Wednesday, August 31, 2005

North Carolina's Big News

Here in North Carolina, we just passed a lottery bill! Lottery coming to North Carolina! Look out! I'm not a big lottery player, but since a lot of people are, and they just went to Virginia, South Carolina, or Tennessee to buy their tickets, I don't see what the big fuss was all about. But, it WAS a big fuss, and in honor of the passage of the lottery bill, I present yesterday's Barney Google, or Snuffy Smith, or whatever it's called these days:

First of all, for those of us living in North Carolina, we can all now breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that this strip does not take place in these here parts. Y'all, we ain't gonna git the lot'ry up an' runnin' for a few months, yet. I s'pose these here dang hillbillies are livin' in another of our fine South'rn states. Thank God!

Just looked it up, they're in Kentucky. My birthplace. Fantastic. Here are some people from Kentucky: Loweezy Smith and Ashley Judd. Also: Snuffy Smith and George Clooney. This should be on their license plates: KENTUCKY: Home of Horses, Hillbillies, and Hotties. It would beat their current license plate which looks like something only potheads or toddlers might apreciate.

So, anyhooo. . . in Kentucky you get your lottery winnings in cash right away? Or do you ask for a lottery ticket, and they just hand you a $20 bill? Why is he holding the cash instead of the scratched off ticket? Why does the shopkeeper include "cash" on his list of options? HE'S ALREADY GOT THE CASH. YOU DON'T HAVE TO GIVE IT TO HIM.

What does the shopkeeper have on his left arm? An epaulet? A red spiral thing with a ribbon hanging off of it? What the hell is that? Is that some hill billy thing? Or a Kentucky thing? I lived there less than 3 months, so maybe Ashley Judd would know.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


I was in Richmond this past weekend, and typically reading another city's newspaper gives me the opportunity to be thankful for all the truly bad comics the News & Observer does NOT run. After reading a paper with Broom Hilda, Mary Worth, Heathcliff, and Snuffy Smith, I'm usually ready to forgive the N&O's Hi & Lois, Hagar the Horrible, and Beetle Bailey. NOTE: I will never forgive The Family Circus, and am glad to report the the Wilmington paper puts the F.C. with its classified ads! HA HA HA!

Anyway, imagine my pleasant surprise when I was introduced to a new comic that I found quite funny. My mother assures me that this is usually the case. The comic is Pardon My Planet, and here was Saturday's:

I am so used to lame comics that I didn't get this one right away. Decay NY? What is that supposed to mean? "Rot New York?" Like, the whole city? Is this some sort of commentary on urban decay and inner city blight? Plus, I read the caption as "Vulture Culture." So, the key to getting this strip is to actually READ the caption . . . Vulture COUTURE. Then, say the t-shirt slogan aloud. DEE-KAY N Y. Heh heh heh.

I think part of what amused me so much is that this is really a simple strip. I should have caught the joke RIGHT AWAY. My starting assumption with the comics is that they AREN'T funny, so I think my brain blocked this simple joke. But, it's pretty funny. And, the vultures look amusing, as does the flattened carcass they are dining upon. I plan to look in on Pardon My Planet more frequently.

In Dagwood and Blondie anniversary news:

Ted Forth catches a glimpse of the happy couple. Imagine his "Whoa" in best Keanu Reeves style. "Why do the dorky-looking guys always score the hot-looking women?" Heh heh. Yes, a very enjoyable observation from Sally Forth. (and Kitty seems interested as well. Yay Kitty! So happy you are well!)

All in all, my comic vitriol is at an all-time low. Will read some recent Family Circuses to get back in the game.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Not Me!, Comrade

It's always grand when the News & Observer does my work for me. They think the Keanes may be Communist propagandists. MaryAnn thinks they are a cult. Theories abound.

From the N&O:

Matt from Raleigh asks, "Why are people worried by Funky's lack of humor lately when we have far more important issues: Family Circus. It's never funny and I often find myself wondering if I missed some special pun because that day's comic is so utterly pointless. Perhaps I don't understand the relentless quaintness of it."

The N&O goes on to examine a recent panel: "Caption: "Stop laughing, Billy! I HAFTA walk like this 'cause my bathin' suit is full of SAND."

