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Funny Paper

Right in the Mudhole

Feb. 4-10

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 2/13/2002

YESTERDAY'S TERROR IS TODAY'S FUNNIES DEP'T.: In Sunday's The Middletons, Morris tastes his mom's latest, hottest chili--which turns him scarlet, fading to a purplish pink. "That's weapons-grade chili, Mom!" he declares. When Doonesbury did its "weapons-grade chocolate" gag back in December, it wasn't funny because the anthrax was still in the mail. Now, through the healing power of time, the "weapons-grade" gag is . . . too old.

UNSATISFYING FARE/YOU CAN EAT THAT AGAIN! DEP'T.: In Monday's Cathy, Cathy waddles away from a spread of chocolate substitutes, including "low-calorie chocolate rice cakes," in search of real chocolate. The same day, in The Middletons, Morris Middleton's sadistic mother recites a list of nondiet foods, leading him to sob over his rice cake. Maybe you folks will lose more weight if you stop loading up on the carbohydrates.

GAG VS. GAG DEP'T.: Tuesday, Garfield sits up early (or is it late?) watching the farm report: "Doug, a pig just bit me." "A pig? Where did he bite you, Earl?" "Right in the mudhole, Doug." Right in the mudhole! Usually, Jim Davis seems to be using the farm jokes to get rid of his old U.S. Acres material. But U.S. Acres was never this funny. Now that we think about it, Garfield is never this funny either.

And then, in Thursday's One Big Happy, Ruthie's classmate Anthony is wearing a cast and a sling. "I broke my arm in two places," he says. "Well, if I were you," Ruthie says, "I wouldn't go back to either one!" It's the same gag as in Garfield--only less funny. Rick Detorie, Rick Detorie. . . . You know how Lithuania almost beat the NBA All-Star Team U.S.A. in the Olympics, but didn't? Well, if Lithuania had won, that would have been as bad for Team U.S.A. as this was for Team One Big Happy.

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: Weed (or "Weeder," as Mike calls him Monday) tries to get Mike to join him on a freelance project. Then Deanna announces that she's pregnant. For worse!

Sunday, Grandpa asks Iris what she wants for Valentine's Day. "A cell phone!!!" Iris says. "When you need a little friendship . . . you can ring!!" "Friendship." Good one, Iris. Booty call for Grandpa! For better! Set that bad boy for vibrate, y'hear? Did we say for better? For better!

THE BOONDOCKS: Riley is stunned to learn that C-Murder got arrested for a slaying. "If your favorite musician has 'murder' in his name," Huey says, "you might want to keep an eye on the daily papers." Sunday, it's time for a civics lesson: Huey debunks the e-mail rumor that the Voting Rights Act is going to expire in 2007, taking the franchise from African-Americans. The right to vote, he explains to a worried Caesar, is in the 15th Amendment, not the Voting Rights Act. "When does the 15th Amendment expire?" Caesar asks. "That expired November 7, 2000," Huey says.

APARTMENT 3-G: Aboard the Coast Guard cutter, Lu Ann suffers a debilitating fit of coyness, so that it takes all week for the others to finish extracting the information that a) Cap'n Greg asked her to marry him and b) she said yes. The process takes even longer because Margo--so bitter and jealous that in one panel, she looks like a cross-eyed man--keeps interrupting and talking about the hotel they're going to check into once they're back on dry land.

Sunday, in the hotel, Lu Ann takes revenge by hogging the bathroom. "When we drew lots for the first bath and you won, Lu Ann," Margo says outside the door, "I didn't realize it was a lifetime monopoly." "Lifetime monogamy, did you say?" Lu Ann simpers over her bare shoulder. By the last panel, she's stacking bubbles on her head to make a veil and singing "Here Comes the Bride."

MARY WORTH: Liz takes Woodrow Woody Forrest Pine Hills III out for a bit of recreation. "I can hardly wait to hear about all those hogs you butcher," she tells the ersatz Chicagoan/ersatz TV tycoon. "I'm a self-made expert on fun!" she says, as they pull into the lot of the "Eighty-Eight Club," which appears to have a piano on the roof. Maybe Dawn is more fun than Liz after all. "We made it in time to get a seat near the piano!" Liz says. On the roof? We take back what we took back. Party on, Liz!

By Friday, Saunders & Giella have started intercutting between Liz and "Woody" and Dawn and Wilbur--calling attention to the fact that the two women are now apparently identical. At least in black-and-white. On Sunday, the highlights in Dawn's bob are a sickly blond-orange, while Liz's are steely Superman blue. Also, when the angle's right, you can sometimes tell that Liz has bangs and Dawn doesn't.

