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Funny Paper

Uh, That's Not the Grip I had in Mind!

Jan. 13-19, 2003

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 1/22/2003



NEW YORK TIMES CROSSWORD OREO WATCH: Wednesday, 45 across, "Snack favorite."

CONTINUING RESOLUTION DEP'T.: Sunday in The Boondocks, Riley says he's made a New Year's resolution to be more brutish and have more contempt for the law. "I can't tell if my brother is becoming more of a thug or more of a Republican," Huey says. New Year's resolutions on January 19th? Maybe Aaron McGruder made a New Year's resolution to maintain a six-week backlog of strips, like the established pros do, so we don't get reruns every time he takes a vacation. And he's still adjusting to the time lag.

SHOE: "Quite frankly, Padre," Cosmo says Monday, "I find it hard to believe that the world was created in just six days." "Amazing what you can do when you don't have to wait for a building permit," the priest replies.

DOONESBURY: It's a week of Garry Trudeau's Muppet Show-style production-within-the-cartoon routines, with the characters pretending to drop character to answer reader mail. Things kick off Monday with Mike and Zonker:

Panel one: "Couldn't happen, Pal!" Mike says. "Not in this lifetime," Zonker adds. "We're pros."

Panel two: "Is this a serious question?" Mike asks. "Well, I assume so," Zonker replies.

Panel three: Mike reads: "Dear Guys: Do you ever mix up the order of the four panels by mistake? Just wondering, Phil Z., Chicago."

Panel four: "Hi, folks!" Mike says. "It's that time of year again . . ." "Time for the ol mailbin!" Zonker says. "Let's get to it!"

What impresses Funny Paper is how close this gag comes to not working. It wasn't till the giveaway language in panel three that we realized something was supposed to be amiss. If you assume that Mike and Zonker have read the letter before panel one, then are rereading it in panel three, the conversation makes sense. There's nothing inherently impossible going on. Even panel four, which is supposed to be panel one, could almost pass for the sort of retroactive mock-introduction people do all the time: Yeah, welcome to the mailbin. The only thing at odds with that reading is Zonker's "Let's get to it." A surprisingly tricky thing to pull off.


APARTMENT 3-G: Lu Ann--her agoraphobia and personal dusting of snow simultaneously melting away--arrives at the theater in time to hear Cousin Blaze announce that the show's been cancelled. This is why Funny Paper never bothers to leave the house.

NON SEQUITUR: Monday, intermittently recurring mopey child Danae hands her father her grades. "Report card time, Daddy . . . read 'em and weep!" "Well, I like the sound of tha . . . " Daddy says, then gawks and blanches. "Uh . . . Danae? 'Read 'em and weep' is supposed to mean you've done well." Huh. It's overwritten, to be sure: All of Daddy's dialogue could be trimmed back to "That's not what 'Read 'em and weep' is supposed to mean." And Wiley loses another half point for giving Danae an unnecessary and pretentious counterpunchline ("OK . . . so I'm a literalist, just don't say I didn't warn you"). Nevertheless, it's not a bad gag. For Non Sequitur, it's a great gag.

Tuesday through Saturday, though, Wiley drags it out into a continuing storyline about how Danae wants to sue the school for the bad report card. Wednesday, she gives the case to her "Uncle Bob," the intermittently recurring lawyer who looks like Nixon. Say, does that mean that Danae's hapless Daddy--who looks sort of like Nixon--is the same guy as the intermittently recurring radio-host character in Non Seq. who sometimes talks to Uncle Bob? Is Funny Paper starting to understand the universe of Wiley?

CLASSIC PEANUTS: "Birds don't know how to tell jokes," Snoopy tells Woodstock Monday. Especially that fucking parakeet in Kudzu.

THE MIDDLETONS: Morris namechecks Snoopy Friday, ordering Bumper to fetch his supper dish in his mouth like the more illustrious and beloved dog does. Bumper swallows the dish.

JUMP START: Clarence keeps freaking out over Charlene's drawings of a nude male model.

BARNEY GOOGLE & SNUFFY SMITH: Tuesday, Snuffy is offended by a free pie: "She made a lattice top 'steada givin' us a full crust!!."

YOU CAN WITH BEAKMAN & JAX: Asked about contrails, Jax quotes Joni Mitchell and Beakman decides to squander the weekly footnote on the musty driveway/parkway conundrum. Hey, research guru: A driveway is the path that you drive up to reach a building by automobile. A parkway is a highway that incorporates green space, aka park land, along its length. Ain't you supposed to be in the business of dispelling ignorance?

