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Aug. 12-18

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 8/21/2002

URGENT! FUNNY PAPER BULLETIN DEP'T.: On Wednesday, August 14, 2002, Mike Peters of Mother Goose & Grimm fails to fuck up a gag. Repeat: Mike Peters fails to fuck up a gag. A robed dog stands on the mountainside, with lightning flashing and a crowd of wide-eyed other dogs looking on, holding stone tablets labeled "SIT" and "STAY." That's it. No laugh track. No caption saying "Moses the Dog brings down the Two Commandments." Just a plain self-explanatory joke. Funny Paper is speechless.

IT WAS KIND OF A CUTE ALLUSION TO ADOLESCENT BIOLOGICAL PROCESSES IN THE MOVIE, BUT THAT JUST MAKES IT VERY, VERY NOT-CUTE HERE DEP'T.: "PJ's hands are sticky," Dolly declares in Wednesday's Family Circus. "I think he's making web stuff like Spider-Man."

JUMP START: More like "Jump Cut" this week. Or "Non Sequitur." Last week, we left off in the middle of a surprise visit from Marcy's mom. Now on Monday we're arriving in media res on yet another bigoted-patient-gets-a-valuable-life-lesson-at-Saint Benetton's Hospital story--this time a patient who doesn't want to let an Arab do his heart surgery. By Thursday, Marcy has resolved the ethnic discord and is back to planning "Girls Day Out" at a spa with mom.

BEETLE BAILEY: Monday, Killer sends himself a batch of perfumed mail to keep up his reputation. Why does Killer have to perpetrate fraud? He's Pvt. Killer, comma, first name "Lady"! Let's not have all this neurotic stuff creeping into the essentialist world of Mort Walker's Army. Killer gets the ladies, just like Sarge gets hungry and the general gets drunk. Next we'll have Plato bluffing his way through his reading, or Beetle feigning sleep. If we want to see internal life, we'll read Marmaduke. Tuesday, Mort Walker further integrates Spec. Chip Gizmo into the regular Camp Swampy humor rotation, as the general uses a CD-ROM tray to hold his martini. Friday, the ever-thoughtful cartoonist makes sure to put a nameplate on Capt. Scabbard's desk, so as we all remember that his name is Capt. Scabbard. Saturday, Gen. Halftrack comes home late, but doesn't fear his wife's wrath. "I'm Commander in Chief!" he boasts. "What's she gonna do?" You're not the C. in C., Amos, you old stewpot -- you're a one-star general. How could a drunk be Commander in Chief?

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: Recital time at April's music camp. Monday, April goes sprinting to meet the folks as they arrive. "Sweet," she thinks. "This is so cool. I am so pumped, man, I am so excited." There is no child on the face of the planet Canada who goes to summer camp and has thought balloons like that. All of this to set up a "please don't hug me in public" punchline. It would have worked much better without any internal narration at all, or dialogue, even --just April running enthusiastically, then recoiling. Thursday, April's ensemble hunkers down to play "Eleanor Rigby." "Oh, I am so emotional!" Elly says weepily. "This is one of my favorite pieces!" How did we ever guess? It had to be either that or "Helter Skelter." For worse!

HAGAR THE HORRIBLE: Monday, Hamlet declines Hernia's invitation to "play doctor," countering with "let's play lawyer," because lawyers make more cash. Hamlet is a little too much like the, uh, real melancholy Dane here. We know this is the funny pages, but come on, Chris Browne. How many unrealistic adolescents do we have to put up with this week?

HERB & JAMAAL: Monday, Jamaal sits on the couch playing a video game and ignoring Yolanda's invitation to "take things to another level." Jamaal doesn't want to play doctor either.

HI & LOIS: Monday, Chip and Lo prepare to take action to defend the family income stream, as Hi stands motionless, in a suit and holding a briefcase, in the sunshine on the lawn. "You'd better go talk to him, Mom!" Chip says. "He's got that 'It's too nice a day to go to work' look in his eyes." Tuesday, it's bulletin-board tack-up humor for the real-estate-agent set, with "Lois Flagston's How to Speak Real Estate": "Water-front property" = "a goldfish pond in the backyard." Right on. And "charming," in Funny Paper's experience, means "the washing machine is on the back porch."

