CSotD: Comedy and character

Comedy today, but starting with a bit of political humor that makes a point about cartooning as well as Lindsey Graham’s splendiferous rewriting of history.

His remark was so ridiculous that I wanted to twist his words by suggesting confusion between “kiss” and “kick,” but it’s hard to phrase it in a way that doesn’t either meander and destroy the timing, or put the punchline ahead of the set up.

It’s not that you can’t make the joke — “He said ‘kick’ but he meant ‘kiss'” — but by the time you yank it around to reference the quote and add your twist, it’s lost its zing, it doesn’t explode like one of Sal Paradise’s skyrockets.

Ann Telnaes, however, is able to do the set-up by simply quoting Graham and then deliver the punchline, not with words but with a visual depiction of what we all saw and all know.

Moreover, she not only reminds us of Trump’s praise for Putin specifically, but ties in his overall support of Putin, Xi, Duterte, Orban and other tyrants.

I don’t know that it’s Ha-Ha funny, but parody often gets more of a nod than a grin, and, in this case, what couldn’t be elegantly done with words lends itself, instead, to visual ridicule.

A nice example of a time when a particular point is better made graphically.


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Non Sequitur – AMS)

(Barney & Clyde – WPWG)

As long as I’m waxing analytical, here’s another example of How It Works:

In a well-crafted strip, the gags fit particular characters and are not interchangeable: Two random people saying something funny isn’t nearly as satisfying as seeing the punchline come from someone you know would say precisely that.

In this match-up, the basic gag is hiding a note from school, a plotline as old as schools themselves.

The similarity is that both Danae and Cynthia are smart little girls. But, while Danae is frequently hoist in her own petard, Cynthia is more of a conniver. To dig deeper, Danae is irrepressibly contrarian and imaginative, while Cynthia is self-contained and is apt to use splinters from her parents’ divorce as weapons in her rebellion.

Today’s Non Sequitur caps a week-long arc of flushing documents down the toilet, while Barney & Clyde is a one-off, but the difference is just that: Danae has gone on an extended adventure before it all falls down, which is how most of her plans end up, while Cynthia had planned to simply bluff her way through.

There’s a little more surprise in Cynthia not sneaking one past her stepmom this time, the humor there being that element of uncertainty, while we all knew that, however Danae planned it, things weren’t going to go her way and we were just waiting for the ax to fall.

It’s the same basic gag, but, if you reversed the characters, neither attempt would zing because “Smart Little Girl” is a shallow stereotype that needs to be fleshed out with specifics. These are two different people.


In Between Friends (KFS), Sandra Bell-Lundy has essentially set up a demonstration of Stephen Dedalus’s discussion of character from Ulysses:

Maeterlinck says: ‘If Socrates leave his house today he will find the sage seated on his doorstep. If Judas go forth tonight it is to Judas his steps will tend.’ Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.

Every character in comics or literature is a reflection of the writer, but Bell-Lundy has established three doppelgangers: Susan the Worrier, Maeve the Ambitious and Kim the Practical.

I’m sure she doesn’t sit down and figure out who gets what gag, but the way she’s defined this trio, anything that piques her as a good story just naturally falls to the appropriate character.

By happenstance, that strip is similar to an old favorite of mine from 2006, but, in the current strip, Susan is fretting over job frustration, and that’s a different conversation than this one, in which she’s talking about financial security.

Maeve is the right sounding board for the career discussion, while Kim is more appropriate for the conversation about security.

As said, I doubt Bell-Lundy sits down and ponders any of this. Given her cast, she doesn’t have to.


Part of the fun of Wallace the Brave (AMS) is that it’s a young strip and Will Henry is still playing with his characters.

Today’s strip gives Sterling a larger script than he’s used to: He has generally been an accent, a chunk of chaos off to the side, but here he is at the center of things. Despite that, he retains his odd personality, and we need it, because for Wallace himself to pull the joke on Spud would be cruel.

Friends don’t do that to friends, but little brothers certainly do. Trust me: I’ve been one, and I’ve had one.

It’s a delicate matter: Characters like Sterling can easily get out of control, and if they become too dominant, they can topple a strip’s balance.


Juxtaposition of the Season

(Deflocked – AMS)

(The Buckets – AMS)

The Buckets doesn’t make a seasonal reference, but, combined with Deflocked’s annual sugaring arc, it’s a marvel of timing, at least here in New Hampshire.

I haven’t heard much buzz about sugaring yet, but, while we haven’t had a lot of snow this year, we’ve had the kind of day/night temperature fluctuations that encourage good syrup, and our co-op is promoting a local syrup they’ve got in stock.

My older brother had a buddy in high school whose family ran a sugar bush, and he’d go out there and work a weekend with his friend each spring, then bring home a half-gallon of syrup that he’d made himself.

I’m jealous of the experience, but glad he brought home the good stuff.


Jim Horwitz upsets my previous analytical applecart by abandoning Watson’s main character entirely to feature Herge’s famous reporter instead.

But Watson is a gentle strip, more in search of “aww” than “hardy-har-har” reactions, and Horwitz remains within that framework, particularly with Milou/Snowy looking intimidated by events.

Alas, Vlad never learned from history — neither ours nor his own.