HI & LOIS: Thursday, Lois rebukes Ditto for saying "friggin'." "It's too close to another word!" she says. "Man!" Ditto complains. "I gotta watch everything I freakin' say around here!"

WILLY 'N ETHEL: Thursday, Willy proposes changing Dogmeat the cat's name to "Tushmeat."

REX MORGAN, M.D.: For the ailing John, it's week of dramatic lighting and rabbit-fever-dreams. Fumbling around in Wednesday's shadows, he mistakes June for someone named Becka. "I'm not Becka, John . . . Let's get a grip!" June says. "Uh . . . that's not the grip I had in mind!"

LUANN: Greg Evans runs a humor seminar, as Mr. Fogarty makes the kids team up to write amusing essays. "The more I laugh, the higher your grade," he declares Monday. Crystal and Knute spend the week feuding about the nature of their mission. "Real humor is about conflict, not slapstick," the choker-wearing Goth princess insists Friday. Slapstick? Conflict? Howsabout some nice doo-doo jokes instead?

Sunday, Puddles the Dog takes center stage for a sequence in which it eats while fantasizing about sleeping, then sleeps while dreaming about eating. Real humor is about stealing a gag that's been done a kabillion times in Garfield and Peanuts. Also Marmaduke.

THE PHANTOM: Mayday! Mayday! Mayday, mayday, mayday . . . Mayday . . . Slowly, slowly, the sabotaged mystery plane makes its emergency landing in the Deep Woods. "Boom bom bom boom," say the jungle drums Saturday.

Sunday, "Raz" Rakowski has dreams involving the snake-lady succubus Anuga.

FAMILY CIRCUS: "It's the second day of the week," Dolly tells Jeffy, gesturing at the calendar. "That's why it's called TWOsday." If the Circus family spoke Chinese, Dolly would be correct! "Mommy," Jeffy laments Friday, "my pencil ran out of sharp." At least it had some to begin with, kid. Saturday, Live Grandma dispenses some wisdom: "Life is like a game of cards . . . God deals us each a hand at birth. How we play the cards is up to us." Sunday, Live Grandma has a dance with Dead Grandpa.

DILBERT: Monday brings a new character species: the Consultick. Tuesday and Wednesday, the Consultick disturbingly burrows into the torso of the boss. Sunday, a third-of-a-page advertisement for vanity checks with Dilbert on them forces Sally Forth, The Phantom, and Hal Foster's Prince Valiant into space-saving configurations. "If you enjoy reading the comics or if you've ever worked in an office, you'll relate to Styles' newest design . . . "

BEETLE BAILEY: Monday, Beetle preempts Sarge's reprimand by acknowledging his own failures of grooming. Saturday, Mort Walker notices and acknowledges that the comedy routine isn't working: After a tedious argument between the General and Mrs. General about the General's drinking, Mrs. General decides to forcibly stop Amos from talking. "What we need here is a gag," she says. "Right!" says a speech balloon coming from Mort Walker's byline. This is either shameless or fearless. Funny Paper doesn't know which, but we approve.

CATHY: Back at work after the holidays, the female Ziggy begins compulsively organizing her desk.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Novelist, Friend of Doug Marlette, and self-proclaimed child-abuse survivor Pat "Prince of Tides" Conroy, flogging his new memoir. Quote: "I don't have to look for melodrama because it's right there." Oh, really? That's not what we heard!

BLONDIE: Monday, Dagwood and Blondie switch their usual seats in the living room to spice up their marriage. Thursday, Dagwood modifies his usual nap position on the couch to show that he's "taking a break" rather than napping outright.

HAL FOSTER'S PRINCE VALIANT: Justinian and the people of Ichthyopolis switch positions.

SALLY FORTH: Hilary demands an expensive birthday party. Sunday, Francesco "Mac" Marciuliano continues to make his creative presence felt with a panel in which Hilary's piggybank talks.

KID CITY: Sunday, the gentle, dead dodo and an excellent Siberian tiger maze: Enter through a gap around the big cat's lumbar region, work around its elegant stripes, and exit between the toes of its left front paw.

