What happens when you repeatedly tell a teen they can’t do something? Of course, they will find a way to do it, which, in the case of Editor-in-Chief Benji Elkins, resulted in The Milking Cat, an online publication of comedy in all forms, from written works to movies to comics and more.
The name itself has a comedic referent, as Benji explains, “’The Milking Cat’ is a reference to the 2000 film Meet The Parents where Ben Stiller’s character lies about milking a cat on a farm that has no cows.” Benji found the scene especially humorous and decided to name the website as a testament to it. “Also,” he adds, “it rolls off the tongue once you get used to it.”
Behind the name, the mission of The Milking Cat is to provide an outlet for aspiring teen comedians, but the initial motivation stemmed from an experience Editor-in-Chief Benji Elkins faced. “It goes something like this: In ninth grade, there was a stairwell that consistently had pencils stuck in its ceiling. When I returned to school in the tenth grade, the pencils were completely gone! All that remained was the scarred terrain of pencils that once were. As a result, I wrote a comedic piece featuring the pencils’ removal entitled ‘COLLECTIVE STUDENT BODY ART PIECE DESTROYED BY SCHOOL.’ However, when the school newspaper refused to publish it, I asked that they create a humor column. When they refused that, I asked his school’s activities director if I could start a humor paper. When they refused that as well, I decided I would simply have to do it myself.”
Putting together a humor publication editorial staff is a delicate balance between skill sets. Benji Elkins [pictured] says he has always enjoyed both writing and making jokes at the dinner table. “I’ve been involved in other (and much more serious) teen literary magazines through the submission of my own work,” Benji quips, “and therefore like to believe I ‘know the industry.’ But I’ve also been an active member in my school’s literary magazine. Currently, I’m the co-Editor-in-Chief. Otherwise, I’m simply a fan of writing and comedy and a huge fan of trying to put the two together.”
Alongside his efforts is friend and colleague Dan Soslowsky, who, “after coming down from the high of winning his third-grade art contest, needed something to keep his cartooning skills sharp.” As Dan tells it, “I originally turned down my offer to be the Senior Editor and Head of Illustration and Design for The Milking Cat, but ultimately gave in after receiving a box of chocolates, flowers, and a 2018 Mercedes-AMG® GT C Coupe on my doorstep with a note signed ‘With love, Benji.’” In addition to his role with The Milking Cat, Dan is the Head Editor of the Humor Section in his school’s newspaper as well and is involved in numerous other art-related extracurriculars.
The final editorial staffer is Noah Stern, who “has been an avid fan of comedy since his parents let him watch their DVD box set of the Family Guy Star Wars parody episodes.” Noah is the head of the satire section at his school paper as well.
Additionally, “in case anyone was wondering,” Benji included, “all of the Editors’ favorite apparatus on the Bop-It machine is Twist-It.”
The learning curve for running their own publication was steep, as Noah shares the greatest hurdle they have faced was “bringing The Milking Cat to the level it is at today. Originally, The Milking Cat submissions were open to anyone of any age, but in retrospect, we cast the net too wide. We would rarely get submissions or viewers and as a result, the main people submitting were mostly us three editors. We pushed ourselves to write something every week, and it was increasingly stressful. However, when COVID-19 hit, we decided to kick it up a notch and grow our team – specifically around teens like us. We rebranded as a ‘by teens, for teens’ comedy website and began receiving many staff applications and comedy submissions. As a result, the greatest joy we’ve all experienced probably comes out of our greatest hurdle; the thing we love most about the site is giving teens around the world the opportunity to not only to read comedy, but also to provide them the opportunity to create it themselves as well.”
Readers of the publication, which posts new content every Monday evening, can expect to find content related to sports, politics, riffs on classic literature – “all sorts of readers can find a comedic piece that fits their specific interests,” Noah assures. “We triple-dog-dare you to pick any piece at random, and no matter which you stumble upon, you will find something thoughtful, well-written, and (hopefully) funny.”
In addition to the editors’ contributions, recent content includes:
Julianna Reidell – Hamlex Commercial: A commercial screenplay for the new prescription drug inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Asher Hancock – I Tried 5 Dark Web Dating Sites and was Pleasantly Surprised: A lonely romantic reviews various shady dating sites such as SatanMate.com and WeHaveCandy.com.
Sascha Nastasi-Feinburg – Pad+ Casting Calls: A mock casting call asking for actors to fill roles in the next big WattPad novel adaptations, including “I Fell in Love with a Cannibal because I Thought He Was a Vampire.”
And a sampling of humor by title alone:
Teenaged contributors who are not a part of The Milking Cat Staff are welcome to submit works. Submissions are collectively reviewed by the Editors on its publication status. If accepted, the work is uploaded verbatim to the site. Pieces written by staff members are reviewed by Staff Curators who make edits and suggestions that the author can accept or reject before publication.
Looking to the future, Benji says, “Our plans for this summer include The Milking Cat Comedy Competition, where teens around the world can submit humorous pieces of any kind for the chance to win special prizes from 4 Ivy League Humor Magazine and the satirical site The Hard Times, such as up to $350, merch from the various humor magazines, workshop sessions, and much more! We also hope to establish ourselves more among teens as a regular place to read comedy from their peers. As for long term plans for the publication, we will keep doing it as long as it keeps bringing us joy (and it is).”
Here’s to a lifetime of joy for The Milking Cat!