"Note the seemingly gratuitous capitalization of "HAFTA" and "SAND." Could it be that they are not capitalized for emphasis, but rather that they are acronyms intended to send a veiled message? Might "HAFTA," in fact, stand for "Horrible American Free Trade Agreement," and SAND for "Socialists Advocating Negative Development"? Add the symbolic shovel and pail, the hammer and sickle of youth and --"

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Theory on the 50s

The weirdest thing about the 1950s (and I know that, nominally, Blondie is set in the present day, but COME ON) ...

Anyway, the weirdest thing about the '50s (decade of Brylcreamed hair, coonskin caps, and pop hits like "Yakity Yak" and "Purple People Eater") is that the women were always really dressed up to do their chores. Blondie's wearing a skirt with a belt and nice blouse. She's not in stilletos, but still, nice, dressy pumps. And, of course, her hair is "done" as well. Why did they do this? It is so impractical!

Having not lived in the 1950s, it is hard for me to tell if this is an accurate depiction, or just what was shown in sitcoms and advertisements (although that one shows "Life in 2000" HA HA). Maybe it isn't real, it was just Hollywood and Madison Avenue making the rest of American women feel shitty for not leaving up to some ideal, unreachable standard.

Then again, mabye it was how they did it back then. But, I don't think they did it in, say, the 1930s. I don't picture a woman from the 30s dressed to the nines sweeping up her kitchen. And it certainly wasn't like that when Caroline Ingalls was busy keeping the little house on the prarie. So, I have a theory about the 50s. I think in the 1950s social mores had not caught up to technological innovations. What I mean is, these ladies had saved a lot more time with their vaccuum cleaners, electric ranges, refrigerators, etc. What could they do with all this extra time? Well, working outside the home was not the thing to do, so they got dressed up. That's all I can figure. Prior to this time, housework was so time-intensive and filled with drudgery, that women didn't (or couldn't) get dolled up to do it. Shortly after this time, we had the sexual revolution, women working outside the home became more accepted, then became the norm. So now, when people (men and women) are doing their chores, they are doing it in their free (off-work) time. No time for dressing up!

Monday, August 22, 2005

I'm Big Al, and I've Approved this Message

OK, "today's politicians." Do they mean TODAY’s (2005) politicians, like Tom DeLay et al? If so, then the joke is about how corrupt politics are in this day and age. Then again, if by “today’s politicians” they mean politicians of the caveman era, then I guess the joke is that politicians have always been money grubbers. Which isn’t a joke so much as it is a depressing thought that through all history, the only people motivated to a life of leadership in public service are acquisitive greed meisters.

Of course, they didn't have politicians in the caveman era (not in the elected-to-office sense, anyway). Maybe they had politically savvy guys who really knew how to work the dynamics of the clan in order to get the best mastadon for themselves. Whatever. B.C. just confuses me so often because it's set in the time of the caveman, and yet here they read a book, and sometimes they write on stone tablets, and they play baseball sometimes, and they have a place called the "Treasure Trove," which you would think would have hookers or something, but instead has a book on the "Art of Politics." ACK! What is this "Treasure Trove?" Why does it have boring-sounding books?

When's it supposed to be?

It's like when Dagwood uses TIVO to "live pause" the latest Gunsmoke. Not that that ever happened. But it totally could. The funnies are such a weird place of time warp. Next week: Dennis gets the latest Madden NFL 2005 for his PS2. But he's confused. Where is Johnny Unitas? Isn't he the Colts' quarterback? Who is this Peyton Manning person?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Anniversary Ahead

Well, the Blondie anniversary is ramping up. Guest appearances by comic strip characters! Elmo in Rose is Rose! Hagar in Blondie! These are exciting times in the funny pages. This article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch gives a little more detail on who is going to be honoring the Bumsteads. I wonder if the RT-D is giving us the complete list. Marmaduke isn't honoring Dagwood and Blondie? What about Funky Winkerbean? [Aside: I thought last Sunday's strip with Wally stepping on the landmine was the unfunniest thing ever on the funny pages. Today's strip is running neck and neck as Becky chases an adorable Afghan girl right into a CAR BOMB. Next Sunday: Funky discovers his favorite customer is the BTK killer when he walks in on Holly being tortured.]

