On May 1, when Westish, Denver’s new Onion-like website was unveiled, the site published a piece headlined, “Polis Rolls Back Safer at Home to ‘Maybe Stay at Home, Please?'”
Comics aren’t known to be Republicans, but could this site be conservative?
A Westish Editor says not to expect the site to line up with Republicans–or any political group.
“Ideally, I’d like to stay somewhat politically neutral or, as opposed to neutral, be able to give it out on both sides,” said Meghan DePonceau, who owns a comedy club called Wide Right near Coors Field and serves as an editor and director of marketing at Westish.
“The only thing that we want to stay focused on is Denver, and Denver has quite a span of political views,” she said.
So far, political jabs are not an emphasis.
This week the site came out with two posts lampooning Karen-type figures from locales like Cherry Creek (“Cherry Creek Mom Upset to Learn Collagen Masks Don’t Count”) and Highlands Ranch (“Highlands Ranch Moms Complain; “Nothing for Mother’s Day, Not Even COVID”).
Also this: “C&C Coffee and Kitchen Makes Waves as First Non-Leftist Coffee Shop.”
Last Monday, the site published an alien-adorned news brief announcing, “Scientists Discover Cure for COVID-19 beneath Denver International Airport.”
By the middle of the month, the site’s playful content had been covered by several local outlets.
“The first one was Denverite, then everyone in the Westword office was apparently passing it around… and then Channel 7 News,” said Hannah Jones, Westish’s founder and editor-in-chief.
“Between those three major news sources, pretty much anyone who reads local news had our name thrown in their face,” she said.
Now, the site gets thousands of page views, hundreds of submissions and has published content from numerous local contributors.
Jones, whose shifts as a barista were cut due to the pandemic, used her newfound time to carry out her idea for a site focused on Denver’s stand-up comedy scene.
“When we entered lockdown and live comedy wasn’t an option anymore,” she “was looking for a way both to just spend the 20 to 30 hours a week I used to spend on comedy and also a way to connect with other comedians who I used to see literally every night.”
The site “really took off,” Jones said, “because other people were looking for the same thing in the [Denver] comedy community.”
“Denver comedy is a little bit different than other scenes,” DePonceau said.
“People are happy in Denver, and happy people are harder to make laugh,” said the Buffalo, N.Y. native who moved to Colorado seven years ago. “When you’re able to make happy people laugh that usually means that you’re a better comic.”
In addition to the “comedians that built the scene” being “just incredible,” DePonceau said Denver’s “breweries, distilleries, and wineries had a big component in it because they were these independent venues that could host free shows.”
“They created this sort of ecosystem,” she said, “where they were making sure comedians were getting paid a decent amount per show.”
Both DePonceau and Jones have lived in Denver less than a decade.
“I grew up in North Carolina,” Jones said. She graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2017 and “moved to Colorado two years ago” after doing some traveling in the state.
“I really fell in love with the comedy scene here and the culture,” she said. “Something just sort of clicked, so I decided to stay.”
“I think people were really looking for something like this, that was a local reference but still really funny and like a light-hearted take on the news,” Jones said.
“We look for stuff that’s really timely and local. It’s hard to find an audience if it’s not local because places like the Onion, the Reductress and the Hard Times already have” other satirical niches covered, she said.
“Hyper-localized content is always going to get a reaction from people who live around that area,” DePonceau said. “They get to be in on the joke.”
She said since “people are reading news more than they probably ever have before due to the need for daily updates,” there’s “this heaviness to the news.”
DePonceau said Westish’s light-hearted satirical news content “was received very well by the people who were exhausted by a lot of this heavy news going on. They were able to make fun of something silly and they could get the reference because it was hyper-localized.”
According to its website, “Westish pays all contributors and site fees with generous donations from folks just like you!”
So far, 55 donors have raised over $1,500 on the publication’s Fundly. All are welcome to submit to Westish.
“Please ONLY send headline pitches,” the website says. “We are getting more submissions than we ever expected so please be patient with us.”
With so many pitches, only the best will end up on the Westish homepage.
“I’d say it’s really, really selective,” Jones said.