Calgary’s own Dr. Cronk—Dr. Paul Fairie who brought back the turn-of-the-century beverage in three days via a Twitter meme—has continued to bring his sardonic and oftentimes trenchant humour to the wide world of long-forgotten newspaper stories over the past year.
From topics such as society’s ills blamed on women, how bicycles are destroying the fabric of society, how modern music is destroying the fabric of society, how modern people are too vain, and even celebrity advertising endorsements by the Pope, it’s the foibles of a century and a half of journalistic jousts with the grist of gossip and gen have been his fodder.
Now those massively popular Twitter threads, and more, are coming to a coffee table near you as The Press Gallery: A Collection of Curiosities from Old Newspapers.
“At the end of July of last year, maybe by the end of August, there was something here. It seems to resonate with people, it is popular, and you know, there’s a good, interesting things to explore,” said Dr. Fairie.
“Mid-September, the head of publishing from Unbound reached out, feeling out about the idea. And definitely some of the books that they published were really very much the same kind of energy.”
Currently, the book is being crowdfunded by Unbound, who also published the massively popular Letters of Note book.
The Press Gallery can be pre-ordered from Unbound at unbound.com/books/thepressgallery.
Fans of Dr. Fairie’s Titter threads who want to support the publication of the book, but who don’t necessarily want a printed copy, can purchase an eBook edition. Limited edition mugs, based on some of his more popular Twitter threads, are also available.
Modern problems require Twitter solutions
Dr. Fairie’s newspaper clipping joke threads began in the same way that his Dr. Cronk meme began: Almost by accident and without a plan.
“I was looking through the first few issues of the Calgary Herald, just like is there anything fun to share, I’ll do that. And then I saw these ads [for Cronk],” he said.
Cronk became an international sensation within the week, with interview requests coming in from major international media outlets, and local brewery Cold Garden producing their own version of the century-old beverage.
“I was basically a part-time hype man for a 19th-Century drink,” he laughed.
That same process of putting something that he thought was funny online, and then going outside for a while, is what led to the same sort of success with the newspaper clippings.
That original topic, people just don’t want to work, captured a century’s worth of complaints that could have been taken from the headlines and nut grafs of today.
“Someone was complaining that nobody wanted to work anymore. I did a little search, honestly for five minutes, and I thought, ‘oh, yeah, how many people have said this before?'” Fairie said.
“I went out to play some tennis, and when I came back, 4000 retweets later, something has happened.”
Twitter’s thread format was an accidental boon to the staying power of Dr. Fairie’s humour. For example, on International Women’s Day, organizations globally picked up on individual stories and retweeted them.
Book will expand on clippings, offering readers something more
In many ways, the book will be a call-back to Dr. Fairie’s favourite book as a child. It was a collection of funny headlines published by the Colombia Review of Journalism.
“I loved that book as a 12-year-old. So I was like I want to write my own little love letter to funny things,” Fairie said.
In addition to the pre-existing content that Dr. Fairie has produced for Twitter, The Press Gallery will contain some as-of-yet unseen (at least recently by readers) news stories based on new topics and the addition of essays exploring the news of the day.
“I really love, as you can tell, the minor characters of history,” he said.
That interest is in the pubic figures who come in and out of the public consciousness, like chiropractor George Cheatman Jr. who claimed that rock and roll would be an “incalculable risk” on the backs and shoulders of American youth.
“We think of history as it’s written—you can read a book of all of the things that happened, but there were so many plotlines that were going on that kind of gets get dropped, that we probably for good reasons, forget about,” Fairie said.
“You think of today, ‘oh, so many things are going on.’ It feels kind of wild and uncontrolled, and oh, it was like that before as well. In a weird way, it’s a little bit relaxing to note the passage of strangers to the present.”