So, back to the Blondie anniversary: I think they haven't thought through their guest list very carefully. What are Hagar the Horrible and Elly Patterson supposed to talk about?

Elly: So, what do you do?
Hagar: Wreak havoc. You know, pillage and plunder.
Elly: Oh, my daughter was recently almost-plundered.
Hagar: Wow that sounds great.

But, my favorite part of the anniversary storyline so far:

Could Blondie be contemplating a change? Blondie! It's 2005! Your insistence on looking like Betty Grable is creeping me out. Yes, it's time for a change!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Here's Mud in Your Pie, and Pie in Your Face

YESSSSSS!!! I love it when a strip makes no sense!

First, let's establish that I don't get it. There's no pun, no set up, although Helga saying she needs to tidy up while simultaneously soiling her kitchen with messy, gloopy pies is I guess what the joke is supposed to be.

But, what the heck is going on? Did she bake those pies just to throw them at Hagar? Why? Because, as has been established ad naseum in this strip, Hagar likes food? Is she humoring him? Or is she mad at him? If the pie tastes good, this isn't a very good punishment. You know Helga's going to be the one left cleaning the kitchen, and in the meantime, Hagar can just enjoy the tasty pie on his face. Unless it's a mud pie. Or a cow pie. Or is this what passes for foreplay in the Horrible household? If that's the case, that woman DID come in at a bad time.

And speaking of that woman, why is she dressed like a pre-WW II British woman? Is she not a Viking? Is she Virginia Woolf? Nicole Kidman playing Virginia Woolf? Why (or how) would Virginia (or Nicole) visit the Horribles? Why does she have a pearl necklace?? I can't tell from the first strip -- can she see what's going on with H&H?

Why is Helga throwing the pies at point blank range? Wouldn't it be more challenging to throw from a longer distance? Why are the top corners of their rooms black?

So many questions. So few answers.

Monday, August 15, 2005

To Infinity and Beyond!

You'd think when a character moves to Hawaii, that would be the end of him. Really, I thought they were "writing out" the Aaron character. I thought maybe he wanted to move on to bigger and better things and asked to be let go. It worked for George Clooney.

I guess I was wrong, though, and Aaron is still "in" Luann. If he is indeed back, does this mean future trips to Hawaii for Luann? Or will Aaron move back to wherever it is Luann lives? How would that work? He'd come "home" after a year away in Hawaii. He'd be wiser and more mature for the experiences he had in his year away. But, the characters in Luann don't age. So while Aaron was off in Hawaii learning whatever, the rest of them weren't aging. He goes all the way to Hawaii and comes back a more mature and understanding guy, and everyone else DIDN'T AGE AT ALL. It's kind of the opposite of what would happen if he traveled to the Andromeda Galaxy at the speed of light. That would be cool.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Page 6: All Comics Edition

FBOFW: Liz Patterson can't believe the evil that lurks in the hearts of men. According to ex-beau Anthony Caine, that's because she has so much good in her. Awww. Is there a reunion in these kids' future?

Blondie: Sources say that for the upcoming anniversary bash, Dagwood Bumstead is attempting to write a poem for his wife. He's stuck because he can't find anything to rhyme with Worcestershire Sauce! Hint to Dagwood: try free-verse.

Jump Start: What's sapping Joe's energy? His newborn twins? Challenging the firefighters to a basketball game? Hard to say, but we hear he's been looking quite rough of late.

Garfield: Friends of the fat cat say that he is wearing a "Cookies" sash in order to impersonate the household cookie jar. No word yet on whether owner Jon has fallen for the ruse.

Zits: Recently seen chugging multiple sodas, Pierce apparently doesn't worry about the effects of over-doing it. According to his handlers, Pierce considers sugar a vitamin.

Peanuts: A rep for Linus Van Pelt says that negotions with his grandmother have been put on hold. According to our source, the grandmother would give to Van Pelt's fave charity in return for giving up his blanket. The rep says Van Pelt's blanket is "non-negotiable."

