Spy, the beloved satirical magazine that lampooned the rich, famous, and powerful from 1986 to 1998, has been revived as a digital pop-up for the remainder of the election. The new Spy will live on the Esquire website, and The Wall Street Journal reports that its small team intends to publish about five original articles per day through the election.
Spy famously referred to Donald Trump as a "short-fingered vulgarian" as far back as 1988, and its relaunch this morning features a fake ad for "vulgicene," a cure for small hands syndrome. Articles at launch include a "medical investigation" asking "is Donald Trump genetically defective?" and a report on a visit to the Trump family graveyard plot in Queens, New York. Spy was also critical of Bill and Hillary Clinton during the Clinton administration, notoriously publishing a feature titles "Clinton's First 100 Lies" in the spring of 1993. This morning, Spy published a collection of suggestions from successful TV writers on how to make Clinton appear more likable.
Spy co-founder Kurt Andersen published a letter on Esquire's main page this morning, explaining the choice to revive Spy after nearly two decades. He cited the quieting of the media's satirical voice as the primary reason, noting Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's departures from their pulpits on Comedy Central as well as the untimely demise of Gawker, Spy's heir apparent. Andersen also said that, after Trump clinched the Republican nomination, people came up to him "pretty much every day," saying that it was time for Spy to come back.
2044 elections: mic reboots gawker for one month because peter thiel is running for Clan Chief of the Western Realm https://t.co/YLzJ3kyH2D— Max Read (@max_read) October 11, 2016
Esquire editor-in-chief Jay Fielden told The Wall Street Journal, "Spy's past dovetails with the rise of the two people running for president. It will be a fact-based journalistic satire digitally reimagined."
The 2016 election season has provided thousands upon thousands of joke tweets, memes, and isolated parodies, but a place for concentrated, coherent satire could be a source of comfort in the coming weeks. The old Spy was known for finding the joy in mockery and doing some excellent investigative reporting when it felt like it. It chose its punches much more carefully than the masses on Twitter or Facebook (who are now exhausted, verging on hysterical) tend to, and that could be a refreshing change of pace.
Given the dubious utility of some of America's biggest comedy institutions this election season — The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live, in particular — as well as the sidelining of Gawker and Jon Stewart, it really does feel like the perfect time for Spy to make a comeback.