Mostly Harmless is Durham’s premier satirical magazine. We aim to bring you the funniest content, without any of the usual rubbish associated with some student newspapers. Read on for an overview of our history, which may or may not have been stolen verbatim from our deleted wikipedia entry.
The Beginning of Mostly Harmless
Mostly Harmless was founded in 2006, as a response to the general consensus that the existence of only one student newspaper in Durham (Palatinate) did not provide a sufficient outlet for all the potential student journalists (the fact of ‘not being Palatinate’ is a continued selling point of the publication). To this end, Mostly Harmless was loosely modelled on the British satirical magazine Private Eye, incorporating a satirical approach to local (primarily student) events and national news stories. Many of the shorter stories were often — either partially or severely -– fictionalised (e.g. ‘Sociology Student Deconstructs Himself’).
In addition to satirical stories, the magazine includes a ‘Comment’ section, which publishes student essays on current issues, often written in a deliberately amusing or sardonic tone. As such, the magazine often blurs the boundary between genuine comment articles and invented satire, the intention being to convey a serious point by humourous means. Lately the comments are more in the form of parodies or spoofs, which question the wisdom of certain exaggerated portrayals of aspects student culture by assuming the end of the slippery slope.
Other features include spoof diary entries (written under the pseudonym Esther Rudolf and later Edward Rudolf), idiosyncratic and often rambling articles (e. g. ‘Why I want to be a duck’), and current affairs spoofs in the style of The Onion. There are also cartoons, in a variety of styles, photographs with amusing captions or speech bubbles added, unsolvable crosswords and word-searches, and advertisements for fictional University or Student Union campaigns.
Its humour, whilst ostensible similar to that of Private Eye, often displays a more ‘freewheeling’ spirit, with a strong taste for anti-humour and post-humour. There has been a notable increase in post-humour, particularly with the introduction of new cartoonists. The reason for this (as jokingly alluded to in many of the magazine’s editorials) is the fact that, as all jokes have been done before, the only thing to now find funny is something which is entirely unfunny in every tangible way. Lately jokes have turned to surrealism to give different slants on age old stereotypes, as well as lampoon the idea that Durham can be categorised so generically.
The original intention was the print the magazine as A4 sized. However, as greater advertising potential was realised, there was the scope for a more ambitious format. The first six issues, published from October 2006 to December 2007, were in the Berliner format (the same size as The Guardian). The front page of the Berliner issues featured several stories, and a large picture (in issues 1 and 2 these were cartoons. Thereafter, photographs were featured). The new, smaller format is printed in Quarterfold and features one picture that usually covers the whole page, sometimes relating to an article in the magazine, or simply a one-off joke.
In 2007 Mostly Harmless was voted ‘Best New Society’ by students in the Durham Students’ Union annual student awards. Its then editors, Magnus Taylor and Siddharth Khajuria, were also voted Durham’s ‘Most Enterprising Students’ in the same year. It has received a more mixed reception from the city’s other student publications. Durham tabloid ‘The Sanctuary’ has criticized it as hailing from the ‘arcane world of teenage bedroom geekdom, and Chris Wright, writing in Durham21 has described the magazine’s satirical content as ‘an exercise in defeatism’.
The Mostly Harmless website was built to coincide with the release of the first issue. Its objective was to enable the publication of stories that were not deemed suitable for publication (normally as a result of length or excessive obscurity of subject matter) or articles of immediate relevance which could not wait for the publication of the next issue. During 2007, the website featured an archive of all previous issues and a ‘blog’ section, which could be added to by registered users and commented without registration. A variety of longer articles were published (at times with as frequent as daily updates) on a diverse range of subjects, including music and theatrical reviews.
In 2010 the website was relaunched yet again, this time focusing on the back issues and announcements. The intention is to let authors with material not suited for Mostly Harmless (or content we couldn’t fit into an issue) to be published online externally with the website acting as a portal in order to reach a wider audience.
A new website was launched October 3rd 2010, which features all past issues in their original format but no longer provides a direct blogging facility.