Naked Loon bares all with sarcastic take on news

Engineers are supposed to be humorless, right?

Engineers are supposed to be humorless, right?

Not if you’re Tim Ellis.

The 28-year-old Kenmore resident created his own online version of The Onion newspaper parody last April, bringing a satirical flair to the local news.

It’s called The Naked Loon, a name that references regional waterfowl and crazy people all at the same time.

Ellis established the publication after dropping his career as an electrical engineer in exchange for the life of an Internet entrepreneur.

He started by creating the real-estate blog Seattle Bubble, which claims more than 3,000 visitors a day.

The site offers a strictly consumer perspective rather than sales pitches.

“Apparently, that’s what a lot of people want,” Ellis said.

Next came The Naked Loon, which is based off earlier parodies that Ellis and his friends created at Seattle Pacific University.

Using the university’s global address list, the conspirators sent mock news items to everyone on campus.

They also did a takeoff of SPU’s Web site, called the Department of Underground Information — or DUI for short — and produced a mock newspaper named the Foul-Con.

“It’s a really small community there,” Ellis said. “Everyone knows what’s going on and you know everyone walking around.

“What I like writing about are things everyone can relate to. People find humor more easily when it’s something they can relate to.”

Ellis decided to give The Naked Loon a shot after hearing a radio interview featuring one of the cast members from Almost Live.

“He talked about how nobody was out there doing what that show used to do, which is offer humor with a local angle,” Ellis said. “It seemed like a void that I was well-equipped to fill.”

The Naked Loon premiered on April Fools Day, and has since attracted around 600 visitors a day. A recent profile article in The Seattle Times boosted the site’s one-day total to 9,000.

Spam filters tend to block The Naked Loon because of its name, so Ellis created a second version called The Censored Loon.

Ellis maintains a list of potential targets for his news stories at home on his computer. People, companies, neighborhoods and landmarks are all susceptible to mockery, with Northshore being no exception.

“It’s one of the easiest places for me to get ideas from,” Ellis said. “It’s easiest to write about what I know.”

Kenmore Mayor David Baker made the news with a fake quote after demolition claimed the uniquely designed Denny’s restaurant building in Ballard despite protests from landmarks preservationists.

Ellis compared the structure to Kenmore’s own “never-proud” and abandoned Denny’s building in an article titled “Empty Kenmore Denny’s Still Standing, Nobody Cares.”

He wrote: “The city of Kenmore does not have a Landmarks Preservation Board, and Mayor David Baker stated in no uncertain terms that if there were such a thing, the city ‘would not even pause to consider granting the Kenmore Denny’s protection status.’”

Baker didn’t get the joke, and responded by posting a comment.

“The old Denny’s will become the new home (of) Ostrom’s Drug and Gifts next year,” he wrote. “And yes we do care!”

Ellis eventually cleared the air with a phone call to Baker.

Most local residents will have nothing to fear with quotes.

“The only real names I’ll use are public figures or experts who have been quoted in other news articles,” Ellis said.

The Naked Loon is a one-man operation, with occasional help coming from Ellis’ wife, Jeni, and his father, both of whom fill in occasionally as photographers.

Don’t be fooled by the staff list, which includes names like Bjorn Maximus, business reporter; or Ash Grimm, politics writer. It’s all Ellis.

“No one’s really going to get most of those names,” he said. “It’s really just for me to laugh at.”

Jeni has been supportive of her husband’s career change, even though it’s spelled a certain amount of uncertainty.

“I was nervous when it got close to him quitting, but we’d been planning and saving,” she said. “We both agreed it was a good time because of where we’re at in life.”

It’s a point where they can still try to do things their own way.

“I would love it if I could make my living writing, and do engineering for fun, instead of the other way around,” Ellis said.

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