Rose is Rose: Seems Jimbo has been stymied by Peekaboo, the family cat. Today, Peekaboo simultaneously sat on both the chair Jimbo wished to sit in and the newspaper he wished to read. Sorry, Jimbo! You'll have to read your gossip online!

Luann: Luann's much anticipated reunion with faux beaux Aaron Hill seems to have stalled. A local reports that Luann spied Aaron with a buxom Hawaiian babe. Reports are that Luann will salve her hurts by skydiving with her mother.

Non Sequitur: Danae was in a typical black cloud mood prior to taking a turn in a playground swing. Photographers nearby said her smiling and whistling attitude after the quick swing jaunt was quite surprising and "entirely out of character."

Drabble: Did Norm Drabble attempt to unlock his front door with his car's remote entry device? Sources say mall cop Drabble, never known for his intellect, attempted this move while bringing in groceries.

Curtis: Fans hoping for an eventual Curtis-Chutney romance have an ally in little brother Barry. But, despite being hit on the head by a bottle thrown by young diva Michelle, it seems that Curtis is hopelessly enamored of the budding star . . . Churtis 'shippers will have to keep waiting, it seems.

That's all for now folks. Tune in for more gossip . . . Don't forget. . . keep your eyes and ears open -- gossip doesn't happen on its own!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Good Times

Ahhhhh . . . the FUNNY pages . . . today site of Liz Patterson's near sexual assault and Wally Winkerbean's imminent blast into smithereens. Funny stuff, that.

In other news, the Bumsteads are STILL planning their anniversary, Garfield likes to eat, the Keanes are sill at the beach making "cute" remarks, Mr. Drabble lost a hair, Chutney luuuurvvvvs Curtis, Hagar likes to eat, Dennis doesn't want to bathe. . .


What a cess pool.

Although panel 2 of today's Baby Blues was a classic:

The face, the tongue, the various onomatopoetic burps. And best of all, the Land of the Rising Sun juice box. Konichiwa, Zoe.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Hurt Kids - HA HA HA!

Well, that's just . . . not funny. And, getting back to the whole point of this blog (which is to get to the bottom of humor I just don't get), let's analyze this one for a minute. Now, this isn't as unfunny as Wally stepping on a land mine and sending out last love greetings to his wife. But, that wasn't trying to be funny (I don't think). This one is. At least I think it is.

I guess the situation is that Jeffy stuck his hand in Bil's tackle box and got pricked with a fishhook or other sharp fishing utensil. He had previously been warned by Thelma not to do this. Ba Dum Dum! HA HA HA HA! Hmmmm . . . I don't see the humor. Let's break it down:

1) Mom tells young son to stay out of dad's tackle box (site of sharp objects).
2) Son does not heed mom's warning
3) Son pricks his finger (and it hurts so badly that in addition to shooting stars, it is also . . . sweating? Crying? Leaking plasma?)
4) Mom reminds son she told him not to do that.

WHY IS THIS FUNNY???? I. DO. NOT. GET. IT. Is it a pun? On the word "tackle" maybe? Because you could also get hurt if you got tackled? That couldn't be it. I mean, in this strip, the puns have to be mind numbingly obvious. Like so:
Thel: Jeffy, stay out of daddy's tackle box.
Jeffy: Why, does Ray Lewis live there?

HA HA HA! And it is EXTRA funny because Ray Lewis stood trial for murder!! And he gets real mean looking at games. OOOH. New wish: A Ray Lewis guest appearance in Family Circus. After he CRUSHED the whole family, he'd do this.

Well, OK, fantasies of Ray taking out the Keanes aside, I still don't get this strip. Well, I UNDERSTAND what is going on, but I don't even see the joke they are trying to make. The humor is that she already warned him? What's funny about that? Well, I guess I like to see any member of the Family Circus in pain, so there's that.

Where does Bil keep his tackle box that Jeffy can just go into it willy nilly? Where it is obvious enough that Thel already warned him to stay away? Why doesn't he keep it on a high shelf in the garage or something?

