A talk with Luke Pola
By Chris Busby
Luke Pola, 28, has just completed the first issue of “The World’s Finest Free Digital Satire Magazine.” It’s called Unbalanced Humors, and can be downloaded at unbalancedhumors.com.
Originally from Calais, Maine, Pola lives in Portland and works as a video editor at WGME-TV 13. His online magazine is published bimonthly, and features writing and artwork by several local contributors.
The Bollard: What inspired you to do this?
Luke Pola: I think the grad school thing has a lot to do with it. I told people it’s like a rebound relationship. I tried a couple years ago to get into some writing schools, and it didn’t happen. So, at first, I was just trying to keep my mind on doing something. The reason I applied to the schools to begin with was to write, to get better at writing, and fool around with that for a while. I figured since school wasn’t going to have me, I needed some sort of project to keep my mind off not getting into school.
Well, also, I tried my hand at short stories for a bit — which I still like to do, although I’ve put those aside for a while. I have a much easier time with humor. It’s easier for me to do. I enjoy writing it. It’s fun to me, and I can also get away with writing less.
The whole idea of the magazine, of having a bunch of different things sort of centered around a theme, allows me to do, like, bits, bits of things. Magazines are, for the most part, pretty short anyway – there are a lot of pictures and some writing, but the writing, it’s very episodic.
Who are your influences?
My friend Simon [Adams], who’s an illustrator, he described [Unbalanced Humors] as a cross between old National Lampoons and Mad magazine, which I like. I think that’s very cool. I honestly haven’t read a whole lot of National Lampoons. I have a few old ones from the ’70s, and they are very funny. The whole idea of having a theme for an issue, I ripped that off from them. This is 30 years later, so I think I can get away with it.
I was always a big fan of the Flying Circus. Things like “Mr. Show”… “Kids in the Hall.”
They’re almost skits, the things that I’m doing, I feel like they’re skits within the magazine. They’re all on paper, and I’ve got to figure out how to say it on paper [and] visually still make it interesting. Most of the things in there, they’re short skits.
I want to do [the humor magazine] indefinitely at this point. I want to take it as far as it can go, but I’m neurotic, and I’m constantly fretting about, like, the first issue — I’m happy with that, and I’m really liking the second issue, and I’m totally worried about material and whether or not the third issue’s gonna be as good.
I’m sure a lot of people do that, if they’re working on anything that they really enjoy doing, it’s [unintelligible]
Are there any comedy Web sites you like?
The first thing that comes to mind… [is] homestarrunner.com. Amazing. It’s so good. Brilliant…. The animation is very cool. This is looking really, really far into the future, but… I would like to try animation on the Web site.
Realultimatepower.net is another good one. I’m still not sure if it’s done by someone who’s, like, 14, or if it’s done by a 35-year-old dork. I just can’t figure it out. It’s really great, though…. It’s about ninjas. It’s very funny.
I noticed there isn’t a lot of profanity or bathroom humor in the magazine. Is that a conscious choice?
I think on a certain level [it] is. There’s so much gross-out humor now. And I feel like it’s an easy laugh. It’s too much now.
And I’m being unfair. It can be funny, but I think there has to be a point to it. The first issue doesn’t have a lot of profanity.
Honestly, I’m fine with profanity. Not a problem. And it pops up now and then, every once in a while you catch a few swears in the magazine, but it’s got to have a point. It can’t just be shock for the sake of shock. I don’t think it’s funny.
If it’s just gross-out for the sake of it, you know, fine. Farts are funny. They are. They’re funny. And I may be a hypocrite, because there’s a possibility, it’s been mentioned, tossed around: I could end up doing an entire issue on farts. Call it ‘The Fart Issue.’ I don’t know. I could try it out and it won’t work at all.
What’s funny to you about Portland?
Actually, at some point I would like to do a Down East magazine — I don’t know what it’d be called, but Down East magazine is probably the best example. They paint a picture of Maine that is not entirely accurate, to be diplomatic. And I think it would be fun to explore that and do an issue that has all the pretenses of a magazine [like Down East]. It’s portraying Maine as a place for vacationers — the difference between that and the Maine that I’m more familiar with.
There’s a lot less money. Maine doesn’t have a lot of people; it doesn’t have a lot of money. I think it would be fun to show the crustier side of Maine, the gravel pits, the parties in the gravel pits, and the trailer parks and things like that.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I spent part of my young life in a trailer. It’s a part of growing up in Maine.