Bill Conway had low hopes for the Hard Times, the punk-skewering website he helped launch two years ago.
But a few months after it went live, a member of Black Flag reshared a post with the headline "Christmas Ruined by Latest Black Flag Album."
"We thought in our heads, 'We might have something here,'" Conway says.
The product of a stridently working-class New England household who dedicated himself to the teetotaling straightedge punk movement as a preteen, Conway knows comedy is the last thing anyone would've expected him to be good at. But it's precisely that self-awareness—about himself and the scene he belongs to—that makes the Hard Times one of the few to apply the satirical news format of the Onion and not totally suck.
Conway and co-founder Matt Saincome, a former SF Weekly music editor, founded the site in 2014, a year after Conway moved to Portland from San Francisco. Turns out, jokes about suburban Satanists ("Black Metal Vegan Burns Down Church's Chicken"), bass players ("Irresponsible Musicians Leave Bassist in Hot Van") and moshing ("New Boyfriend Way Too Enthusiastic in Mosh Pit") have a greater reach than they initially thought.
"I look on Facebook and see the Misfits have a million Facebook likes, so the Hard Times can get a million Facebook likes," Conway says. (It's currently nearing 111,000.) "That's what I see as the ceiling. Because if you like the Misfits, you know what punk is, and we make fun of Danzig enough."
For Conway—who also hosts a monthly showcase, All Comics Are Bastards, at Kickstand Comedy Space in Northwest Portland—the site has become a repository for hyper-specific material that wouldn't work in front of a general standup audience. His personal favorite so far? A piece aimed at straightedge forefather Ian MacKaye, headlined "Aging Ian MacKaye Chases Kids Off Dischord House Porch."
"Just the thought of Ian MacKaye bursting out his front door with a broom shooing kids off the porch makes me laugh," Conway says. "Because he's the nicest guy in the world, and he probably doesn't like us making fun of him."