Friday, February 09, 2007

Un-funny Papers

I've found myself wondering about some weighty topics the past two weeks. For example, what does sectarian Muslim violence in the Middle East mean for the rest of the world? What kind of havoc will Hugo Chavez's socialism unleash on poor South American countries? Am I really serving God to the best of my abilities? But above all I've been pondering this extremely weighty issue: Why do our comics suck so bad? Every day I look, and every day they suck. I want to address this problem full force and list the main culprits in this void of jocularity. I do realize that Lafayette's newspaper or even the Indianapolis Star might not be at the height of comic revelry, and I also realize that there are probably some really cool underground comics I haven't heard about. But I think that syndicated comics have been on a decline ever since Bill Waterson retired and "Calvin and Hobbes" left the newspapers.(Do you italicise comic strip titles? This is not the thing one usually has to look up in the MLA handbook.) So let's take a look at the worst of the worst and then examine the larger issue of why the are so unfunny. P.S. the links and images on blogspot aren't working right now, so I'll add them later.

First up, "Garfield." Yeah, I know that Jim Davis is from Indiana and that only makes it more embarrassing to live in this state. This is seriously the most unfunny, repetitive, and stupid comic strip that ever was produced, and that's even at the height of it's popularity back in the 80's. When I would read this comic as I child I just thought that my reading skills weren't good enough to understand Garfield's jokes, and that's why they weren't funny to me. Imagine that! I thought that Garfield was over my head. Now I just realize that it's an awful cartoon and Jim Davis and his team of "writers" and "illustrators" must be the laziest people alive. Let's take a look at a Garfield from 2/3/07. Scene Panel 1: Garfield standing at the same table/counter top thing he always stands at. Eyes two thirds of the way closed, no smile, one arm propped on the counter top thing. In the little bubble Garfield thinks to himself, "Cat's live on instinct." Panel 2 (same scene) Garfield, same exact position and facial expression, this time with no bubble at all. I guess this is Jim Davis' way of preparing us for the ultrafunny punchline. Panel 3: Garfield, same position but this time with his eyes wide open and a smile on his face. He says, "And my instinct could go for some of those extra-spicy chicken wings." Fin. The masterpiece is complete. Reasons for awfulness: Bad drawing, bad writing, laziness, no sense of humor. One a side note, I did like the Saturday morning Garfield cartoon show they did, and the Halloween special wasn't half-bad (But it was no Disney's "The legend of Sleepy Hollow.") (Am I over using parentheses today?) (I hate that.) Moving on.

"Cathy." I want to vomit every time I see this comic. Take the most annoying, uninteresting, fat lady who you work with, live next to, or "help" with computer questions every Wednesday night at a nondescript local community college and put her in the funny papers. That was the formula for the person whose name I refuse to learn for making up this comic strip. I thought that when Cathy married her obviously gay husband they would go off into the sunset somewhere and try on bathing suits together that are way too small . But no, it kept going. Always fat. Always boring. Always Cathy. It's only more painful to know that women on a diet everywhere have this comic strip hanging on their refrigerators.

"For Better or for Worse." Strike one- It's Canadian and they talk about all their annoying Canadian things. I'm sure if Lynn Johnston could transcribe a Canadian accent in this comic strip she would ('Ey Elizabeth, how's aboot goin' to an 'ockey game and drinkin' some Molson light, eh? I have a mullet, eh?) Strike two- For as bad as Garfield is, I think that it is at least trying to be funny. I think. For Better or For Worse Doesn't even try. It's just a chronicle of a boring family, two geezers, and a dog. Strike three- I can't even imagine that we have to import bad comic strips from an effete nanny state. The last time I checked, we had a surplus of our own terrible comic strips. I'm not sure if that last one really counts as a strike, but I'm running with it.

"Doonesbury." I know what you're thinking, and yes, this comic is about ten times smarter that most other comic strips in syndication. However, Doonesbury to a child is like LSD to a hippie. Think about it. When I read this one as a child, I never understood what was going on, I had the vague sense that someone was insulting me, I didn't know why that one guy never took off his army helmet, and I sure as hell didn't know why a waffle dripping with butter and syrup was standing behind the presidential podium. See, just like an acid trip. As an adult, I dislike it for completely different reasons. It is soooooo arrogantly liberal. And this comic strip is taped up to all the arrogantly liberal professors' office doors in my buildings.

