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Funny Paper

Your Dad Was Quite the Stallion . . .

July 30-Aug. 5

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 8/8/2001

INTO THE WAYBACK MACHINE DEP'T.: Recalling that story about the late Hank Ketcham reading the Sears, Roebuck catalog while living in European exile in order to keep Dennis the Menace abreast of American trends, we feel a sudden urge to put a bunch of other strips on the Sears, Roebuck mailing list. Except there is no Sears, Roebuck catalog anymore, which is kind of the point here. "Deliver us from Riverdance," cries the Rev. Will B. Dunn in Tuesday's Kudzu. Um, Rev, we've already been delivered from Riverdance. That was two Michael Flatley projects ago, Riverdance. In Wednesday's Garfield, Jon does a spit-take and asks, "What is a karaoke machine doing in the living room?" Good question. If this were 1992, it might have been in the living room as a topical gag; now, it should be gathering dust in the basement with the Yugo, answering-machine, and Olestra jokes. Then on Saturday, Wiley--king of the answering-machine jokes, come to think of it--offers us a waiter named Brad: "I'll be your ponytailed attitude problem for the evening." Surly, ponytailed waiters . . . golly, Mister Peabody, it's 1988!

DEAD MAN TALKING DEP'T.: One panel of Sunday's Classic Peanuts features a message on Snoopy's doghouse: "Happy birthday, Amy!" Is this some greeting Charles Schulz was slipping to someone in 1973, and if so, does the rerun strip fall on the same date? August 5, 1973 was also a Sunday. Hey, Amy, wherever you are: Funny Paper finds this touching yet ineffably spooky.

DENNIS THE MENACE: More like Dennis the Ménage, as the late Hank Ketcham's cartoonarium infuses the week with weird erotic tension. The randy adventures begin Wednesday as a swaggering Dennis--wearing fringe, 10-gallon hat, cowboy boots, and what's either a pair of chaps or disturbingly tight pants--tells a smaller boy clutching a cowboy doll, "Now you can tell your friends you've met a real cowboy, kid." "Now"? What did Dennis just do? Thursday he climbs on a hassock and tells his teenage babysitter he hopes she needs some exercise. Yeah, he's clutching a baseball and mitt, but it's already dark outside. Dennis is playing indoors. Then on Saturday, at the beach, our perpetually five-and-a-half-year-old protagonist ogles the curves on a bikini-straining bathing beauty. "It looks like she's gotten a little too big for her britches, huh, Dad?" Somebody's outgrown somebody's britches, that's for sure. Dennis has been five and a half for 50 years now, so he's really 55 and a half. Or maybe that makes him 275 years old. Either way, he was bound to get curious sooner or later.

LUANN: If Dennis is starting to get R-rated this week, Luann--for whom sexual tension is a way of life--is veering into NC-17 territory. In the week's plot line, Luann and Gunther agree to go fetch Mrs. Horner's medicine from the pharmacy. "If you kids would humor me, I'd love to see you bike together," Mrs. Horner says. "The way guys and gals did when I was your age." So the ever-obedient Gunther rides Luann on his handlebars till pain-stars come shooting out her butt and the vibration makes her drop Mrs. Horner's meds off a bridge.

Then, on Sunday--on the Lord's day--whew. "Mom," Luann asks, "were you and Dad like, all passionate when you met?" "Well . . . we were pretty romantic," Mrs. DeGroot says. "Your dad was quite the stallion . . . I remember when he spent the night in the guest room at my folks' house. I accidentally walked into the bathroom while he was showering . . . " At which point the freaked-out Luann flees, as does Funny Paper.

APARTMENT 3-G: It's a week-long one-man show by Cousin Blaze, who drops by so his cousin Lu Ann can take him to "the Museum of Very Mod Art." The trip to MoVMA has to wait, the 2 other G's tell him, because cousin Lu Ann has gone sailing with her old high school flame Greg. Blaze blanches: "I heard Greg was involved in smuggling . . . drugs . . . " The girls are aghast. Blaze keeps rolling. "I can't believe my cousin is alone with Greg Mugfitts . . . . Lu Ann is alone . . . on a boat . . . with a criminal!"

"We have to call someone," Margo says, her hands and face clenched with fear.

"I know an actor on NYPD Blue . . . Let's call him!" Blaze smirks. "Ha! I sure did have you two going!" Ha! Alex Kotzky just wasted a whole week! Who'd have guessed Cousin Blaze liked pulling girls' legs so much?

DOONESBURY: Zonker asks B.D. how he can be sure B.D. was really in 'Nam. "Because, you moron, you were there!" B.D. says. "You followed me around for the school paper!" That's right--he did. The stoner freak from the college paper, trailing the star quarterback around 'Nam. Doing Vietnam War jokes while Our Boys were still dying. God, Doonesbury had some balls on it back then. Zonker had forgotten all about those days. So had Garry Trudeau.

HI & LOIS: Trixie shows a precocious--and depressive--streak as she rejects Lois' offer to replace a dangerously sharp pencil with a box of crayons. "I'm in a monochromatic mood," the tot frowns in her I-can't-talk-yet thought balloon. Mood? Wait till she figures out she's in black-and-white six days a week.