MOTHER GOOSE & GRIMM: As if to prove that Wednesday's exercise in comic efficiency was an aberration, Mike Peters checks in on Friday with a junkpile of nonfunniness: Two clowns confront a chalkboard covered with complicated equation-style squiggling, ending with a picture of a pie, next to an equals signs and "3.17." "No, no, you fool, pie equals 3.14!" the clown without the chalk snaps. In the lower right, a caption fails to tie any of this together: "The last year of clown college is compulsory quantum physics." See, because clowns go to clown college. And because clowns throw pies, which are homonymous with pi, which is the mathematical symbol for the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. And because knowing elementary geometry is, in Moron World, the same thing as knowing quantum physics.

CLASSIC PEANUTS: "Sometimes I feel like I want to run away from everything," Classic Charlie Brown* tells Classic Linus Wednesday. "I remember having that feeling once when I was at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm," Classic Snoopy thinks. "I climbed over the fence but I was still in the world!" I climbed over the fence but I was still in the world! Every absinthe-swilling poet who ever lived wishes he could have put it that way.

(* Funny Paper is stealing this gag from the great Richard "Richard's Poor Almanac" Thompson of the Washington Post, who did a cartoon-character roundtable that included a "Classic Lucy." It also featured Mary Worth burbling "Tyvek! Lovely Tyvek up my nose." Funny Paper only steals from the best! And we footnote it. See this, Doug Marlette and Doris Kearns Goodwin? It's really not that hard.)

SHOE: Monday, Shoe reads "the Menopause Times." "There's a hot flash on every page," he says. Feh! Dig up MacNelly and bury Shoe!

FAMILY CIRCUS: Tuesday, Jeffy trails in the door. "We picked sides to play soccer," he says, "but we didn't have a ball so I came home." Jeepers. Soccer's the World's Game because you don't need anything to play it with. All over the globe, starving children are willing to kick around rocks or bloated dead cats in lieu of a FIFA-authorized futbol. Heck, many of those starving children need a break from their sweatshop jobs stitching together those official soccer balls. But nowhere, in the whole prosperous suburb of Keanesville, U.S.A., can the kids scrape up some vaguely round bootable object. Friday, Billy and Dolly watch a victorious tennis player hoist a platter over her head. Hey, Keane -- that girl's too white to be a Williams. What's she doing with a trophy?

B.C.: "What do you consider the most important shot in golf?" Peter asks Curls, temporarily designated the Paleolithic "Golf Pro." "The quickie in the clubhouse before you tee off," Curls says. Johnny Hart works blue! Does he have one Christian gag writer in the shop and one regular human one? Or are both of them battling inside Hart's own skull? Tuesday, Fat Broad, in the guise of Miss Know-It-All, gets a letter saying "The Bible says the TRUTH will set you free! -- What about the members of the LIAR'S CLUB?" "Green apples and prune juice should still give you a pretty good shot at it," she writes back. Huh? Wasn't The Liar's Club a highly entertaining game show featuring Larry Hovis, aka Corporal Carter from television's Hogan's Heroes? And is Johnny Hart taking a setup about the Word of God and turning it into a constipation routine? We guess those gag writers are duking it out in Hart's head after all.

GARFIELD: Monday, Garfield loves himself in front of the mirror. All right, Jim Davis isn't working blue; Garfield doesn't "love" himself in front of the mirror. It's more like a daily affirmation.

THE BOONDOCKS: Monday, Huey preys on Caesar's distress about Justin Timberlake dating Janet Jackson. "I mean, it's basically like she's dating her own brother, just younger, whiter and significantly less talen--" "I don't wanna talk about it!!" Caesar says. Whiter? JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE IS PRETENDER TO THRONE OF POP KING OF SICK FUCKING COUNTRY! Wednesday, it's time for a joke about Timberlake's breakup with Britney Spears. "I wonder how she's taking it?" Caesar says. "Last I heard she was dating five different black men named Muhammad," Huey says. "Tomorrow: lawsuits!" says a caption box. Aaron McGruder is overestimating his impact or his shock value or something. Maybe he's out of touch with the white community, which has been making sex-related disparagements of Ms. Spears since she was a natural A-cup.

