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Funny Paper

I want to look at your BASEMENT

July 23-29

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 8/1/2001

SUCKA MC'S DEP'T.: Week after week, Wiley's Non Sequitur--Latin for "not funny"--ladles out a watery gruel of would-be cynicism: trite lawyer jokes, trite bad-government jokes, trite artists-are-phonies jokes. We know it, we hate it, we say so every week or two. But this past Saturday, there was a new and indigestable lump in the oatmeal. "The Hip-Hop Crossword Puzzle" said the caption on the long-form one-panel, which showed a ridiculously elementary crossword grid, seven words of four letters each.

Our most charitable reading was that Wiley was trying to make a joke about the use of naughty language in hip-hop. Four letters, get it? Haw! But it doesn't work as a crossword. Starting with 1 Down, and using the standard set of American cuss words, we realized that whatever 2 Across was supposed to be, it had to have either a K or a T for its second letter. Maybe an S, if "piss" and "tits" even count in this post-Carlin era. Let's see . . . SKIT? No. FTCK? No. CTNT? CKCK? Funny Paper is renowned for the depths of its limited vocabulary, but we couldn't find a word that fit. Funny Paper cago en la leche de tu puta madre, Wiley, you ignorant DTCKHEAD.

So we're forced to go to our less charitable reading of the strip, which is that Wiley is saying that hip-hop is by and for morons. Specifically, morons with limited verbal skills. Which demonstrates that Wiley has no idea what hip-hop is, beyond what he heard on Nightline once, or something. Hip-hop is wordplay, you jackass. You can put that in your don't-know-what-I-said book. When's the last time you had the wit to rhyme "dot-com" with "holy Qu'ran"? Where does the author of the clunky Sunday-color-supplement so-called parody "Ele: In the Time Before Man" get off sneering at the wordsmanship of the hip-hop community? If we were choosing up sides for team Scrabble, Funny Paper would damn well pick Kool Keith or Busta Rhymes ahead of anyone on the comics page. Hell, we'd take Master P. over Wiley.

And people wonder why newspapers are in trouble. Suppose you're 10 or 12 years old and you've been reading the funnies since you were knee-high to Dennis the Menace. Now, just as you're starting to draw little identity-boxes around "cool" and "uncool," here's this blowhard Wiley, making a lame attempt to sneer at a part of pop culture he's too old and dumb and white to understand. Do you read this strip and say, "Jeez, right on, Wiley, hip-hop is dumb"? No. You say, "Jeez, the comics page is for losers." And you flip on the teevee and watch Jackass.

COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS DEP'T.: None of the gagsters were repeating each other, exactly, this week. But Funny Paper detected certain . . . tendencies. Themes. Jump Start and Cathy both dwell on car shopping, with particular attention to sport-utility vehicles, while Momma's Francis thinks about buying a truck. Meanwhile, Walt's anti-telemarketer dementia in Gasoline Alley is picked up by the Family Circus, as Thel yells--out the window--"It's NAP TIME for the three of us! Telemarketers, are you listening?" At least Walt's still clearheaded enough to use the phone.

And what with the seashore beckoning and whales beaching themselves for wire-service reporters on slow news days, there's a definite aquatic-life thing going on. Ziggy and B.C. both do listening-to-seashell numbers. Ziggy and Family Circus and Dennis the Menace all do whale-related jokes. And Dennis' whale joke involves a goldfish, to go with a different goldfish gag in the Circus. Glub blub.


REX MORGAN M.D.: June Gale, nurse-cum-epidemiologist, stanches Chef Tito's nosebleed and goes hunting for the source of the art district's symptom cluster. "Can we take deez cotton balls out of my dose?" Tito asks. "Ten more minutes," June says. "In the meantime . . . I want to take a look at your basement." But he's not bleeding from his basement!

Down below, June and Berna finally start making the needed observations. "This room has the same musty smell that Wendi Karol's den has!" June says. "Isn't that wall facing Wendi's building?"