REX MORGAN, M.D.: Melissa shows June around Merle's house, which has a bowlng alley and a movie theater. Hey, just like the Nixon White House! While June and Melissa explore--one room is full of taxidermically prepared animal heads--Merle and his ball-busting power-achiever daughter arrive. Merle sends the uppity young professional up to the kitchen to whip up some lunch.

MARK TRAIL: Preternaturally intelligent St. Bernard Andy scares off the marauding weasel and retrieves the woozy mother hen from its jaws. Lucky the gosling grows up some more and goes swimming--only to be sized up for lunch by a hungry muskie.

Sunday's featured animal: the ecologically indispensable so-called "snowshoe rabbit." "The snowshoe rabbit's correct name is the varying hare," Mark says, "for he changes his coat from summer brown to winter white!" Which is not the only way he varies, as Funny Paper learned in Bio 2, and as Mark Trail reaffirms. "About every ten years, when the snowshoe has reached a population peak, it seems that disease strikes and they gradually become scarce again. . . . Animals that prey on the hare increase and decrease as this cycle occurs, as other food is scarce in the frozen North." But there's always room for kivioq!

BEETLE BAILEY: Cameos by minor characters abound. Monday, Beetle calls his mother. Mom keeps a photo of her soldier son by the phone. What about a photo of her grandkids, Hi & Lois' Dot and Ditto? Tuesday, non-regulation-sunglasses-wearing Cosmo--the Milo Minderbinder of Camp Swampy--tells Sarge he sold the troops parachute-jumping insurance. And Sunday, Plato infuriates Dr. Bonkus by answering every question in his analysis session with another question. Hey, cut it out, soldier. You're Plato, not Socrates.

CURTIS: Curtis gets ahold of an eye-opening history text. "It says native Indians were not the first t'scalp people -- that they did it only in retaliation. . . . Some top government figures who fought to abolish slavery actually owned slaves themselves!. . . . Can you believe some Africans played a role in helping to enslave their own people to Europeans!" Also, he adds for Barry's benefit, "second children born to the same parents are doomed to wet the bed for the rest of their lives!" See, Aaron McGruder? A spoonful of urine helps the medicine go down.

THE PHANTOM: The Phantom gets in a stare-off with Noah von Belon's helicopter, then vows to follow it, to rescue his wife and his unicorn. Alone, he sets off on a timber raft for the mainland, poling off the shore of Eden Island in a wordless, soundless, exclamation point-less scenic panel.

Sunday, it's another Phantom-free color Phantom--a Phantom without white people at all, in fact, as the Bandar pygmies step in, poison arrows at the ready, to stop the Wambesi from marching against the Llongo. And those Wambesi do stop, right away. "The poison people!" they gasp. Forget all those centuries of hype about the immortal crime-stopper. Mr. Walker is nothing more than a front for the fearsome Bandar, the true lords of the jungle. Without the poison pygmies, the Phantom would just be an empty purple leotard. Let's cut the crap and turn the Sunday strip over to Guran and company, full-time. The Phantom can drop in every couple of months and pick up a royalty check.

PRINCE VALIANT: Prince Valiant and company retreat up and over a ridge with ravening wolves in pursuit. Just past the crest, the alpha wolf pounces on the prince--"and then its eyes grow warm, and the wolf licks Val's face in the friendliest possible way."



WILLY 'N ETHEL: Monday, Willy eats torn-up yellow legal paper made to look like popcorn. Tuesday, Willy inquires about buying a "grande mocha pork latte." Thursday, Willy's Big Mac fixation interferes with a marriage-counseling session.

DOONESBURY: Energy-industry fat cat Jim Andrews calls Mr. Slackmeyer on his deathbed for advice about dodging white-collar law enforcement.

FAMILY CIRCUS: Lots more wonder to be found in a winter wonderland when you're a dimwit. Monday: "A snowflake is a raindrop usin' a parachute." Tuesday: "Do I look warm enough in this sweater?" Wednesday: "I forget. Does holding the door open let the cold air in, or the warm out?" Thursday: "You can tell Billy has a cold. He weasels when he breathes."

ZIPPY: Tuesday, Griffy waxes wroth over George W. Bush's inability to say "nuclear" correctly. "When an 'average person' mispronounces 'nuclear,' it's bad enough. . . but a president . . ." Hey, Ike said "nuke-yuh-ler" too. So did Jimmy Carter, and he'd studied nuke-yuh-ler physics. Worked under Rickover on the nuke-yuh-ler submarine program. If that's all that worries you about the Bush administration, the president's not the only dumbass in the newspapers. He won't have to be able to say "nuclear" to get drunk and drop the big one on Pyongyang. He won't have to be able to say "Pyongyang" either.

