About this project
The American Bystander is a new all-star print humor magazine edited by the legendary Brian McConnachie (National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, SCTV). It's just like the classic humor magazines you remember… only better. At Bystander, the writers and artists call the shots, not the advertisers. And we'll give our readers real substance, the comedy equivalent of "slow food." Help us launch our tiny revolution. Large format (8.5x11), full-color, 130+ pages, this one-of-a-kind collection is only available through this Kickstarter.
Twenty-five years in comedy and publishing has taught me that readers still love humor and cartoons, but changes in the business make it impossible to start a new National Lampoon or Spy the old-fashioned way. So we're trying something new: a softcover book, sold directly to readers. This project combines digital efficiency with the immersiveness and beautiful design of classic print humor. In other words...
In this great and glorious country of ours, bursting with products to buy, there’s surely room in the marketplace for a really great print humor magazine, right? Right — but we need your help. We need you to pledge over there ---->, and even go a little crazy with it. Trust me, you won’t be sorry if you do. We’ve got a whole bunch of stretch goals, which you can see down below.
We've studied the great humor magazines of the past, figured out what worked — and what put them out of business. The American Bystander updates and improves the old classic humor magazine:
- Total editorial freedom — no advertiser interference;
- Fair to the contributors — they get paid in dollars, not exposure, and retain the rights to their work;
- More diverse — new names and established talents; and
- The base of a whole institution — first, a magazine, then a podcast, a website, and whatever else the staff wants to explore.
After several years, and thousands of hours of work, we’re finally ready for prime time. Issue #1 is ready to go on press. Issue #2 is in the planning stages. It’s time to see if people will buy this thing.
Michael Gerber (Publisher): I've spent 25 years as a writer, editor, and magazine consultant specializing in humor. I've written for The New Yorker, SNL, and many other places; my books have sold 1.25 million copies in 25 languages. Barry Trotter and the Shameless Parody is one of the most successful print parodies ever, probably because it introduced a whole generation of English tweens to the concept of a “sex dungeon.”
Brian McConnachie (Editor-in-Chief): Brian began his comedy career as an editor at National Lampoon and the Lampoon's Radio Hour. From there, he went to Saturday Night Live, and SCTV, completing the Holy Trinity of Seventies Comedy. In the 80s and 90s, Brian amassed the coolest bunch of cameos in the history of cinema. In more recent years, he has written for “The Simpsons” and recorded pieces for NPR.
Alan Goldberg (Editor & Producer) has been making non-fiction television and radio for more than 35 years. His work includes biographies ranging from Fidel Castro to the Beatles; science programs with Dr. Richard Leakey; programs on drugs and epidemic diseases; histories of American railroads, diners, The Forbidden City and the Golden Gate Bridge -- and even live rock and roll and gospel concerts. Alan will be overseeing The Bystander's podcasts and live-event programming.
$25,000 = If there aren’t 1,000 people out there who want this thing, we might as well take up cribbage.
$35,000 = We’ll add a cover illustration. Anyone can submit. Illustrators, sharpen your pencils.
$40,000 = We’ll add a National Lampoon-style “Letters” section. Anyone can submit. Attention Twitterati: opportunity knocks!
$50,000 = We’ll add “The Dracula Letters” by Brian and Jack Handey. It’s a funny piece, you should try to make this happen. I believe in you.
$55,000 = I, Mike, will bike down to Venice, CA, and break into Chris Miller’s house. While there, I will steal a short story or something and we’ll publish it. (Nobody tell Chris.)
$60,000 = We’ll print the “Madeline” parody Sean Kelly sent me.
$65,000 = Secret Mystery Contributor #1 will be added.
$70,000 = Secret Mystery Contributor #2 will be added.
$75,000 = We will do six episodes of our new podcast, “Big Ship Radio,” sent exclusively to all backers. (Brian explains: "The premise is, we bought a WWII battleship and have converted it into a cruise ship. Mostly. Shortcuts were taken. The destination is Bermuda but the Captain can’t seem to find it on any of his maps. So like the Flying Dutchman, it wanders the seas. Go listen to the pilot here.")
$80,000 = We will do six more episodes of “Big Ship Radio,” and send them to backers.
$90,000 = We will send a copy of Issue #1 to 100 schools and university libraries. If you would like your school to be on the list, have your teacher/professor contact Mike at Publisher@americanbystander.org.
$100,000 = www.americanbystander.org will change from a mild-mannered informational node into a website featuring paid humor/cartoons M-F for a year. This will give people another place to sell their stuff.
$150,000 = Just in time for the holidays, everybody gets a copy of Mike's A Christmas Peril, which spills the beans on what happened next to old Ebenezer Scrooge.
Risks and challenges
We've already done it! The first issue is complete and ready to be sent to the printer. As you're pledging, I'm circulating contracts to all our contributors for their signatures, so if this project funds, we're going to press. A week after that, the books will be at the fulfillment house, and a week after that, they should be in the care of the USPS, en route to your smoldering little hands.
We have every hope you'll get the book well before Christmas, barring Acts of God and the vagaries of printing.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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