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Funny Paper

Y'know What Happened to Grandma in Mexico!

Aug. 20-26

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 8/29/2001

WORST JOKE OF THE WEEK PAGEANT DEP'T.: Maybe the gag writers are all at the beach. This week, Funny Paper noticed an uptick in the number of upchuck-inducing attempts at humor. Mike Peters, naturally enough, sets the bar low in Tuesday's Mother Goose & Grimm: "We met each other through a carbon dating service," a skeleton couple tells some other skeletons. Also on Tuesday, The Lockhorns gives us Leroy retching over the dinner table, as Loretta says, "Sorry, Leroy . . . I must have lost track of the thyme."

Thursday, MG&G stoops still lower, with a chicken in an apron bringing out dinner: "I made it from scratch." Funny Paper likes how Mike Peters makes sure to use the bold lettering, so no one misses his subtle wordplay. Meanwhile, on the opposite page, Wiley's Non Sequitur clanks out a panel labeled "Safety Precautions at Trumpland Amusement Park" showing the mouth of a "Tunnel of Love," with a sign before it reading no one allowed without a pre-nup. Gosh, three different captions or signs, all to poke fun at one no-longer-controversial habit of a public figure who nobody cares about anymore. Besides, it's not the "Tunnel of Wedding."

And on Saturday, the late Jeff MacNelly's Shoe does a diner joke. "I'd need a magnifying glass to find the meat in this chowder," a customer complains. "I know," Roz says. "I'm taking the fish guy to small-clams court."

Small-clams court. But the winner--the perpetrator of the lamest, most pustulent joke of the week--is none of the above. The turd-crusted tiara goes, in a late-week upset, to The Sun Crossword, which offered a four-part puzzle on Friday: 17 across: "Start of a quip." 24 across: "Part 2 of quip." 43 across: "Part 3 of quip." 56 across: "End of the quip." The quip: ASLONGASTHEREIS . . . ANOTHERTEST . . . YOUWILLFIND . . . PRAYERINSCHOOLS. Feh! Hurk! "There she is/ Miss Un-Fun-nia/ There she is/ Our bad deal/ Dream of a million hacks /Who are never witty . . ."

YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN! DEP'T.: "Maybe I can find an intelligent homely guy and clean him up," one gym bunny tells another in Tuesday's Dilbert, launching the week's plot line. Where have we seen this one before? Oh, that's right . . . in Dilbert. The week of May 21-27, when Alice decided to take a loser man and whip him into shape. Something on your mind, Scott Adams?

YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN AGAIN! DEP'T.: Sunday in Luann, Bernice puts a question to the heroine: "Imagine you could change one thing about you. What would it be?" Luann goes off into a reverie, imagining herself with grotesquely huge lips, Farrah hair, an Oscar, big perky breasts, etc. "As long as we're imagining, could we make it 12 things?" she asks. Or 13, depending on how you count the breasts.

In the same Sunday supplement, Sally Forth, Hilary puts a question to Sally: "If you could have one wish, what would you want?" Sally, apparently content with her cup size, goes for world peace and family health. "It's hard to stop at one thing when you're wishing," she says.

FAMILY CIRCUS: The reruns keep coming, as the xenophobic clodhoppers of the Circus Family continue to bungle through Gotham circa 1977. "Is it okay to drink New York water?" Billy asks in a restaurant. "Y'know what happened to Grandma in Mexico!" Wednesday, Daddy is stumped by all them foreign flags outside the United Nations. "That's the Danish flag . . . or no, that's Swiss . . . then the Australian flag, or is that New Zealand?" Now, Funny Paper will be damned if we can remember the difference between Australia's Union Jack-in-the-corner-of-a-blue-field design and New Zealand's Union Jack-in-the-corner-of-a-blue-field design. But Switzerland? Hello? Red flag with a square white cross? You know, like on the knife?

Finally, on Saturday they check out. "We HAFTA go home, Jeffy!" Dolly says. "Daddy ran out of money."

Also out of vacation: Sunday brings back the "Jeff and Bil Keane" byline of today, with Thel taking Billy and Dolly back-to-school shopping. "BOO! I don't even want to think about goin' back to school!" gripes Billy, stomping into the store. Next panel, the kids are coming out the door with new school supplies--skipping out the door. "YEEAAAY!" Billy whoops. "I can't wait till school starts!" No human child has ever reacted that way to a new backpack. What happened inside that store?

APARTMENT 3-G: The girls prepare for their spur-of-the-moment voyage to the Bahamas with what seems to be--hallelujah!--the only reality-TV reference in the funnies all week. "Margo is going to be the first one voted off the boat!" Lu Ann tells Tommie. Margo, meanwhile, prepares for life on the bounding main by getting a massage, allowing Bolle + Trusiani to draw acres of her bare pink flesh on Sunday: "Oh, that's it . . . uhm . . . oh . . . mmm . . . I'm sailing away, Ernesto . . ."

ZIPPY: "Real news flash: Jim Davis, creator of 'Garfield', is doing a new strip based on the 'Mr. Potato Head' toy" (Funny Paper, Aug. 6). Hey, where's our "Tip o' the Pin"? Bill Griffith eats our dust.

GASOLINE ALLEY: An addled and agitated Walt continues to fail to understand his Life Ring service; Jim Scancarelli continues to think this is somehow funny. "Uncle Walt!" Skeezix cries. "What are you doing?"

"Giving that loud voice that scares me a taste of his own medicine!" says Walt, wild-eyed, preparing to blast an air horn at a Life Ring operator over the phone. God, just let the poor man die.