WILLY 'N ETHEL: "The good news is our lawyer's name is Loophole Johnson!" Willy announces Monday. "The bad news is his nickname is 'Loopy.'"

MOMMA: Francis, put off by grocery prices, tries to mooch food from Momma on Saturday.

KUDZU: Marriage counseling time on Monday: "Preacher, he says 'potato.' I say 'po-tah-to'!" We're calling the whole thing off after Panel One, motherfucker.

CURTIS: Curtis refuses to accept the notion that Chutney is better for him than Michelle. "Hi, Curtsie!" Chutney says Tuesday. "Notice anything different about me?" "You shaved your moustache?" Curtis asks. The lights go out, there's a burst of stars, in the fourth panel Curtis is being lifted into an ambulance. There are two huge bulges poking up under the stretcher blanket. Curtis is a freak! Oh, wait. Those are his feet.

DENNIS THE MENACE: The Mitchells set out on a supposedly fun cruise-ship vacation.

JUMBLE: A "HOSTEL" GROUP, "STUCK" WITH IT, "PRESSED" FOR TIME, A "CREEP-Y" RIDE, MADE HIS MOVE, TO "HEAT UP" SALES. Ach! Five out of six with the quotation marks! So close to perfection.

ZIGGY: Thursday, the honk-nosed homunculus can't afford real estate anywhere but Bosnia.

CATHY: Cathy buys a some-assembly-required workstation. This is gonna take a while. In the Sunday color supplement, the hapless heroine actually accomplishes something--a full desk-cleaning.

LUANN: Brad hauls the Zane out of the fire. "Respiratory failure," says the boss EMT. "Go get oxygen, Brad." Luann drives Bernice to the hospital. Luann seems more dismayed by the fact that her brother's a hero than Bernice is by the fact that her boyfriend isn't breathing.

GASOLINE ALLEY: Slim continues to pilot the tuna truck.

MARMADUKE: Tuesday, the supersized canine gives an innocent passerby a facial tongue bath.

THE MIDDLETONS: Tuesday, Mom tells Bumper she'll clock him with a rolling pin if he tries to hop in bed with her. Mom could probably straighten out Marmaduke's bad habits pretty quickly, we reckon.

ZIPPY: Griffy, trying to figure out the origin of the ever-changing girly-art interloper in the strip, squares off his features into a realistic-comics style and goes off spoofing other strips. First stop: Rex Morgan, M.D., where what appears to be an awfully butch June Gale Morgan kicks him out. "I'm leaving," Realistic Griffy says, "but I was only trying to return a semblance of order & normality to th' comics pages of this daily newspaper!" In the margin, there's a "tip to: Wilson & Nolan." Rex Morgan, Medical Doctor, doesn't need your stinkin' tip, Griffith. But speaking of order and normality, on Saturday the jaunt through meta-comics is interrupted so Griffy can moan about his failed attempts to whore himself out to the evil animation studio.

PRINCE VALIANT: Volunteers set out in a warship under a bogus royal standard, to lure Justinian away from Aleta and Nathan -- "knowing that they are making a supreme sacrifice." Boy, there's a lot of supreme-sacrificing going on among the underlings of all these royals we're supposed to be cheering for. Might as well be Prince Montezuma.

THE COLL-EGG-TIBLE EGGERS FAMILY: Cody Meekins, age 11, wins with "Balt-egg-more Orioles." Stellar job on the Orioles logo and the ornithologically correct bird on the hat. But we'd rather see "Peter Ang-egg-los." Or, come on, Cody, you got a gold mine here. Budd-egg Groom. Scott Er-egg-son. Tony Batist-egg. Rodr-egg-o Lop-egg. Geron-egg-mo Gill. Chris Sing-egg-ton. Jorg-egg Juil-egg, and "Miracle if They Finish the Season Over Five Hundr-egg."

