- The Tapir Times is a parody news and satire website founded by an anonymous group of friends.
- Started in 2012 as Fake Malaysia News, The Tapir Times currently crafts news stories that poke fun of the Malaysian political landscape, social happenings, and other newsworthy events.
If you’re one for political humour and witty satire, odds are you’ve already chanced upon The Tapir Times, a Malaysian “news” portal very much in the vein of internationally renowned satire site The Onion that pokes fun at current happenings in Malaysia, with a keen focus on our the local political landscape.
From humorous commentary about the very many shenanigans within Malaysia’s corridors of power to the fabrication of completely false yet still conceivable news pieces, The Tapir Times is always par for the course whenever one is in need of a good dose of laughter.
Started in 2012 as a website called Fake Malaysia News, The Tapir Times was founded by a group of friends (who have chosen to remain anonymous) after they were inspired by the popular late-night talk show The Colbert Report.
“It got us wondering why there wasn’t more satire and parody news in Malaysia since That Effing Show came up,” said Adam, one of the members of The Tapir Times.
The idea to create a platform of their own then came after the friends found themselves bored during a family wedding trip in Kuching, sitting in a hotel room doing nothing but re-reading pro-government English newspapers.
“We came up with some ideas and published them on a very basic WordPress website,” Adam explained. “At that time, Jon Stewart playfully called his parody news ‘fake news’, so we initially named our website Fake Malaysia News.”
“We shared it with a few friends who passed it on to others, which then inspired us to write more articles and it grew organically from there.”
Satire Is An Artform
The team members now work day jobs in the fields of engineering and telecommunications, and find time to push out new content during lunch breaks, conference calls, and plane flights—essentially running on a “whenever we feel like it” schedule, as simply put by Adam.
“There’s one guy who writes nearly all of it, and some other contributors,” he explained. “We operate at no fixed address.”
As for the actual content, Adam explains the process as a methodical one, beginning with the deciding of the title.
“When you write news satire, the headline is the most important part of the story, so sometimes we start out by checking current news and brainstorming ideas for funny headlines,” he said. “We choose the funniest ones and flesh them out into Tapir news articles.”
With no prior experience writing satirical content, it took plenty of learning for the team to get proficient at crafting their content.
“The first year or so, we experimented and discovered that if we’re going to write parody news, it has to be about the story of the day,” said Adam.
“If Malaysians are talking about kangkung, writing a story about traffic jams isn’t going to resonate with readers unless it’s on the front pages.”
He also noted the importance of being able to tread the fine line between poking fun and being outright unsavoury.
“Satire by nature needs to be a little prickly to be relevant, but there are lines we won’t cross,” he said. “Even if we don’t like a politician, we wouldn’t write a fictional news story about him or her coming to physical harm or injury.”
“Also, we won’t look for humour in genuine tragedies like MH370,” he added. “We’ve seen it done in other satire blogs overseas, but the risk of coming off as insensitive and insulting victims make it a risk not worth taking.”
Finally, Adam also discussed some of the challenges of running a parody news site in a country like Malaysia, particularly during the Najib administration.
“We were mindful of the government clamping down on criticism, so we toned down a little earlier this year because we didn’t want to get blocked,” he said.
“We knew we were being monitored, but nobody contacted us or warned us directly.”
“We suspected the Barisan government concluded we were a silly joke factory and not a real threat like the Sarawak Report.”
Now after the change of government, Adam thinks that The Tapir Times will still continue on its trend of poking fun at the government, only that now they’ll have new and different things to write about.
“We heard that Zunar admitted he will be missing Najib and Rosmah, but it’s going to be a nice change having some new personalities to write about,” he joked.
“But generally, satire is anti-authoritarian, so we tend to poke fun at the government of the day more than the opposition.”
“The post-GE14 landscape has flipped things a little, but as long as people are following the news cycle, there’s always something to write about.”
Just One Big Joke
Currently, The Tapir Times receives approximately 2,000 to 8,000 reads per article, with the really viral ones getting 50,000 reads should they do really well.
“It might be small for a proper news portal, but for a shoestring hobby website, it’s quite big,” Adam said. “We’ve had to upgrade our host after a few stories crashed the server.”
And on what they actually hope to achieve with their platform, Adam says that The Tapir Times is really just about having fun with no hidden agenda—the exact reason they distanced themselves from their old Fake Malaysian News brand.
“We ran as Fake Malaysia News for five years but decided to change it earlier this year because Trump redefines what ‘fake news’ now means,” he explained. “’Fake news’ used to be funny news parodies like The Onion, but now it’s about distorting public opinion through spreading falsehoods or starting hoaxes which we aren’t into.”
“There’s no final objective other than making funny jokes,” he said. “The Tapir Times isn’t a business, there’s no revenue model, advertising or money coming in. Ultimately, the website is a fun sandbox we can play in and the creative challenge is finding jokes in the current headlines.”
- You can read The Tapir Times on their website, or go through a list of some of their most popular headlines here.
Feature Image Credit: The Tapir Times