Fish Rap Live!, also known as FRL!, is a triweekly alternative humor publication at the University of California, Santa Cruz. With an estimated readership of 11,250, it is the most-widely read and most popular student-run paper on the Central Coast campus.
In 1990, a new group of Cowell students, affectionately deemed "The Founding Flounders" by subsequent staff members, decided to resurrect the Fish Rap. There are several rumors about the addition of "Live!" to the end of the original name, but the one given most credence is that the new publication was initially supposed to be called The Fish Rap Lives! but a typing error removed the final "s." Funded at first by the Cowell Alumni Association and with money fronted by its editorial staff, the paper has since garnered official University sponsorship. Today's FRL! is known for being edgy and unabashed in its publishing style and frequently parodies the other campus papers, in particular City on a Hill Press and The Project.
In its early years, the Fish Rap Live! practiced a form of writing associated with Hunter S. Thompson called "gonzo journalism", which involves a more personally involved and novelistic approach to writing articles than is allowed by traditional newswriting conventions. When, for example, the FRL! sent a team of reporters south to cover the 1992 Los Angeles riots, the narratives they brought back drew their conclusions from the authors' interactions with the social microcosms they encountered amidst the chaos of the riots, rather than relying on the top-down, integrative approach demanded by straight, mainstream journalism to unify news stories.
|Assistant Editor||Jared Rosen, Erin Schmalfeld|
|Music Editor||Grant Golland|
|Comics Editor||Richard Sordello|
|Staff Writers||New Staff Announcement in Fall 2008|
In 2007, April 27 was officially declared "Fish Rap Live! Day" in the city of Santa Cruz.
The paper also received two Gold Circle Awards from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association in 2002 in the General or Humor Column and Ad Design categories and one in 1999 for Illustration Portfolios and Editorial Cartooning. It has also won awards for anti-sexist reporting in 1996, as well as honorable mentions for sense of humor, design and general reporting from a panel featuring leading names in the alternative-journalism world, such as syndicated columnist Norman Solomon and Mother Jones managing editor Patti Wolter. Wolter, according to a Fish Rap press release, described the UCSC paper as "lively, smart, funny, and thought-provoking."
Alumni of the Fish Rap have contributed to many publications such as Vice, Wired, NYLON Magazine and SF Weekly. They have worked at the Denver Weekly and the Chicago Tribune and written several books, including Fish Lips, Design for Community, Apple Sweat, and San Francisco Stories.
Current regular contributors to the Fish Rap Live! include the likes of Nicholas Gurewitch of "Perry Bible Fellowship" fame.
Overheard in Santa Cruz - Reader-submitted recollections of humorous, and often frightening, exchanges overheard around the Santa Cruz area.
Consumer Reports - Practical and scientific analyses of uncommonly reviewed products such as toilet paper, malt liquor, and dictator-endorsed household products (Mao Tse-Tongs, Idi Amin's Medium Beans, etc).
Scavenger Hunt - An annual scavenger hunt that puts the participants in harm's way, in embarrassing situations, or prompts practical jokes. Examples include: "Cut off 5 Livestrong bracelets", "Ghost Ride 'da Whip", "stage a fake public breakup", and "Date a FRL! staff member, extra points per base reached." The prize is usually nominal amounts of both cash and fame.
God's Gifts (-2005) - A "Top Five" list. Example headings: "5 Reasons why the Sun is God's Gift to the Solar System", "5 Reasons why Your Mom is God's Gift to The Comeback."
David Kirkendall Presents - A photo cartoon that literalizes the titles of movies.
Great Moments (2006) - A photo cartoon in the style of "David Kirkendall Presents", "The Far Side", and "Perry Bible Fellowship." Complimented by PBF creator Nicholas Gurewitch as "really fucking funny", though he also insinuated that it could use some work.
Matt Lieb's Book Club (2006) - A series of book reviews ranging from neurotically accurate to disturbingly off-base. Examples of reviewed books are: The Giver, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Bunnicula, and Hegemony or Survival. The review of the Canon PIXMA iP3000 Owner's Manual was prompted by FRL!'s only letter to the editor for the quarter in which it appeared.
Sex Column - An advice column that addresses readers' sexual inquiries in a direct, helpful, and irreverent way. The column has been written by Lacey Hotpants (2003-2006), Mona Lott (2005-2006), Jenny Télia (2006-2007), and Alice + Casey (2007-2008).
Martin the Satanic Racoon (mid 1990s) - Former Senior Illustrator Gabe Martinez's bizarre, twisted, and unrelentingly-offensive comic strip, "born of [his] frustration with the P.C.-police, the hippies, and the suffocatingly dogmatic and simple-minded atmosphere that permeated Santa Cruz."
Featuring the blood-, fecal-matter-, and semen-stained "adventures" of Martin, a metal-loving, frequently homicidal raccoon, the strip ran for two years before the paper's editors (one of whom was depicted in a strip as having his knees being broken by a baseball bat-wielding Martin ) decided it was too offensive and tasteless for even the Fish Rap to carry. About his brand of humor, Martinez said, "Theoretically you're not supposed to laugh at exploding baby heads and sex acts involving poop, but they can be funny, whether people want to admit it or not."
When the Fish Rap was being reviewed for official campus media status, UCSC Vice Chancellor Bruce Moore initially said the Fish Rap practices "irresponsible journalism" and prints "junk". He also said of the paper's content, "We wouldn't let anyone else do that", and, "If I can change it, I'll change it." However, after the FRL! received the support of student government and local media, Moore revised his position, saying, "I got too emotionally caught up, and I spoke hastily."
In 2004, Saturn Cafe in downtown Santa Cruz sent a letter to offices of The Fish Rap Live. In that letter, the restaurant called the Fish Rap "sexist, racist, and anti-gay."
Editor Bill Forman of the Metro Santa Cruz called the Fish Rap "too clever by half."
The UCSC chapter of the predominantly Asian-American sorority alpha Kappa Delta Phi called the Fish Rap "racist" in a full-page ad in the FRL! after writer Becky Pederson (who is White) wrote an abrasive, tongue-in-cheek article about her spectacular failure rushing the sorority. Critics of the article say that it strongly implied racism and reverse discrimination in aKDPhi's selection procedures, though aKDPhi maintained that they were essentially entrapped by the writer. Some sisters claimed Pederson's odd behavior and known status as a Fish Rap staff member made the sorority members suspicious of her intentions from the beginning. Pederson defended her article, saying it was an attempt at satire and that she acted completely within her legal rights.