‘A Very Fatal Murder’: The Onion Has Released The Perfect Parody Of True Crime Podcasts

“What elevates a murder from a regular ho-hum killing to a crime so gruesome and compelling that it deserves its own podcast?”

“What elevates a murder from a regular ho-hum killing to a crime so gruesome and compelling that it deserves its own podcast?” This is the question that The Onion’s new spoof of prestige true crime murder podcasts asks. It’s called A Very Fatal Murder, and it’s wickedly perfect.

True crime has had its pop-cultural moment in the sun for long enough that it’s inevitable that parodies and satires would start sprouting up. For every Making a Murderer, there’s an American Vandal, a gentle ribbing to a popular concept, a ying to a yang.

A Very Fatal Murder is an almost direct response to huge true crime podcasts like Serial, and it perfectly captures the tone and voice and sound of the immensely popular NPR shows. Everything from the weirdly conversational hosts with just a tinge of vocal fry to their voices, to the highly atmospheric music in minor piano chords. On that level alone, it’s already a masterful imitation of the genre.

But just reproducing something isn’t enough to carry a good parody, and luckily literally nobody is better at satire than The Onion, because A Very Fatal Murder goes that next step. With a few quick and clever lines, they clearly establish that they’re satirising both the problematic industry around investigating true crime for popular entertainment, and our own dark impulses that lead us to keep enjoying it.

“Hayley Price was a typical 17-year-old with big dreams and clear skin when she was killed, she was a high achiever, a debate champion, a prom queen, a doting girlfriend — but Hayley also excelled at being murdered.” says the narrator, in that iconically NPR style. “So what happened to Hayley Price? And how can I get in on it?”

The podcast is best when it’s making fun of the rather contrived stories that end up being poked and prodded into an NPR worthy investigation — it’s never just a good murder, it’s a culturally relevant good murder.

“We thought we had found our podcast when ETHL (Extremely Timely Homicide Locator) found the case of the girl who had been raped and killed on the night of her 16th birthday, but we thought the situation didn’t say enough about the decline of the middle class, so we changed the algorithm”.

A Very Fatal Murder tells the (fictional) story of the murder of Hayley Price, who lived in Buff Springs Nebraska, a town populated mostly by “barns and cars” and where people never “locked their door or were afraid to walk their hogs around at night.” The conceit of the story is that after searching for the most PERFECT murder possible to be podcasted about, Hayley Price’s horrific killing fits the bill. As they say in the first episode, it’s perfect because it’s:

“Gruesome, unsolved and comments on the ugly underbelly of the American dream, the decline of manufacturing, modern beauty standards, the gig economy, factory farming, deforestation, saturated fats, the fragility of love, the golden era of television, co2 emissions — and most importantly, no one had done a podcast about it yet.”

It’s all extremely funny and clever, with some brilliantly absurd lines like “Haven’t seen a goat in this town since ‘73” rescuing it from being overly intellectual. And frankly, as much as we all enjoy a good murder mystery, the trend is worth casting a satiric eye at, because it’s sometimes easy to forget that our enjoyment of the medium is always based on a horrific and painful real life crime.

You can find A Very Fatal Murder on Apple PodcastsStitcherSpotifyGoogle PlayiHeart Radio, and on the NPR One app.