts of those with an irreverent sense of humor.
Consider these recent headlines and story summaries taken from the site:
Cul-de-sacs growing out of control in Cincinnati suburbs: One community, the GlenRidgeDaleHavenOaks Estates, was accidentally designed without an entrance - As generic subdivisions proliferate throughout Cincinnati's suburbs such as West Chester, Mason, and Loveland, officials warn of an overabundance of cul-de-sacs. "Building a high cul-de-sac ratio risks making a neighborhood more generic and lifeless than most of these neighborhoods already are."
Man sets new record for time spent at vending machine: Amazed co-workers witnessed Jeff Salton of Norwood set a new world record by standing in front of the company vending machine for 74 hours and 32 minutes deciding on a snack.
Joe Thousandaire - FOX19 airs new local reality show: Joe Thousandaire is a convict on a four-week work-release program from prison, but the women think he is a flourishing construction worker with almost $1,000 in the bank.
Jennifer Lopez buys chain of hardware stores, called JLowes, America's first celebrity hardware store: Considered an unusual move by Hollywood insiders, a spokesperson for Jennifer Lopez recently announced the singer/songwriter/ model/actress/producer/entrepreneur has completed negotiations for the purchase of the highly successful hardware chain, Lowe's.
To avoid losing place in airport security line, local man removes own appendix: Stricken with appendicitis while waiting in the security line at the Cincinnati airport, traveler Ted Billings had to make a choice: abandon his place in the three-hour line or make the best of a bad situation by removing his appendix himself. Shocked travelers watched in horror as Mr. Billings partially disrobed and made the first incision into his lower abdomen using a plastic knife from the airport Au Bon Pain store.
God appeared at Crossroads Community Church hoping it was still a hardware store: In search of plywood and floor tile, God walked into the newly opened Crossroads Community Church last Sunday. Thrilled parishioners flocked around the Lord, hoping to bask in His warm glow.
No Surprise - Report says drunks at Teller's slightly more polite than drunks at Arthur's
Local artist hurts own feelings with poorly drawn self-portrait
Uglier daughter never included in family photos: AMBERLEY VILLAGE - Sources report that Steve and Debbie Peake have never allowed their older, less attractive daughter Meredith to appear in family photos.
First Watch restaurant: The wait finally dipped below seven weeks: Beginning in the restaurant lobby, the line moves through the front door and across the parking lot where it progresses along Madison Road and eventually merges onto the southbound shoulder of I-71.
We Buy Ugly Houses: The company known for its eye-catching billboards that read, "We Buy Ugly Houses," reached a landmark agreement this week with the city of Norwood. Under the terms of the agreement, the city will allow the company to make a purchase transaction encompassing every house in Norwood.
Outraged NASCAR fans discover Jeff Gordon only pretending to be a hillbilly: In an unusual interview with Racing Weekly, Harvard educated Jeff Gordon forgot to speak with a hillbilly accent for over two minutes. The confused reporter pressed the issue and Gordon finally dropped a bombshell saying, "Ok, I'm not really a hillbilly. I was born and raised in Maryland. You can't get any less hillbilly than that."
Tensions mount as Hyde Park residents debate Norwood's right to exist