APARTMENT 3-G: More dotted-line whisper balloons as Margo and Lu Ann eavesdrop on Tommie's session with an investment broker. "I didn't know Tommie had money to invest," Margo says Monday. Over time, the mind tends to grow numb to the details of trials and tribulations of the G's Three. But didn't each one score an apartment of her own a while ago? That surplus piece of Manhattan real estate's gotta be some kind of seed money, no? Why is Tommie talking investments? Because she promised to send the children of her skin-cancer-slain friend to college. Margo is horrified. "Would it be so bad, Margo," asks FBI Pete on Sunday as they go on a date in a rowboat, "taking responsibility for someone else's children?" "So bad?" Margo snarls. "It would be worse than so bad . . . It would be horrible!" FBI Pete's pupils narrow to vertical slits, like a cat's, at the outburst. Looks like the G just blew her chances with the G-man.

MARY WORTH: Mary's encyclopedic knowledge of old comics hasn't softened Silas Smedlap's heart toward the rest of the hospital staff. "He's in a mood that must have been invented by Attila the Hun!" a nurse fumes on Monday. Then why is your head still on the neck of your unsullied body, sister?

REX MORGAN, M.D.: June and Berna drop by to visit Marsha Coleman, just after the police have dropped by to announce that Dana's under arrest.

MARK TRAIL: Mizzark Trizzail cashes in his chips with the two ladies he's been playing. Tuesday's last panel, a big kiss goodbye from Kelly. Wednesday's first panel, a big kiss hello from Cherry. Nice work if you can get it. At least he went straight to the wife this time, without first stopping off to bond with the Saint Bernard. "Honey, there's nothing between Kelly and me," he says Friday, as he and Cherry stroll by the lake. "She's in the same business as I am." Yeah, she was all up in your business, Marky Mark. There was nothing at all between you. Nothing but a thin layer of sweat and saliva, huh?

Sunday's featured animal: huge American woodpeckers! The pileated and ivory-billed varieties, compared and contrasted. The one on the right is the extinct one. "Thoughtless, century-long massacre of the ivory-bill's habitat helped to increase its disappearance." Increase its disappearance, eh? Jack's been sipping the kerosene again.

THE PHANTOM: Monday: "Monkey mail, bound for Deep Woods." The kids ask Guran if the Ghost Who Is Their Dad is "ready for e-mail." "Only monkey mail is private . . . and cheap!" Guran says. "One coconut cookie!" An e-mail joke in The Phantom. We can't wait to meet the Chip Gizmo of the Bandar. But first, we want to see Mark Trail get down here, to tell them once and for all that the mail-primate is an ape, not a monkey. It's Ape Mail, 'kay? Tuesday, the Phantom gets self-referential, if not outright self-mocking, as the kids tear open the Ape Mail: "A new adventure, perhaps," he says, apparently quoting his own captions. "We shall see." Or maybe it's "We shall see!" The syndicate credit-line cuts off the punctuation. Thursday, it's time for another history lesson--again? So soon?--with the Ghostly One narrating the secret history of the Fourth Crusade. "Their weapons, said to possess legendary power, caused much trouble for the 2nd, 5th and 16th Phantoms." Funny Paper is not so good with the maths that we want to try sussing out the pattern here. We're sure Mr. Walker's going to explain it all -- and we mean all -- before long. In the Sunday plot, Falk & Nolan fall back on that most ancient of storytelling crutches, the shrieking expository newsboy. "Extra! . . . Missing evidence against Big Boss Callahan turns up! Extra!." Time for Boss Callahan to get out of Dodge. Or Bangalla. Or not, seeing as the Phantom is lurking in the rain outside his window and rubbing his fist in anticipation.

YOU CAN WITH BEAKMAN & JAX: "Where do hot dogs come from? What are the skins made from?" asks Mary Ida Dunn of Four Oaks, N.C. Well, Mary Ida, "Hot dogs are made by grinding up pork and/or beef trimmings into a thick meat paste called hot dog batter" [itals. Jax's -- not ours!]. "The skins are exactly the same thing as the insides -- smoked meat paste with sugar, spices and chemicals." Hey, not all hot-dog skins! You can't just sidestep the natural-casing question like that. All is forgiven, though, with the news that "Multi-talented movie star Jane Mansfield [sic] was Miss Hot Dog Ambassador of 1950." Har! That's real fucking educational, B&J! Home run!

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