MOTHER GOOSE & GRIMM: Monday, it's another HMO gag. Maybe we shouldn't be so hard on the HMO gags. Maybe we need for hack cartoonists to keep pounding away at the HMOs, so that each time somebody has been screwed by the health-maintenance industry, that person gets immediate gratification from the comics page. Maybe Mike Peters is a positive force for social change.

Wednesday, it's another lame Superman gag. Maybe Mike Peters is just an abominable hack. Once again, Funny Paper takes up our pen to punish Peters.

CURTIS: Curtis fakes "stomach" trouble--read: bowel trouble--to get out of class. Derrick and "Onion" frame our hero for writing on the bathroom wall.

ZIPPY: Bill Griffith is sick of the pinhead's wallowing in roadside Americana too. Taking a cue from the dead characters' lounge in Steven, the rest of the cast of Zippy gets together in the "Zippy Clubhouse" and sets out to find Zippy and reintegrate him into the strip.

GASOLINE ALLEY: Dammit! Walt is not dead. The driver of the poultry truck that was about to run him over last week can't believe it either. "I don't get it!" he says, accusingly. "One minute you're gonna get it an' the next ya don't!" You tell him! Wednesday, an Afro-American man in a turtleneck and checked sportcoat takes credit for pushing Walt out of the truck's path. "I'm Wynston, your guardian angel," he says. Oh, so he's Afro-celestial-American. That's why he says things like, "Amen, Brother!" For a minute there, we thought Scancarelli was actually going to integrate the strip. Instead, we get the Negro as Spiritually Gifted Other--cf. Don Cheadle in The Family Man, Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile, Will Smith in The Legend of Bagger Vance," and Morgan Freeman in just about anything.

ZIGGY: Monday, a palmist tells Ziggy, "First off, by the number of your fingers, I can see that you're a cartoon character." This sends Funny Paper scurrying to last week's comics for the one in which Ziggy was brandishing a giant coffee mug. There, the bulb-nosed bumbler sported one-two-three-four-five digits on his left hand. Now, on the same hand, he's only got four. Are you Ziggy or Frodo?

Wednesday, Ziggy gets hopped up on nitrous.

MARMADUKE: Monday, Marmaduke sniffs deeply at the insides of a bag of dog food.

MARY WORTH: Silas Smedlap takes up the slack for the absent Ian, hoisting a glass and yammering interminably. Dinner will be at "the Peking Gate," he tells Mary on Monday. "I don't hanker for Chinese food, but it's a possible location for a chop house! . . . . Rumor is the owner has a 'yen' to unload the place . . . . (hic) . . . . I just made a pun!" Yen, huh? Tuesday, Mary snatches Silas' bottle away from him. "X*&X%!!" he snaps Wednesday. "What do you think you're doing?" "Hopefully I am assuring you will be sober when you call for me Silas!" she huffs. "I don't 'date' drunks! Also! . . . . I dislike being the target of profanity! . . . Kindly remember we're dining in a restaurant! . . . Not on the deck of a lobster boat!" After she retreats to her apartment, still clutching Silas' bottle, Mary calls the Widow Tully to say Smitty's in his cups. "You're joking!" Tully says Saturday. "Smitty is practically a teetotaler! Stand by, Mary! . . . When a rookie alcoholic and his sick daughter tangle, it'll be 'Katie, bar the door'!" "'Sick daughter'??" Mary thinks. "'Katie, bar the door'??" Funny Paper thinks. And don't be disparaging the lobster boats, Mary Worthless.

MARK TRAIL: Sweetie Pie the Unwelcome Deer comes home again. Tom, the husband who is jealous of Sweetie Pie, comes home again. The rifle comes out again. "Get back, Judy . . . This time I won't miss!" he barks Saturday. When Rusty tries to stop him in the last panel, he stiff-arms him to the ground--causing Andy to bare his teeth. You got more than a deer to deal with now, buddy.

Sunday's featured biological unit: the colorful, fragile world of angiosperms. "Flowering plants have influenced our lives from almost the first time they appeared on Earth. . . without them we humans wouldn't be here!" Wha-aat? Evolution theory? Is this why there was no Christ-reference in the Christmas holly strip? Are Dodd & Elrod losin' their religion?

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Funny Paper archives

More from Scocca & MacLeod

What Am I? A Freakin' TV Guide?! (2/18/2004)
February 9-15, 2004

This One Is Not a Sweetheart (2/11/2004)
February 2-8, 2004

Haiku for the Holidays (12/31/2003)
Dec. 22-28, 2003

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