Elayne Riggs' Inside Joke began its impressive publishing run in October of 1980. Its initial focus was a comedy TV program entitled The Uncle Floyd Show; however, it was not long after Riggs, then named Wechsler, introduction to the Church of the SubGenius that her publication shifted directions. This shifted consisted of phasing out ‘fannish’ material regarding comedy programs on TV with original creative content such as essays, short-stories, and poetry. Furthermore, after Wechsler conversion to the Church in February 1982, Inside Joke became a bastion for SubGenius related humor. The ‘SubGenius turn’ of her zine also facilitated the addition of three new staff writers, Bob Black, Gerry Reith, and Kerry Thronley, who were also amongst the most popular contributors to The Stark Fist. Despite Wechsler’s own status as a SubGenius, as well as the ubiquity of writers associated with the Church in Inside Joke, it would be misleading to say that the zine was a ‘SubGenius publication’. (Not least because it self-identified as an organ of the ‘Nationalist Surrealist Party’!) Figures like Wechsler, Black, Reith, and Thornley were model SubGenii, which is to say they use the teachings and iconography of the Church for their own idiosyncratic purposes. Often times, their purposes amalgamated SubGenius and Discordian perspectives (Thronley and Wechsler were vocal Discordians), thereby making any attempt to distinguish between the religious sensibilities impossible. Indeed, despite the ubiquity of Dobbsheads in the text, Gunderloy was later to remark that by 1983, Inside Joke had been ‘hopelessly corrupted by the Discordians’
Wechsler’s Inside Joke represents a landmark in the formation of the zine scene that took shape in 1984. Published monthly for ten years (1980-1990), Inside Joke merged a range of outsider subcultures (e.g. horror film aficionados, SF fandom, punks) into a single world of underground Arts and Letters; and, perhaps more importantly, established humor (particularly of the Discordian/SubGenius variety) as the lingua franca for underground writers interested in writing for audiences beyond their particular subcultural milieus. What more, by virtue of its impressive staff (which also came to include, Tuli Kupferberg, Zach Replica, and John Crawford), Inside Joke was instrumental in the creation of this audience. Alongside The Stark Fist, as well as a handful of Discordian zines and APAs, Inside Joke would provide the foundation upon which the zine scene would be built. One of Inside Joke’s staff members in particular was indispensible in this regard, Mike Gunderloy. While he had been a pseudonymous participant in numerous SubGenius and Discordian publications, it was not until his tenure at Inside Joke that Gunerloy found the inspiration to create the zine launched the underground publishing movement movement, Factsheet 5.