Behind The Layers Of The Onion: An Interview With Brooke Alvarez of The Onion News Network


Courtesy of IFC
I’m on set at the Onion News Network in Queens as they finish filming their second season of parody news just a week before it airs on IFC. The bright studio lights and impressive touch screens — controlled by co-host Tucker Hope — create an almost-replica of ESPN News. The production crew fights back fits of laughter as the host of FactZone, Brooke Alvarez, live-tweets jokes to reporter Jane Carmichael. Alvarez later tells me everyone is pathetic and has meaningless lives. The ice queen of ONN, played by the endearingly sweet blonde bombshell Suzanne Sena, caught up with me on the phone after filming.

TC: America’s funniest news source, The Onion News Network promises to cover what other cable news networks fail to report. How does Brooke fulfill that promise during the second season?

SS: Brooke feels that it is the job of the newscaster to fill everyone’s meaningless lives with as much information and education as possible. She thinks that all the other news stations are pathetic. There’s only one place to watch, and that’s Onion News Network.

TC: I heard that Brooke was born into poverty in Russia. Can you tell me a bit about her journey to America?

SS: Brooke was born in Russia. She was a boxer by trade, and got into a serious fight once and broke her hand. She decided she needed another career and moved to America. She dropped all traces of her Russian accent within a month and decided to be a newscaster. Because she’s so driven and talented, of course she ascended to great heights very quickly.

TC: You open the season with the impending destruction of earth by a large asteroid. What was it like to cover an event of that magnitude?

SS: First of all, Brooke is very pleased to provide this kind of coverage. She’s not scared to die. She thinks the other news stations are just pathetic because they won’t cover it.

TC: Yes, definitely. What are some of the stories that we can look forward to this season?

SS: We really pushed the boundaries of where we’ve gone before. We have a much deeper development of the characters and their relationships. Shelby Cross — our Nancy Grace type of character — did some wonderful story lines, and as usual, she takes no prisoners… She not only covers the story, but finds a way to solve the crime. We have stories about pop stars, and of course, with the elections coming up, some politics in the mix there.

TC: I heard that you also got a chance to interview Beyonce’s unborn baby…

SS: That’s true. It was a groundbreaking interview with technology that no one else has access to. We were able to insert a camera into the womb and interview the unborn child. [We were also] there to investigate the very real domestic abuse charges — there are rumors that this baby is already kicking Beyonce.

TC: You used to be a broadcaster for Fox News. Could you tell me a little bit about your transition from “real” news to parody?

SS: Well, you know, when I first started working with The Onion, someone asked me about it. I said the difference is clear: real news makes you cry and fake news makes you laugh so hard you cry. And given the choice, I chose to laugh.

TC: Do you ever get flack from your old friends at Fox?

SS: I don’t. I get jealously. People over at Fox love The Onion. I think some of them wish they could do this news as well.

TC: You go through a lot of co-hosts named Tucker, this season. How do you feel about Tucker #2 so far?

SS: Well, Suzanne loves all the Tuckers. Brooke doesn’t care about any of the Tuckers. They’re all pretty much the same to her. Although she did like the Asian Tucker, mostly because he would giver her silk rubs at the end of the day.

It’s hard work and it’s fun work. I think we all have a good time.

TC: Yeah, I noticed that everyone was fighting back laughter during filming.

SS: I know right? It’s so funny. I think some of the tweets she does on air to Jane Carmichael are really funny. Like, “Jane I’ve got some extra food so if you want someone to bring them over I think they’d be good for your wide hips.”

TC: Zing! So where does this feisty, cold lady come from? Do you feel like there’s a part of Brooke in Suzanne?

SS: Yea, I didn’t know she lived inside me, but she does. I think it took a bit to get the character out, but once she was let loose, I was like, Wow where did that come from?

It’s fun. It’s liberating to be able to say nasty things and not have them be me. I was a guest on Top Story Weekly in Los Angeles, which is a sketch comedy group, and they interviewed Brooke afterwards. The person who interviewed her asked if she could give him any tips, and the first thing out of her mouth was I’d start with personal hygiene. Where does that come from? I would never say that, but Brooke did.

TC: Haha. So what makes Onion News Network America’s finest news source?

SS: We’re never afraid to go where other people are afraid to tread. That is why we we’re the ones interviewing Beyonce’s unborn child, and that is why we’re the only network who will be covering earth’s destruction, live, as it happens Tuesday night.

TC: Looking forward to it. Thank you so much Brooke/Suzanne.

SS: Thank you Emily.

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images – IFC