‘New Yorker’ Samizdat

The Secret Art Gallery of Condé Nast

Overtures is also perfecting its pranks, i.e., interviews with people who don't know that their quotes will be published in Nerve. Dominus says the pranks are "SPY-inspired, without the mean edge," and they require contributors to "make a human experiment" of their lives. For example, managing editor Emily Nussbaum recently stopped people on the street to ask, "Am I hot or not?" (Sample answer: "You're all right.") Nussbaum also called mattress salespeople, looking for a bed built to handle an orgy.

Another regular Nerve feature is A Life's Work, a Q&A with a sex-industry "paraprofessional." In one such interview, the "director of quality control" for a Jersey bra manufacturer bragged that he sees "three or four pairs" of breasts a week and that he prefers a "38-C, 28 to 32 years old, with a nice tan." Dominus says the Q&As tap into the "absurdity and unintentional humor in our everyday existence," with a brashness that produces "good humor—if not good taste."

For a fearless magazine, why so few penises? Dominus says showcasing erections would be a "real test of advertisers' tolerance." Then again, Nerve wants to maintain hetero appeal. "If there are too many penises in there," she says, "straight men start to think it's a magazine for gay men—who, of course, they're desperately afraid of being mistaken for." But isn't that a double standard, a fig leaf to protect men from scrutiny?

In the future, Dominus says, the mag hopes to show more dick. "For now, we're still in the seduction process."

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