For regular readers of the Dalhousie Gazette’s print editions – also known as people waiting in line for Loaded Ladle – this issue might look a little different. Take a look at the back cover, but please come back and finish reading this article, and you’ll see what I mean.
The Mackerel is a fish that’s well known in the Maritimes. In the words of The Dalhousie Mackerel’s co-founder and editor-in-chief Sam Cutcliffe, “it’s a shitty fish.” But the story behind Dalhousie’s newest satire publication, The Mackerel, is a bit more of an unknown. The account first swam across our screens in the spring of 2021. Launched by an early repost from popular Instagram account DalMemes, the page now has more than 5,000 followers and has created countless more laughs in the Dalhousie community.
The Gazette is thrilled to welcome them to our pages, so we thought we’d introduce our readers to some of the people behind the incredible content.
How it began
The Mackerel was born out of Ivy-league ambitions. “Me and my roommate, Neil Kelley [co-founder of The Mackerel], had always said that we wished we went to Harvard,” Cutcliffe, who studies oceanography, explains. “Not for any, like noble or academic reason. But just because we’re big fans of the Harvard Lampoon.”
The Lampoon is possibly the most famous campus satire publication in North America, boasting alumni who’ve gone on to host late-night shows and star on Saturday Night Live.
Cutcliffe and Kelley would regularly joke about wishing they could join its ranks. One day in March 2021, Kelley, a math and statistics major, suggested they do the next best thing and create a satire publication at Dalhousie.
The ideas came easily and quickly. Cutcliffe’s first headline posted to Instagram was, Commerce Student Oblivious to Online School, Has Completed Past Five Semesters Without In-Person. Kelley’s was, COVID-19 Vaccinated Dalhousie Student Now Spreading Just Syphilis, which was reposted by DalMemes and got The Mackerel’s Instagram account its first few hundred followers.
The headline originally ended with chlamydia, instead of syphilis. “But DalMemes told us that there had recently been a syphilis outbreak in Halifax,” Cutcliffe says.
Cutcliffe and Kelley spent the first month of The Mackerel’s existence producing all the content and posting twice a week by themselves. Over the summer, they took a break and opened applications for new writers. They only had a few applicants and brought one of them on, Mira MacNeill, a computer science major, was their first writer and the team has since grown to seven. It also includes, Joe Thomson, Carl Miller, Justin Field and Emily Frank.
What makes The Mackerel so funny
MacNeill found out about The Mackerel just like many other students. “Someone sent me one of their articles or little headlines about some joke about a computer science student,” MacNeill said. “And it made me laugh really hard.”
She had always been a fan of satire publications like Reductress but had never had an interest in writing it herself. But MacNeill had an interest in pursuing journalism after undergrad and figured she should try writing some fake articles first, so she sent in an application.
Cutcliffe and Kelley had grown up together on Prince Edward Island, meaning their individual senses of humour are pretty similar. MacNeill’s jokes brought a fresh take on comedy to The Mackerel, Cutcliffe said, “And that’s great, because her stuff does incredibly well and people love it.”
MacNeill wasn’t sure she would be accepted. “Everybody posts jokes on Twitter, or whatever. But I didn’t know if I was, like, actually funny,” McNeill says. “I still don’t know if I’m actually funny. But they do seem to like my jokes.”
Cutcliffe says jokes like the one that made Mira a fan of The Mackerel do particularly well.
“What I found, is the people that love the headlines about the commerce students and the engineers and what have you, aren’t people looking down their noses and saying, ‘all like commerce students are idiots,’” Cutcliffe said. “It’s the commerce students themselves that are sending it amongst themselves and loving it.”
MacNeill says it’s easy to make jokes about Dalhousie. “It’s kind of inherently a ridiculous institution. So, it’s easy to make fun of,” she said. “You just look at the world around you. And you’re like, how can I make this into a joke?”
One of MacNeill’s headlines, University of King’s College Introduces Intramural Poetry Reading, came about through this process. She took her first elective at King’s in the fall and her professor had a PhD in poetry. Walking across the quad, she heard students reading aloud to each other. “I was like, ‘This is insane. Where am I?’” she said. “So, I was like, I know I have to make a joke about this.”
Find more of The Mackerel’s jokes at the end of this issue.