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Arlington writer to take his 'net wit to WBUR

Chris Monks, WBUR photo

The Arlington editor of a satirical website is bringing his sense of humor to public radio this fall.

Chris Monks, who has managed the gibes on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, for 11 years, will be in charge of a pilot on WBUR (90.9 FM) this fall.

"We need satire now more than ever," Monks said in a phone interview June 22 from his home near Ottoson.

Monks, 48, was born in Boston, grew up in Cambridge and moved to Arlington in 2003.

He was chosen after the Boston NPR station received 400 entries nationwide for the contest seeking "a creative, funny and engaging show to make listeners laugh." The five finalists presented their ideas to a panel that included WBUR producers and comedian Alonzo Bodden

The new show, called "McSweeney's Presents," is expected to aim for different funny bones than the ones tickled for years by Tom and Ray Magliozzi.

Asked about his style of humor, Monks made clear that he found the subject hard to analyze -- a you-know-it-when-your-hear-it matter.

He called the humor at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency a mix of high-brow and low-brow, a mélange that results in a compromise he termed "upper middle-brow."

He said he like humor in which the reader must know the context as well as "silly-funny."

The contest seeking a host for a new show came as the long-running "Car Talk" slowed. The yacking, car-loving Magliozzi brothers, who had their own Arlington roots, were public-radio regulars since 1987. New episodes ended in 2012, two years before Tom died, but the show has lived on via many member stations.

"This contest introduced us to new voices and helped us find what we think is a great idea for a new radio show," said Iris Adler, the executive director for programming, podcasts and special projects at WBUR, in a statement. "We’re excited to make it a reality and see where this journey takes us, our station and our listeners."

What might listeners expect Monk to deliver this fall?

For clues -- far from a foolproof guide -- consider what McSweeney’s Internet Tendency is serving.

With its tagline "Daily humor almost every day since 1998," the site has a list titled "What Your Favorite Classic Rock Band Says About You." 

Some of the answers (peel this "onion" carefully):

"The Moody Blues: You are a former volunteer at the Liberace museum, a serial killer, or both.

"The Grateful Dead: Your stories about the seventies make your daughter’s roommates at Tufts very uncomfortable.

"T-Rex: No matter how much you clean, there will always be trace amounts of glitter on your stove and blender."

The University of Wisconsin/Madison Madison grad was a communication arts major and took much creative writing.

Monk taught school, including third grade in Newton, before becoming a stay-at-home dad and writing a blog about a bored, stay-at-home dad. He submitted about a dozen entries to McSweeney's for about a year before the site accepted a piece.

In 2007, when founder Dave Eggers took a sabbatical, and Monk became editor, remotely, of the San Francisco-based site. Eggers, also 48 and born in Boston, wrote [ital] A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, the 2000 best-selling memoir.

In 2008, Monks published The Ultimate Game Guide To Your Life,  whose subtitle gives you a taste of his irony: Or, The Video Game As Existential Metaphor.

Oh, for you follow Town Meeting and see a last name you recognize, the writer is not related to Flynn Monks, who represents Precinct 19. There is a connection: This spring, Flynn attended an author reading at Kickstand in which Chris took part. Now here's a kind of irony: Both have kids named Noah, involved in music in the Arlington public schools.


June 12, 2018: Bike-sharing pilot approved

May 23, 2018: 1-year pilot for dockless bike-sharing rolls closer to reality


This news feature was published Wednesday, June 27, 2018.

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