October 23, 2018
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Meet the man behind Maine’s version of The Onion

newmainetimes.com | BDN
newmainetimes.com | BDN

No, Red’s Eats is not planning to expand its business to the northbound lanes of I-295. And no, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is not trying to sell you her collection of LuLaRoe clothing items.

So don’t believe those headlines read on New Maine News, a satirical news website that started last month.

Instead, let yourself laugh at them. Think the Onion, but for Maine.

In the last month, the site has been bringing Mainers together over the state’s most quintessential inside jokes.

From stories about pit parties, to Allen’s Coffee Brandy, to the admiration Maine fathers have for their woodpiles, New Maine News founder and North Haven native Seth Macy is trying to capture the essence of the state’s cultural quirks, traditions and trends through comedic writing.

“Nobody really gets Maine unless you’re from Maine. Everything that you watch in Hollywood that is supposed to take place in Maine, they have this terrible accent that makes them sound like they’re from a Pepperidge Farm commercial,” Macy said

Macy, a freelance writer, didn’t expect the site to gain much attention when he launched it. Writing for a satirical video game website and having worked with the Maine-based O’Chang Comics, he had an inkling to lend his satirical writing chops to topics a Maine audience would appreciate.

When he launched his first few stories ― including one about kids in a South Portland candy store being upset with all the artisanal candies and another about a study saying Maine is susceptible to rising Massachusetts levels ― Macy thought the site’s Facebook page might garner 300 to 400 likes. His goal was to hit about 1,000 likes in a year.

The Facebook page currently has about 4,500 likes.

“It exceeded all my hopes, because I didn’t really have any,” Macy said.

The comments on the site’s Facebook posts indicate that people are connecting with Macy’s brand of Maine humor. A story about a study finding that “over 80 percent of Maine fathers’ affection is directed at their woodpiles” received a long string of comments with people tagging their own fathers and posting pictures of their woodpiles.

While Macy worried that stories wouldn’t attract many readers if they were too specific to Maine — gravel pit parties or Allen’s Coffee Brandy flavored Humpty Dumpty potato chips — he said people really connect with them.

“This isn’t someone who just knows about Maine, this is someone who really knows what they’re talking about,” one Facebook commenter wrote in response to a story titled, “Heroic man saved dying pit party by cranking some AC/DC.”

Aside from his time in the U.S. Air Force, Macy has lived in Maine his whole life. Originally from the island of North Haven, he has also lived in Bangor, Ellsworth, Down East, and he now resides in Rockland.

His experiences growing up here fuel his ideas for New Maine News. Macy said about 99 percent of the content he creates for the site had been mined from his own life. But to ensure he doesn’t cross the line into tokenizing the state he calls home, he has a simple test.

“It has to pass the ‘right on’ test,” Macy said. “If I write something and my friends would be like ‘Right on!’ Then I feel that it’s going to be good and not insulting to them.”

The site is not a platform for demeaning people for their lifestyles, Macy said, having deflected notions from people that he should write about “white trash.”

“That’s just insulting for the sake of being insulting, I don’t want that,” Macy said. “Who benefits from laughing at somebody who doesn’t deserve to be laughed at?”

Rather, Macy seeks to point out truth through comedy with his satirical writing. In poking fun at the city of Portland in a story for trying “to sit at the lunch table with the cool cities,” Macy said he’s simply trying to poke fun at how Portland sometimes views itself.

“The best satire …exposes the readers to a truth that they knew was there but maybe didn’t realize that they understood it,” he said. “I think that’s what I’m trying to do. Not to criticize Portland, but maybe poke fun at it and get people to think that ‘Oh yeah, this is going on,’ and they can laugh at it.”

However, sometimes not every joke lands well. And in some cases, readers aren’t realizing that New Maine News isn’t real news.

On Nov. 10, the website posted an article with the headline ” Belfast plans to end poverty by making being poor illegal.” It quotes Belfast City Councilor Mary Mortier, but Mortier never said any of the things attributed to her in the piece, and Belfast isn’t considering any such ordinance. The satire was lost on some people who commented on the article or shared it on social media. Even some of Mortier’s friends and acquaintances were perplexed.

Mortier said she’s worried the article damaged her character among people who don’t know her well. She said about two dozen people, including a city hall employee, reached out in phone calls and messages, questioning whether she really said the things the article attributed to her.

“Fortunately, the majority were people who didn’t quite understand it was satire, but had an inkling of who I was and couldn’t match that with the quotes in the article,” Mortier said. “I’m fortunate that people know me and understand what I do in the community.”

Macy said it wasn’t his intention to put one city councilor in the spotlight with this story, but rather the city of Belfast as a whole. When writing the story, he just went on the city website and grabbed a councilor’s name at random.

After seeing the story get backlash, and worrying it would have an impact on the Mortier, Macy removed her name from the story.

“I should probably never go to Belfast again,” Macy said.

But despite some people not getting the jokes New Maine News is putting out, Macy said he hopes to grow the site. As it grows, he aims to pay other writers to lend their satire to New Maine News.

With a new story out every day, Macy will continue to run the site as a one-man show for the near future ― mining his own life and those of his fellow Mainers for the next headline.

“I expected it to be maybe something I just kind of did when I had time,” Macy said. “But people have been really excited.”

Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.

 


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