Man, I hate these guys.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Hell Freezes Over

The above strip has apparently prompted quite an uproar at the N&O staff. Here is the text of an editorial in Sunday's paper. It's a fairly long bit, but interesting. It's also available here (but you may need to register, so I've copied it here):

'Boondocks,' N&O stir Christian Right

By TED VADEN, Staff Writer

The News & Observer came under fire last week from the Religious Right. The criticism was understandable, but unfair. And it illustrates how uninformed online crusading, magnified by the power of the Internet, can instantly create negative perceptions of traditional media.

At the center of the flap is the "Boondocks" comic strip, no stranger to controversy. On July 13, The N&O published a panel that lampooned Oprah Winfrey's recent fit over a Paris boutique that barred her from shopping. Aaron McGruder's cartoon had a drawing of Oprah with this label, "To all employees: If this woman shows up, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, LET HER IN!!"

This was a fairly opaque comic panel to those of us who don't closely follow celebrities. But it did stir concern among several readers who contacted The N&O, at the time, to complain about use of the Lord's name in vain. The paper ran a People's Forum letter protesting the language.

Last week, the protests snowballed after a conservative religious leader chose to highlight the issue on a Christian Web site. In his weekly column for AgapePress, the national online newsletter of the American Family Association, the Rev. Mark Creech on Aug. 1 criticized The N&O for running the "Boondocks" strip and called on his readers to write protest letters to the newspaper and its parent company, The McClatchy Co. Creech is executive director of the Christian Action League, a faith-based "family values" lobbying organization based in Raleigh.

The faithful responded: The N&O received about 70 e-mails, and McClatchy a handful, from folks around the country many of whom have never laid eyes on The Old Reliable. Here's an example, from Bob Nickel of Wellington, Kan.: "You have no class and apparently no reverence for the name of Jesus Christ. Think again! When you gratuitously allow the desecration of the noblest name of history, a name that stands for all that is decent and holy, then you reveal your own lack of moral courage and encourage more of the same in society."

Particularly irksome to the protesters was a supposed exchange, described in Creech's column, between an unnamed N&O employee and a Raleigh reader named Bill Grantlin who had called to complain about the strip. Let's quote from the column:
"Unfortunately, however, Grantlin got only resistance from The N&O staff. 'All the other newspapers do this,' a staff member told Grantlin. 'Times are changing, and we are becoming more liberal. The News & Observer has a daily circulation of 160,000 people and we received exactly seven other complaints. And you know what, not one of them was a child,' the staff person added."

Features editor Tommy Goldsmith 'fesses up to being said "staff person." But he says Creech's account of the exchange was inaccurate. Yes, he did talk to Grantlin, Goldsmith says: "I may have told him that times are changing, which is indisputable, but I certainly did not tell him we are becoming more liberal." (Public editor's note: No N&O staffer would be so soft-headed as to say publicly that we're liberal, even if it were true.)

Nor was the quote about children accurate, Goldsmith said: "I told him that we had received limited complaints and that no one had said that any child had been adversely affected by the strip."

I talked to both Grantlin and Creech about the incident. Grantlin says Goldsmith was very polite and courteous in their conversation, but he didn't satisfy Grantlin's request to move "Boondocks" to the opinion pages or elsewhere. (Grantlin also took umbrage at Goldsmith's suggestion that he could find more productive ways to use his time, "like volunteering." I would have taken offense at that too.)

Grantlin said he wasn't trying to stifle freedom of the press and didn't object to The N&O's publication of "Boondocks." But he wants it moved off the comic pages, "where it can be read by any 8-year-old," to the editorial or op-ed pages.

That's not likely to happen, N&O editors say, for a couple of reasons. First, the opinion page folks prize their limited space for exchange of opinions and ideas. "With so many readers' submissions to our editorial and op-ed pages, and with so many topics to consider, we don't think it would be a sensible use of our current space to add a second comic strip (after 'Doonesbury')" says Steve Ford, editor of the editorial page.

Besides, as Executive Editor Melanie Sill observes, would using the Lord's name in vain be any less offensive on the op-ed page than the comics pages?

