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A kind of confusing oral history of Nonsense

By Marc Butcavage, Nonsense Editor-in-Chief

In the history of publication related camaraderie here at Hofstra, none is as long and storied as the relationship between the Chronicle and Nonsense Humor Magazine. Though both very different at their core, both publications have a long history of sharing members, resources and kegs. In fact, if were not for an ideological breakdown between members of the Chronicle, we would not have Nonsense, and the entire campus would be much sadder for it.

The year was 1983, and tensions were high between the typical left-leaning journalists, and their somewhat less typical conservative counterparts in the office. What started as some heated arguments turned into a complete succession of the right-wing members, who left to start their own publication, theNew Voice. Like any DIY publication, theNew Voice was a small conservative-minded newsletter that also published once a week. April Fool's Day of that year brought something typical from many college publications, a parody issue. It is not uncommon to see an organization parody itself, but forthe New Voice, some of its members took it a few steps too far. The parody, appropriately titled the No Voice, parodied the New Voices' propensity to include surveys in every issue (sound familiar?), and featured a poll simply titled "The Hofstra Cock Survey." This included a bar graph in which the bars were simply silhouetted penises depicting an array of fake data, presumable about male genitalia. This is where a few of the Republican members took offense.  In yet another inter-publication meltdown, the members who were responsible for the questionable fake survey broke off yet again, and while they did not know it at the time, they would make Hofstra history.

The following school year, the now former members of the New Voice decided to continue the tradition of printing a college-wide humor magazine. Rob Roday, a fifth year senior, went to the Student Government Associations to try to round up some kind of budget. He was awarded $300, but not before SGA budget director Robert Wilschek said, "What is all this nonsense?" Thus, the name of the magazine was born. That Thanksgiving weekend, Nonsense was laid out in the bathroom of the second floor of the student center and ironically titled "The Best of Nonsense."

To further understand the relationship the Chronicle and Nonsense, I sat down with the oldest Nonsense alum and amateur historian Billy Florio who is the most well-versed in the history of both clubs.

The Chronicle: Now what about the Chronicle and Nonsense sharing members, is that a relatively new thing, or has there been a history of that?

Florio: It's fluctuated. There have been times in the past when the two clubs were completely separate, and there has been the opposite. When I came to Hofstra (fall of ‘02), most of the members of Nonsense were editors in the Chronicle, and that trend continued through most of my time at Hofstra. […] It hasn't always been friendly between the two clubs.  About the early 90s/late 80s (whenever Nonsense printed a really offensive article about Christians), they got slammed in the Chronicle by the editors

I don't believe there were any members of the staff crossing over then

The Chronicle: Was the Chronicle ever a key player in the several times Nonsense has almost been shut down, or was that mostly administrative?

Florio: Usually it was Hillel. Outside of the Christian incident, I don't think the Chronicle has ever rallied against Nonsense. All the incidents I can think of come from a different group being offended and going to the administration. I remember around the time I left, there was a group trying to defame Nonsense in the Chronicle. They were mostly film kids from TNL, and they kept on writing Letters to the Editor in the Chronicle talking about how awful we are. […]Art Tebbel, Jon Hanford and Nick Psillas wrote an editorial in the Chronicle defending Nonsense. The reason we got an editorial was because of the crossovers with staff at the time.

And back when we were mocking TNL in the magazine, their writers were mocking us in the Chronicle in the cartoon section [with one called] "Late Entry", [which] was written by a TNL writer. I later parodied that in nonsense as "Rear Entry." That was 2003ish.

The Chronicle: So really most of the Chronicle based contention came from outside contributors?

Florio: From what I remember, the Chronicle was used as a mouthpiece for the dissatisfied. Yeah, there were people on the staff who didn't like us, of course, but they didn't write scathing reviews of us. Even the people who did hate us on the Chronicle at least respected us enough to not voice their hatred, or were friends with us.

The Chronicle:Is there anything else worth noting about the two clubs in relation to each other?

Florio: When we did the Nonicle back in 2004, it caused a few problems between the clubs, or with a few specific members. Gena Bailey was [Nonsense's] production manager and [a member of] the Chronicle as well, and the editor of the Chronicle at the time did not like us. [They] accused Gena of stealing the layout templates of the Chronicle to do the Nonicle, which wasn't true. Gena recreated them for us. This problem eventually led to Gena quitting the Chronicle. Other than that, we often used the computers in the Chronicle for layout and typing.

Through bad times and good, Nonsense will always have the Chronicle, or at least the hotheaded members of the Chronicles past, to thank for its current existence. Even though co-existence between the two publications had not always been entirely friendly, it would be hard to say that hatred between the two would ever last. For now, we have the two working nearly side by side to create two very different kinds of literature for the campus to read and digest. One creates factual, hard-hitting news that can at any time alter the direction and ideals of the campus, and the other one is the Chronicle.

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