Like parades and being mad about development, a fixation on hyper-local politics is one of the classic, enduring features of Alexandria. It’s an environment that naturally fosters satire, and there’s one account that’s at the head of the pack.
Alexandria Shallot is a Twitter-based spin on The Onion for Alexandria, posting almost daily mock headlines about (mostly) real local issues.
Alexandria Shallot isn’t the first anonymous Alexandria blog or local news parody, but it’s been one of the most popular ones. The account started in September last year and now has 1,817 followers on Twitter. The account is regularly retweeted by local notables, including those being parodied.
Shallot’s anonymous writers spoke with ALXnow about the account, with answers shared below in full.
ALXnow: Are you an Alexandria resident/work in Alexandria?
Shallot: While it would truthfully be much funnier if the account was run by a jealous Fairfax resident petulantly roasting Alexandria day in and day out, come on, it goes without saying we live and work in Alexandria. These jokes come from a deep love for an often ridiculous place. But ridiculous in the best possible way- we would never want to live anywhere else.
ALXnow: Is it just one person that runs the account or a couple?
Shallot: It says right there in the pinned tweet that the account is run by drunks, plural.
ALXnow: When did you decide to launch Shallot? Was there a specific instance or idea that you had where you realized you needed an outlet for it?
Shallot: Look, it’s been a long couple years of discussing very heavy and consequential shit on a near daily basis. Between the pandemic and a wildly overwrought local election cycle, we wanted to help people step back and laugh a little. And hopefully, maybe, think a little too. The gloryhole was a metaphor is what we’re trying to say.
ALXnow: How long have you been following Alexandria news?
Shallot: Long enough to remember when the Patch was the local website people around here cared about. Wait, sorry, that came off meaner than intended. Meant to say RedBrickTown.
Editor’s note — Old Town Alexandria Patch is still an excellent local news site
ALXnow: It’s pretty clear you follow local news pretty closely. When you’re reading a story, does the parody usually come to mind immediately?
Shallot: If the implicit question here is: “Do you have an editorial process?” No, no we do not. We mostly just look for the part of a story that’s going unsaid and try to say it. Or we listen to what people are complaining about and try to find an angle that is both funny and maybe makes people second guess that complaint a little bit.
ALXnow: What is it about Alexandria that makes it so ripe for satire? Have there been any instances where things were just too absurd to craft a joke about?
Shallot: So, in a way, it’s probably because this is a city and a community that cares about stuff a lot. People actually pay attention, they actually try to be engaged. So that means over time there’s this shared body of knowledge and memory that you can reference, and yes, poke fun at. And, like any place, there is some amount of daylight between professed values and lived reality, and that’s a space where jokes can thrive.
There’s also a tremendous depth of characters in this city that makes this place feel less corporate and sterile than Arlington or Fairfax. The roster of locally notorious people runs very deep, our cup overfloweth in this regard. Like there’s a guy who reliably writes into the local paper every other week with galaxy brain takes about how actually, facism is good – and the paper prints them! I mean, how could you not try to parody this stuff. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that when you have a local election every three years you can really attract and maintain a strategic stockpile of loons in a way that’s really helpful to the local joke writing business.
As for things that happen that are too absurd for satire, surely you are also signed up to receive press releases from ACPS. Fully half of their shit is impossible to parody. The superintendent is preparing to give a fake State of the Union address. What the hell are we supposed to do with that, he’s done all the work for us already. The man is probably going to come on camera with pictures of Pelosi and Schumer taped to the wall behind him.
ALXnow: What have some of the reactions to posts been like? Have you ever been mistaken for a (apologies) legitimate news account?
Shallot: There is at least one local public figure who seems to repeatedly mistake us for a hard news site, so make of that what you will. And yes, the best replies by far are the ones where someone is like HOW DARE THEY DO THAT because every time it’s a joke hitting them squarely in their confirmation bias.
Sometimes we do jokes we love but they don’t land, and sometimes we do posts that are barely a joke and more like a straight observation about the horrible state of the world and people love it. Can never really tell. But it’s always great when we post something that clearly touches on how a lot of people were thinking about an issue, and they seem pleased to realize they weren’t the only ones feeling that way.
It’s always the most fun when the subject of a joke responds in a way that shows they’re in on it. (Mayor) Justin (Wilson) and (Councilman John Taylor) Chapman tend to be great in this regard. Chad Wolf was a good sport about it too, actually. The Dominion spokeswoman tried to be a good sport, but it came off kind of weird? Still can’t believe she wrote back. In terms of definitely not being good sports, fans of the current governor seem most determined to grab that title. Humorless scolds, the lot of them.
ALXnow: Are there any posts you’re particularly proud of?
Shallot: For sure. In no particular order: Justin trying to bulldoze Chinquapin Park himself in a rented bobcat; the City opening a new pool at the corner of Braddock and West; Del Ray Artisans bringing in furries to compete with the Torpedo Factory gloryhole (that still makes us laugh, months later); the previously mentioned Dominion post; Gadsby’s Tavern sailing through Covid because they handled cholera and Spanish Flu just fine; oh- the woman wanting the city to keep the mask mandate so she can keep going to the halal butcher without her neighbors recognizing her; and, you know, the various jokes about the Alex Times op ed section will always be favorites.
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