CSodT: Friday Funnies (or not)

A very basic premise of humor is that it must contain truth. Even a premise as shopworn as the desert island, the psychiatrist’s couch, or, as in this Speed Bump, the mountain-climbing wisdom seeker, can be funny if there is a twist that makes you say, “Yes.”

First you see the absurd setup, then you read the caption, then you recognize both the twist Dave Coverly has put on the overused phrase, and the truth behind it.

It is the right setting: People seek advice in the psychiatrist’s-couch setting, but it’s not rendered in faux-Buddhist cliches, and it’s rarely the psychiatrist who speaks; In those, the patient generally delivers the “But we need the eggs” punchline.

The overarching truth in this particular cartoon is that nobody has to tell a baby to “be the tantrum.”

One of the odd advantages of becoming a father at 22 was that I could still play with the kids, though I had to focus on pretending.

When I became a grandfather at 47, however, I was like Wendy in the sad final act of “Peter Pan,” and it was simply too late. I could pretend to pretend, but I was no longer able to really fly.

All of which spins back to the fact that, while it’s absurd to think of a baby climbing to the top of a mountain for advice from a baby monk, it’s equally absurd to think that a baby would need that advice.

Nor would the advice would be of any value to anyone older. It’s one of those “If you have to ask, you ain’t never gonna get it” propositions.


There’s a less cosmic funny-because-its-true element in this Flying McCoys panel, which again takes a well-worn concept and successfully spins it.

In this case, the basic gag of a dog ordering homework to eat is somewhat flimsy, but the poodle makes it happen. Had she said nothing, it’s flat, and, had she said something indicating sophistication, it would remain flat.

But “Classy joint” is a pie-in-the-face to the image of the immaculately groomed up-town poodle that turns her from a sophisticated lady into a Judy Holliday/Jean Hagen “You can dress her up but you can’t take her anywhere” gum-popping moll.

Which, in turn, challenges the classiness of the joint, of her date and of the entire concept, shifting it from satire to farce.

Given that the gag was farcical to begin with, this is the appropriate touch that makes it work.


To stay within the animal kingdom, this Rhymes With Orange got a laff not because it’s farcical but because I suspect it could work.

Cats, dogs and other animals clearly can see television, as multiple videos on YouTube will confirm.

I had a girlfriend whose dog suffered from separation anxiety but, fortunately, was also a passionate TV watcher. When she went to work, she’d put on Wild Discovery and he’d calmly lie on the couch and watch antelopes and lions run around until she got home again.

So I could easily see a cat playing this game. My suggestion would be to make it an element in one of those cat-towers, perhaps (to save battery-power) set such that the cat would turn it on by batting it.

Ridiculous? Sure.

So? Have you seen what else people do to keep their pets amused?

You have to be a lot more ridiculous than this to outstrip reality.


This F-Minus is still about animals and still contains an absurd twist on truth, but is perhaps not so funny.

Bears will eat any sort of fish — well, bears will eat pretty much anything — but are particularly known for intercepting salmon returning from the ocean to spawn.

So it’s very likely that the bears are ingesting the micro-particles of plastic that the salmon have consumed in their years in the Pacific.

The idea that the plastic would come back in the form of cheap little Cracker Jack prizes is funny, but only in a dark, gallows humor sort of way.

Which means I laughed, but I gave it my “editorial cartoon laugh,” not my “comic strip laugh.”


And I didn’t laugh at all at Betty, but just nodded in agreement, because this frosts me, and I’ve worked for minimum wage in food, back when minimum wage wasn’t so bad.

We didn’t have a tip jar, much less a computer screen that, to complete their order, forced people to actively refuse to tip.

It’s a good way for management to avoid paying their staff decently without raising menu prices, particularly if they can then reclassify them as “tipped”, though I don’t know if anyone actually has that kind of cojones.

Betty is not a gag-a-day strip but works in continuities like For Better or For Worse or Doonesbury, so that, like them it needs to come up with some kind of punchline each day, not necessarily to leave people rolling on the floor, but to provide a sense of completeness.

So you don’t LOL at Betty’s calculation in the final panel, but you might smile and tuck it away.


Similarly, Leroy Lockhorn puts a twist on a cliche and turns it into commentary, getting that nod rather than a guffaw.

To be fair, Bogart’s “The Maltese Falcon” was a remake of an earlier version, and it’s not surprising that a massive best seller like Ben Hur spurred several film versions.

But most remakes are pale imitations of the original — Audie Murphy was no Jimmy Stewart.

However, what we have today is a culture that wants no surprises, such that, remake or not, movie trailers are loaded with spoilers that never would have been tolerated a generation ago.

And even movies that aren’t remakes seem to borrow a lot, though perhaps I was spoiled by the Sixties: The thoughtful “Nouvelle Vague,” the graphic innovations of the Czech movement and even the “Let’s get stoned and make a movie” fad made going to the theater an adventure, not an alternative to scrolling virtual toilet paper on a tablet.




3 thoughts on “CSodT: Friday Funnies (or not)

  1. Could we also stipulate that if you’re going to take on a timeworn franchise and film a prequel in which you destroy the planet Vulcan in episode one, you should be coming up with your own damn universe, characters and marketing.

    Mind you, if someone wants to come along and make a prequel to Phantom Menace in which Jar Jar Binks’ planet is sucked into a black hole, I think most of us are fine with that.

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