NON SEQUITUR: Monday, a mugging gets oh-so-topical. "Yeah," one victim says to the other, "but you have to admit, after the Enron scandal, it's nice to see some personal integrity return to the criminal element . . ." After the Enron scandal? The Enron scandal ain't but gettin' started.

Thursday, Wiley returns to his he-said-she-said gender games. An ailing wife takes her husband's inquiry after her health as an order to get out of bed and do the housework. Har! Friday, Wiley exploits a whole new vein in his newly opened crap mine: "Interpreting business-speak." "What they mean . . . 'Bwa-ha-ha-ha! Screw you pal!!' . . . when they say . . . 'Trust me . . . it's the standard industry contract." Saturday, it's the Cats vs. People language divide. What we hear from purring: "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you . . ." What cats mean: "Get up and feed me." What Funny Paper says: You suck, Wiley. What we mean: You suck, Wiley.

HERB & JAMAAL: Stephen Bentley follows Wiley Miller into His 'n' Hers Humor Hell. What Jamaal Says: "Man, I'm full! I can't believe you ate all of yours." What Yolanda Hears: "Jeez, you're a pig." What Funny Paper Hears: the sound of Herb & Jamaal going down the crapper.

B.C.: Yet more Zardoz/Battlefield Earth material on Monday, as Fat Broad and Cute Chick study the contents of the hidden stash of books. Twenty-first century humor, they learn, has cuss words in it.

Thursday, it's time for "The Book of Phrases": "'A needle in a haystack'" is "the one thing that even 'Waldo' can't find." "Waldo"? Hey, Johhny Hart, maybe you should put that Bible down and pick up that book about 21st-century humor.

Saturday, Hart sounds the death knell for the so-called "extreme" Olympic sports, drawing a dinner-jacketed swell on a snowboard. "That's one of those freestyle moguls," Peter says. A dog standing behind the mogul is "one of those cash-sniffing mongrels," Peter adds. One of what cash-sniffing mongrels? What's a cash-sniffing mongrel? What? Huh? Have you gotten around to reading that book yet, Johnny?

BARNEY GOOGLE & SNUFFY SMITH: For his birthday -- Feb. 6* -- Snuffy gets a Big Mouth Billy Bass. Snuffy is tickled pink. More strangeness. Last week a running gag, now a real-world product placement in Hootin' Holler (albeit a clearance-bin real-world product placement). The avenging Google draws ever nearer. We can feel it.

(* A day he shares with Babe Ruth, Ronald Reagan, Axl Rose, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Bob Marley, Tom Brokaw, and Fabian**)

(** But Funny Paper is going to the Feb. 1 birthday party.)

DENNIS THE MENACE: Some of those goddamn longhairs show up in Ketcham Country Saturday. On the Mitchells' doorstep is a balding man with a ponytail, wearing a black turtleneck and a tweed jacket with elbow patches; his wife is wearing dark leggings and flats. Behind them sits a Great Dane. "DAD!" Dennis calls. "Those strange people you said moved across the street are here!"

ONE BIG HAPPY: Grandma redecorates the house, inspired by Homegirl magazine. "This is how all the Philly sistahs are keepin' their cribs!" she says.

LUANN: Tiffany wanders the halls in a top with a keyhole neckline that bares the inner curves of her youthful bosom. Asked to finish the sentence "I would die if I had to give up ____," she replies "That's easy. 'Being popular.'" Luann lowers her eyelids and stares. "I see dead people," she says, after a withering pause. Hey, Luann did a putdown! But it seems like Tiffany's wardrobe does make her popular with the fellas. Especially Greg Evans.

DILBERT: Thursday, an office koan: "Can you teach me to be apathetic like you?" Asok asks Wally. "Only if you have a strong desire not to learn," Wally replies.

HI & LOIS: Real-estate agent Lois points out that Thirsty's house is a crumbling eyesore. Hey, that's not Thirsty's house, that's Moose Miller's house. Moose Miller! Why does Moose Miller get no love in his native city? Funny Paper had to pick up a copy of The Trentonian to get us some Moose Miller--which has now been renamed Moose & Molly. The name changes, but Chester Crabtree still gets his fried chicken stolen over the backyard fence by the Miller clan. We don't care what you call it--we want Moose back in The Sun. Ditch the faux-hillbilly stylings of that North Carolina hack Doug Marlette, and bring back the homespun Baltimore ignorance that is Moose. Free Bob Weber Sr.!

Sunday, Hi dreams of life in a tropical paradise, with a bikini-clad woman scampering by and a dusky waiter bringing him an umbrella drink. Not that Funny Paper's counting or anything, but we wish we could remember ever seeing another black person in H&L's world--maybe one who wasn't wearing an apron and carrying a tray.

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