And the last crappy comic award goes to...."B.C." I really don't have a lot to say about this one besides the fact that it has never been funny....ever. Whether it's the fat lady beating a snake with a stick, the one guy looking up stupid definitions in the dictionary, or that same one guy reflecting on the death and Resurrection of Christ, which one can tell from the title hasn't even happend yet, these are all not funny. And at the end of the day, I suppose it really does take talent to make a comic strip that has never caused anyone on the face of the earth to laugh.

This list is in no way comprehensive. If you think something else should have made the list, leave it in the comment box. David kept telling me that I should put Family Circus on the list, but I resisted. I mean, everyone knows that that one isn't funny and people have even put this fact in movies ("Go" 1999) and all other forms of media. Some of you might be looking for Peanuts on this list, but I actually like it. There's something about a bird that talks in all apostrophes that really cracks me up. What the hell is Woodstock saying? ''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''! Is he calling for help, or asking someone out on a date? I have no idea. I also like the fact that the entire "Peanuts" gang seems to be orphaned and must fend for themselves. It adds a little grit to what looks like just another sweet comic strip on the surface. Oh, and I like the fact that Snoopy has delusions of grandeur. That stuff is great. The Halloween and Christmas specials rock, too. And some of you might remember that the wedding party song at our reception was "The Ballad of Linus and Lucy," which is a truly awesome song.

Some people might say, "Monica, when you become fat and boring/ get a lazy cat/ become a liberal professor/ expatriate to Canada/ become a Christian caveman, you'll think these comic strips are funny too." And I'll say to those people, "No. I will not." It's true that our senses of humor change with our age and situation. For instance, I no longer think that "The Muppet Show" is funny. Well, actually I do. That's a funny show. The point is that one should not shape what they think is funny solely by their station in life. I really hope that I won't find "Family Circus" funny when I have kids. The thought of it actually terrifies me a great deal. That comic strip promotes the untrue idea that every time a child mispronounces something or breaks something it turns into comic genius.

So, if these comic strips aren't funny, why do people read them? Because I truly don't believe that most people think they are funny. I think the reason has to be that many people find these comic strips comforting, and that comfort is confused for humor. At least for me, if something is funny, it either has to be sharp, ironic, witty, or slightly subversive. And I don't mean in any complete overthrowing of social mores sort of way. I just mean that it's funny enough to make me slightly uncomfortable because it points out the stupidity of something I or people I know do. Cathy, on the other hand, points out the stupid things that people do and at the end tells people it's okay because other people do it too. It's the same thing with Doonesbury. Liberals can feel good about the fact that they will never be as stupid as those silly red state types. It's the comfort factor. These are just my opinions. Perhaps "For Better or For Worse" is really a laugh riot and I'm too stupid to realize it.

With all that being said, what are the funny comic strips? Well, I already mentioned "Calvin and Hobbes." That will always be the funniest in my mind. Foxtrot was funny, but it's slipping pretty fast. Andy Capp. Now that's funny. Any comic strip about a drunk in a domestic abuse situation is comic gold. I actually think that the idea of Andy Capp is funnier than Andy Capp itself, but still.

So there you have it. Unfunny comic strips and the reason for their existence. Comment or criticize freely.

Monday, February 05, 2007


I've been thinking about joining the Peace Corps. David says I'm crazy and Claire says the Peace Corps. is immoral. Okay, how about the Catholic Relief Service volunteer program? That should be pretty good. Is it weird that I want to run away TO Nicaragua? Most people are running from it. This is probably just a passing fantasy that I have because I feel like I'm not doing anything useful for mankind by cooping myself up in a classroom and listening to people drone on and on about John Donne. But, I mean, I don't even like camping. Volunteering would be like a 2 year long and very hard camping trip, right? I don't know. Maybe I'll just go home and vacuum.