Funny Stuff – The Book

“Novel ideas spring from a cartoonist’s mind because it is not weighed down too heavily by reality.”

Rex and Phil, Funny Stuff, 2024

“A comic artist ain’t no different than you or me or anybody excep’ he knows how to draw pitchers an’ is crazy in the head.” A less diplomatic phrasing from Popeye, Thimble Theatre, 1934

“If you have to explain a cartoon…” is another old adage.

Phil Witte and Rex Hesner avoid explaining the ‘why’ of a cartoon, rather they delve into the ‘how’ of a cartoon. The pair takes their not-so-old column and twists it. Instead of deconstructing a gag cartoon they deconstruct the art form.

Through interviews with magazine cartoonists and their own insights Phil and Rex detail the zillion (like the cartoons there may be some exaggeration) different ways cartoonists think of ideas to create funny stuff. Along the way they illustrate their points with a hundred cartoons from Charles Addams to Jack Ziegler.

Just as there are 50 ways to leave your lover there are 50 ways to create a gag cartoon and the authors run through them: satirical humor, observational humor, cliché, stereotypes, meta, dark humor, whimsical, incongruity, pantomime, and more.

clichés: “Joe Dator told us that when he came up with a desert island cartoon that no one had thought of before, ‘that was a great day in my life as an artist.'”

Cartoonist Ken Krimstein on the pirate stereotype: “They have so many cool parts and things that are wrong with them: eyepatch, hooked hand, pegleg, cool cloaks, nasty beards, big earrings, funky hats, gnarly swords, and parrots on their shoulders. What more could you ask for!”

And what more could you ask of this book?

It tells the history of gag cartoons but it is not a history book.

It collects 100 cartoons but it is not a cartoon anthology.

It profiles cartoonists but it is not Cartoonist PROfiles.

It informs us of what makes a cartoon funny but it is not a how-to book.

Yet all the things that it is not? That is what it is.

Like the cartoons it discusses the book is not a heavy read – light and enjoyable and informative.

Funny Stuff by Phil Witte and Rex Hesner is from Prometheus Books and available July 16, 2024.

A Daily Cartoonist recommended read.

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