Monday, March 28, 2005

Links: Polly Esther/Heather Havrilesky

Back in the day when the web was new, The Onion was top dog, and content-driven web pages were the norm (before it all became condensed to a few online-magazines and countless blogs), there was a site named

Suck was created by, and for, the wisenheimers of the web. Its content would occasionally be caustic in intent, but more often than not, they provided an informed, if often jaded, viewpoint on the world at large (be it pop culture, business practices, or esoteric topics). Sometimes it was funny, sometimes not.

In fact, Suck was, essentially, a side project for those involved (I never bothered to find out what their primary source of employment was). Its staff were contemporaries of Dave Eggers (who was running Might magazine at the time in San Francisco, which was also home to Suck).

A favorite feature of mine was named Filler written by Polly Esther (obviously, a pseudonymous Heather Havrilesky).

The new Filler would come out on Wednesdays, and was essentially a series of one-panel comics (drawn by Terry Colon), and narrated by Polly's writings/rantings. These were usually obsessively on topic, though not all of the time.

Her obsessions were the sort of thing you'd expect to be written about at the time: the foibles of the GenX generation, the pitfalls of the single stoner in their 30s, and the joys of slackerdom.

What made it unique, outside of the artwork -- which was very distinctive, was the no-holds-barred approach to Polly's humor. Cutting doesn't even approach it. Polly's broadsword would slash away at the pretensions of her topics, whether it was dating, gender issues (for both men and women), even (and most importantly) herself.

(TBO's Note: I wish I had the time to be specific, and give you some links to follow as examples of what I'm talking about; it's probably best if you just checked out the Filler archives.)

Brilliantly unforgiving and self-knowing, her writing best exemplified, for me at least, the kind of attitude prevalent amongst those who were starting to feel their oats during the mid-to-late-90s.

These days, she writes about television for Salon (just do the Site Pass, if you're not already a member), under her real name. And while these are nowhere near as biting as her earlier work, the old sense of self-knowing humor is still there. Her blog (linked above and also in the Links field), is updated at least once a month, and usually gives us a much more concentrated form of her humor.

[TBO's note--For a complete history of, check out this story from -tbo.]

[Click here to go to the next in the "Links" series.--tbo]


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