The other reason: Notwithstanding this orchestrated protest from a remote-controlled following, The N&O's experience is that local readers like "Boondocks" where it is. Last January, after I wrote a column about a particularly controversial run of Boondocks strips, 31 readers responded. Of those, 23 loved "Boondocks," five hated it and three said move it to the opinion pages.

Still, I can understand last week's protests. I too found the "Christ's sake" strip offensive, gratuitously, almost calculatedly so. Knowing our religion-sensitive readership, my instinct would have been to replace that particular "Boondocks" with a golden oldie from the vaults (and explain why).

But last week's angry e-mailers were ill-informed. My concern with Creech's column, as I told him, was not his criticism of the N&O -- that's healthy and welcome -- but that he hadn't checked with Goldsmith or The N&O before publishing his account of the exchange with Grantlin. Creech said he wrote the column because publication of the strip "was just unacceptable. When Christian people just sit back and remain silent, that's wrong in itself."

So is rushing into print without verifying your information.


Oh my God, stop the presses. I sort of agree with the Religious Right guys (and it gives me the willies to even admit it). Well, actually, when the strip first ran, the use of "Jesus Christ" went right over my head, and I was not offended. But, when the first letter appeared in our Op-Ed page, it made me think. I was raised to believe that taking the Lord's name in vain was a bad word. (Note the second sentence of this paragraph to see that that lesson didn't fully seep in). I think many Christians are taught the same thing, and teach it to their kids. So, thanks, Religious Right, for pointing that out. If it weren't for you, that offense would have passed along without my notice. Similarly, thanks again for pointing out the Janet Jackson nipple flash. I was pretty sure that nothing was really shown until you guys made such a big fuss over it that I realized I NEEDED TO TAKE OFFENSE.

When Sarge beats up Beetle, he usually says something along the lines of "Take that you motherfucking lazy cocksucker!!!" But on the funny pages it comes out something like "Take that you %$*#&%! lazy #%*$**!*!" I don't think for a minute that "motherfucking cocksucker" would make it past the censors. Nor should it.

I imagine "Jesus Christ" and "God Damn" get censored out of a lot of our "family paper" reading. For instance, if a wide reciever said, "Well, I was cutting across the middle, caught the ball, then, GOD DAMN, the free safety just came out of nowhere and leveled me," dollars to donuts the paper would print: "Well, I was cutting across the middle, caught the ball, then ... the free safety just came out of nowhere and leveled me." So yeah, the comics should be held to a similar, if not higher standard.

So, look at that. I just agreed with some Religious Right folks. YIKES!!!! Well, they do step all over their point by

1) More than likely never seeing the actual strip . . . How is it, exactly, that you get offended by something you would never see unless someone pointed it out to you?

2) Sending their complaints to the N&O. As if the Raleigh area paper is the only one in the country publishing this "tawdry trash." Uhm, guys, the Boondocks is in papers throughout the country. Go fry bigger fish.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

HA HA Huh . . . Woah, that's NOT funny.

Hey, want to see something not at all funny? Of course you do! Why else have you read Blondie, The Family Circus, and Marmaduke for years? Well, your wish is my command, and I present the least funny thing ever to appear on the "funny pages:"

(click the image to see a larger version).

Funky Winkerbean is a bit of a hodge podge, isn't it? While it is often blatantly political (or at least "issue-oriented"), it is just as often a 3 panel "punchline strip" -- two panels of set up, 3rd panel a the punchline.

Doonesbury is probably the closest in the genre of "Important Issues of the Day," but it almost always has a punchline. In fact, the only times it does not are on special holidays -- Memorial Day, Veterans' Day, and the like -- when it does memorial type strips.

But for a strip that is often no more than high school or pizza parlor or faculty lounge humor, Funky Winkerbean has now produced the single most un-funny strip EVER. Very interesting. You know, they say the sitcom genre is dying, but it has been replaced by hour long dramas filled with a good helping of humor (Desperate Housewives, Rescue Me, Six Feet Under, etc.). It's like the evolution of television comedy, sans canned laugh track (thank God). Is that what's going on with Funky? Is it morphing into a sometimes funny, sometimes painfully serious strip? Is this the future of the funny pages? Or, is Funky just straddling two genres, and not being completely successful at either one?