JUMBLE: A "JAM" SESSION, A REAL "SLEEPER," YOUR TEMPER, A "GOING" CONCERN, ON THE "BEATEN" PATH, A "CALLING."

B.C.: Monday, Fat Broad objects to being called "fat." Tuesday, Johnny Hart takes another whack at the powerful atheist lobby. Wednesday, fatigued from his exertions on Jesus' behalf, Hart does a two-vultures-in-the-desert gag that has nothing whatsoever to do with theology, prehistory, or any identifiable part of the B.C. universe. Nor does it have anything to do with humor.

CATHY: Cathy continues car shopping, with a break on Sunday to go shopping for fat-free food.

MARMADUKE: Marmaduke goes car-shopping. One day. Finished. Got that, Cathy Guisewite?

MARK TRAIL: Mark, who knows right from wrong, remonstrates with the Hillwilliams--Luke Hillwilliams, he says his name is--who shot at our hero and his boy companion last week. "Shooting at someone is serious business!" he says, seizing the bear-and-ginseng-poaching Marylander by the shirt front after knocking him to the ground. Sadly, Luke's brother is not named Bo, but Lamar.

Sunday's featured animal: the giraffe. "Dappled a freak of the African veld . . . " the piece begins. "Dappled a freak"? Is that some of that Burroughs automatic-writing stuff? Or are there just no proofreaders in Lost Forest? How do you get a typo in hand-lettered text? Funny Paper knew not many people read this strip, but we used to think at least Jack Elrod did.

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: April goes to camp. For worse.

CURTIS: Moocher Delroy Pogsdale recognizes Curtis and accuses him of having called Delroy a "derogatory name." Hmm . . . "bullet-head"? "Fat fuck"? What could Curtis have possibly called Delroy Pogsdale (occupation: moocher) to disturb his refined sensibilities so? "He called me . . . a 'moocher'!!"

KID CITY: Funny Paper learns something from the educational section of the Sunday color supplement: "Wearing your hat back-to-front isn't a fashion fad invented by today's hip-hop stars. During the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century, the bicorne hat became popular. To tell the British and French armies apart, the British officers wore it with the two corners facing front and back, while the French wore it with the two corners sticking out on either side of their head." That's more a 90-degree rotation than a back-to-front switch, but Funny Paper dares not quibble. Nor are we going to check the accuracy of that putative fact.

JUMP START: Heavy-smoking Officer Ashburn has chest pains, and doctors tell him he has to quit puffing. Clear another bed in the Thirsty Thurston Memorial Center for Cartoon Characters Whose Names Don't Make Sense Anymore.

GASOLINE ALLEY: A week-long public-service announcement for the Life Ring emergency service for those who have fallen and can't get up, ending with the introduction of a bucktoothed, bespectacled, and fedora-wearing new character, Life Ring rep Hercules Ogle. Funny Paper's spider sense is tingling: This is going to be a really excruciating plot line. Unless maybe they finally kill Walt.

REX MORGAN, M.D.: Rummaging around in Tito's basement, June gets a whiff of mold. Perhaps it's the dread black stachybotrys!

SALLY FORTH: Hilary wants to wear her pajama pants out in public.

THE PHANTOM: The "ghost pirates" go on an archaism-spouting crime spree. Seeing a security guard's revolver, they call it a "musket." When did anyone ever call a pistol a "musket"? Not only are they in a time warp, they're ass-ignorant of basic technology. "Strike your sails--or die," one tells a train engineer. "This landship is gold-laden, yes?" Priceless! Another security guard tells them to "freeze." "What command is this, insolent cypher?" demands a masked pirate-wench. "My plain word to you is--DIE!!" But the Phantom, who knows from fake ghosts, smells a rat: "Ghost interested in cash transports and gold shipments? Hard to believe."

Sunday, the Ghost Who Walks finally gets around to saying he'll help Prince Bakhmet. Cont'd . . .

MOTHER GOOSE & GRIMM: Grimm goes to police-dog academy to learn to be a police dog. All-punch-line Cliffs Notes version: "You're the guy from 'the Village People' right? . . . Dennis Franz's butt! . . . Dude, Where's My Car? III . . . Who's in it for the Krispy Kremes? . . . You're one smelly Boy Scout." Trust us, they're a lot funnier out of context.

ZIPPY: Failed Hollywood dealmaker Bill Griffith expresses Shrek envy.

FAMILY CIRCUS: Clunky joke, clunky format. "The ice is tinklin' in my glass," Billy declares in a speech balloon, while Dolly gets the standard caption-space for her reply: "Oooo! That's not nice, Billy! I'm TELLIN' MOMMY what you just said!" That's not a double entendre, it's like a negative-one entendre. A non-tendre, if you will. Who's laughing at this? Maybe Paul Harvey thought it was a pisser.

And the awkward balloon-and-caption structure calls attention to a strange fact about the Circus: It's not set up for dialogue. There's no easy way, in Keaneland, for two people to mutually communicate. Members of the Family can talk at each other, or about each other, but not to each other. When one speaks, the rest are mute and passive observers, like a whole family of Dead Grandpas. Maybe that's how Bil Keane likes his families.

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