So Long to the Straight Dope: Witty Q&A Column Calls It Quits

After nearly half a century of answering questions ranging from the trivial to the technical to the taboo, the publication of the Straight Dope, the Chicago Reader’s informative and irreverent weekly Q&A column, has ended.

The final column, published June 27, pointed to the recent sale of the Chicago Reader by the Chicago Sun-Times, which will continue to own the Straight Dope, as the reason for the column’s end.

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The Straight Dope’s pseudonymous and all-knowing author Cecil Adams tackled more than 3,000 reader questions in the column’s history, like “Why do men have nipples?” and, “If everyone in China jumped off chairs at once, would the earth be thrown out of its orbit?

Behind the scenes, the column is produced by several researchers, editors and writers, while Adams’ “true identity” is shrouded in mystery by the paper. The column started under editor Michael Lenehan in 1973 and since 1978, Ed Zotti has served as the Straight Dope editor and voice of the brilliant-but-caustic Adams.

“Cecil is of course the world’s smartest human being, but I do all the typing and research,” Zotti said.

At one point, the Straight Dope was syndicated in more than 30 newspapers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The column produced several books, a bustling online message board community and even a short-lived A&E TV show.

Zotti said the column may be reborn in a different form.

“We’re dealing with a world in which, everybody from the president to the reporters is tweeting and Instagramming and blogging five times a day,” Zotti said. “The Straight Dope may be re-envisioned at some point as a different vehicle, perhaps with daily contributions, but how that’s going to play out and who’s going to be involved has not been determined at this point.”

The Straight Dope’s message board and archive will remain online.

Zotti joins “Chicago Tonight” to look back on 45 years of the Straight Dope.

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