WILLY 'N ETHEL: Willy to a drinking buddy, Tuesday: "I thought Ethel called me a 'sleazeball,' but I was relieved to find out what she actually called me was a 'sleaze bag.'

"Which," Willy adds, "as you know, is only the container."

LUANN: Luann, overcome by Gunther's heroism, sucks his face.

ZIGGY: Way too much self-awareness from America's favorite self-aware homunculus. Wednesday, Ziggy thinks his reflection in the medicine-chest mirror has company. Friday, a mechanic standing over Ziggy's car says, "We can't find the cause of the funny noise, sir . . . Why don't you bring it back when it becomes hilarious!!" Funny Paper can't wait that long. Saturday, Tom Wilson & Tom II give us Ziggy still in bed. "I can't get up yet," he says. "My cartoonist hasn't come up with today's idea." That is, like, so pomo. It's like, the idea of not having an idea is the idea. Heavy. What is the sound of one hand clapping? One hundred percent more clapping than Ziggy is hearing right now.

KUDZU: Nasal heads for "boy band camp" and Veranda heads for "Camp Britney." Where does that Doug Marlette get his ideas?

MARMADUKE: Friday, Marmaduke coils his tongue alarmingly after eating an entire jar of peanut butter. Saturday, Brad Anderson does a scene of Marmaduke eating an apple from an ultra-low angle, so the perspective is all looming and screwy. We can't even tell where the floor's supposed to be.


THE PHANTOM: Seeking information on the "ghost ship," the Phantom consults the old seer Mozz. "You doubt the ghost ship because it looked, well . . . well . . . 'ghostly'?" the Phantom asks.

"When ghosts are real, they seem so," Mozz says. "Just my experience." Hey, who knows more about fake ghosts, Mozz or the Phantom?

Sunday brings an oddly formatted six-panel strip, with the first panel a generic Phantom title card. Then come two panels of recap. Then three panels to show the cliff-climbing Phantom kicking loose some scree, alerting Marshal Zebal's troops to his presence. The pacing is just falling apart here.

REX MORGAN M.D.: June goes to talk to Wendi and Tito's landlord, Mr. Franks, about the possibility of toxic mold growing in his property. Mr. Franks turns out to be the vaguely Walkenesque, menacing-yet-mincing androgyne who tried to buy Wendi's paper cutouts from June at the party. "Yes, that's the twit from the party last night!" Franks says, peeking through the blinds. The party last night--which, by Funny Paper's reckoning, started around the first week of June. Rex Morgan, M.D. has spent the entire summer covering less than 24 hours. We know time ebbs and flows funny in the soaps, but this is absurd. Little Sarah Morgan is going to be speaking in complete sentences by the time the sun sets on this day.

B.C.: Two clams discuss the afterlife. "When we die," one says, "we shed these earthly shells, and go to that big bowl of chowder in the sky." This is the evangelism by which Johnny Hart hopes to convert the Jews? How 'bout a talking pork chop?

NON SEQUITUR: In Sunday's installment of "The lives of Homer, the reluctant soul," Homer turns to face the audience. Don't go dragging us into this, Wiley.

DENNIS THE MENACE: Margaret proposes that her doll get married to Dennis' action figure. Funny Paper is captivated by Dennis' action figure. It appears to be a guy with a dark beard and moustache, wearing a blue uniform with a sash. What action figure is that? It looks like Jurgen Prochnow as Duke Leto Atriedes in Dune. "The tooth . . . the tooth!" We hear you can still get a lot of those Dune action figures in their original packaging.

MARK TRAIL: Rusty and Taylor trail the older Hillwilliamses to a cave, wait for them to leave, then go looking inside. "Ginseng roots, deer, bear parts. . . . Your uncles Luke and Lamar are big-time poachers!" Rusty tells Taylor. As Rusty snaps pictures, Luke suddenly remembers he left his knife back in the cave. Let's overlook the feebleness of the oh-no-I-have-to-go-back plot device for a moment and focus on its substance--Luke leaving his knife in the cave. Funny Paper went to school with our share of Hillwilliamses, OK? Luke did not leave his knife in no cave. Luke keeps his knife, which is a 7-inch Buck lockblade, by his side at all times, in a leather pouch on his belt. How else is he supposed to eat, or to clean his teeth?

Sunday's featured animal: the world's 2,000 ecologically important species of bats. "Bats are not going to swoop down and bite us on the neck. . . . They are generally harmless flying mammals." Interesting word there, "generally."

MARY WORTH: Ian keeps blathering about his evil sister-in-law, whom he obviously wishes he could fuck. We forget whose side we're supposed to be on in this one.

SHOE: MacNelly Productions spends onetwothreefourfivesixseven panels Sunday on a one-liner: "I'll never forget his final words. . . . 'Hand me that knife, the bread's stuck in the toaster.'"

BEETLE BAILEY: Finally, a job done right. Mort Walker's Sunday strip begins with Sarge rousting the troops out of the sack at 5 a.m. Then, in one panel after another, characters greet Private Bailey, who responds at first with a giant "Z." Then the Z fractures into bits, the bits reform into littler Z's, and the little Z's turn into a mumble, eventually yielding to lucid speech. That's all there is to it: Beetle wakes up. But the pacing is precise, the drawings strung together efficiently and engagingly. The details--Beetle's half-smile when he's far enough along to mutter "moring"--sell the strip perfectly, panel by panel. It's a gem. Not a precious gem or anything, but a gem nonetheless.

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