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September 29, 2023

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Alumnus snags dream job writing comical headlines at the Onion

Tim Sampson

One of the first things Tim Sampson did when he found out he got a position at the Onion was call one of his best friends, Abbey Kindler.

“He called me when he got it and said, ‘I know it’s not as exciting as getting married, but I think it might be,’” Kindler said. “He was very excited and I was excited for him.”

Sampson, a 2008 University alumnus, said Kindler was just being nice by making it look like he didn’t have a big ego about getting the job at the satirical news source.

“I’m pretty sure I said it was more exciting than getting engaged,” he said.

Before he called Kindler, Sampson “flipped out” when he heard he got the job.

“I started jumping up and down, screaming and punching the air,” he said.

Sampson has worked as a contributing headline writer for the Onion since September.

“It really is sort of a dream job for me,” Sampson said. “I’ve always been interested in comedy.”

When Sampson began at the Onion, he had a “backlog” of jokes he was able to turn into headlines, he said.

His second published headline was one about the University and Sampson created it from a joke he told with his brother. The headline, “Bowling Green State Just Going To Claim Christopher Lloyd As Alumnus Until Someone Calls Them Out,” came from a joke about the University not having many famous alumni, unlike his brother’s college, which does.

During his time at the University, Sampson worked at The BG News as a reporter, city editor and then executive editor.

“I think that set me up well for a career in journalism,” Sampson said. “Eventually I got a little frustrated with straight news reporting.”

In August, Sampson opted to email his cover letter to the top writer because he was interested in writing for the Onion.

Seth Reiss, head writer at the Onion, replied within an hour, asking Sampson to email him a list of 20 headlines as a sample. Now, Sampson emails 20 headlines a week to the Onion, some of which get published.

Sampson getting a job at the Onion wasn’t really a surprise to his friends and colleagues, as he was always telling jokes, said Lisa Halverstadt, who was the editor-in-chief of The BG News when Sampson was the city editor.

“Tim is really sarcastic but also just really goofy,” Halverstadt said.

Sampson always took a humorous approach to the first line of his articles, Halverstadt said.

“A few of us [in the newsroom] were just laughing hysterically,” Halverstadt said. “Sometimes we had to reign him in a little as to not offend readers. Now that he works at the Onion he can completely set himself free.”

Halverstadt isn’t Sampson’s only former editor who has said that to him. Sampson said his former editor at the Kerrville Daily Times said the Onion was a good fit for him.

Part of the reason Sampson is suited for the position is because he can write what he wants without regard to the reader, Sampson said.

“The head writer said the voice of the Onion is that of a newspaper that has complete and utter contempt for its readers,” Sampson said. “I can just have fun.”

Kindler said Sampson has always had a different sense of humor.

“It’s always a little bit more intellectual than your run of the mill humor,” Kindler said. “He’s never afraid to throw out his version of humor, that’s kind of what drew me to him.”

When Sampson was going through the process of getting a job at the Onion, he only half mentioned it to Kindler, she said, because he didn’t want to tell too many people and “jinx” it.

Nothing sounded more right than Sampson working for the Onion, Kindler said.

“The moment he told me he was trying to contribute to the Onion, I thought ‘that’s perfect,’” Kindler said. “It was like a puzzle piece falling into place. Nothing sounded more right.”

Kindler said she had thought of Sampson working for a publication like the Onion before.

“He’s always been into offbeat things,” she said. “I think it’s the perfect job for him.”

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