"Yes," Berna says, "but there's a fenced-off easement in between!" Cue sinister music.

MARY WORTH: So proud are Saunders & Giella of the mystifying fake youthspeak they put in Dawn Weston's mouth last week, they deploy it again on Monday. "Look me in the eye, Pappy!" Dawn cries. "And tell me Liz Hoag isn't pushing your buttons!" Like Funny Paper, Wilbur is confused: "I'm not sure I understand what you mean about Mrs. Hoag 'pushing my buttons'." So Dawn clarifies: "We're talking about Liz Hoag, and whether her 'vibes' are tingling your antennae."

DENNIS THE MENACE: Monday, Dennis kneels in his darkly cross-hatched bedroom and offers a disturbing little prayer: " . . . And take care of yourself, 'cause if anything happens to you, we're in a lot of trouble." Um, Dennis . . . your Creator has been dead since June.

Wednesday, Dennis and Joey engage in geophagy.

YOU CAN WITH BEAKMAN & JAX: Beakman and Jax seem a little nonplussed by an inquiry from one Courtney Brandt of Saratoga, Calif.: "Who invented robots?"

"Dear Courtney," Beakman replies, "A robot is not a thing. It's more an idea. The idea is an all-purpose machine. Any job you give a robot, it should be able to do. But those kind of robots haven't been invented yet . . . " And from there, the discussion veers to Karel Capek and robot welding arms. Best part: Without comment, B&J display side-by-side photos of C-3PO (ca. 1977) and the all-but-identical she-bot from Fritz Lang's Metropolis (ca. 1927). Ah, the happy days when George Lucas cribbed his ideas from classic movies instead of coming up with his own weak stuff.

THE PHANTOM: We begin a new daily plot line: The seas off the port of Mawitaan are haunted by what appears to be a ghost ship, complete with old-fashioned rigging and a masked and busty figurehead. The Phantom listens to the Coast Guard radio traffic on his gigantic primitive receiver. They're still using vacuum tubes in Bangalla, it seems.

In the Sunday strip, the Ghost Who Walks finishes subduing Prince Bakhmet's attackers, prompting Graham Nolan to dust off one of Funny Paper's favorite Old Jungle Sayings: "The Phantom is rough on roughnecks." Good thing they spoke English in the Old Jungle.

PRINCE VALIANT: The trident-wielding gladiators of the Cloaca Maxima flee before the unbound Valiant and the "Singing Sword." "Sadly, they have forgotten that the sewers are home to the descendants of all manner of creatures from the Roman amphitheaters," John Cullen Murphy writes, to go with a not-very-sorrowfully rendered panel of huge crocodiles closing in.

ZIPPY: The always-welcome Mr. Toad shows up Saturday to end a discussion of the characters' favorite dictums. "All dictums are a form of complaining or explaining," Mr. Toad declares.

HERB & JAMAAL: In a Monday golf gag, Herb and Jamaal stretch the cliché that golf is a good walk spoiled out to 28 words of dialogue. It isn't any fresher in expanded form.

CURTIS: Speaking of word counts, on Monday Curtis defends rap music to Barry in a dialogue that sprawls to a word-balloon-straining 95 words--97 if "horse-hash" and "puddin'-heads" count as two each. On Thursday, the boys get home and see mooching new neighbor Delroy Pogsdale--who has, by this point, sunk to asking the Wilkenses for toilet paper--leading Curtis to do an eye-popping, backward-leaping flinch-take. Curtis, it seems, has met Mr. Pogsdale before. Funny Paper can't quite remember how Curtis wronged Mr. P.

THE BOONDOCKS: After announcing that Monday is "Bad Black Movie Day," Caesar spends the week plotting to rewrite white movies with black names. Funny Paper hopes he's a more efficient recycler than Herb & Jamaal's Stephen Bentley is.


MARK TRAIL: One of the poaching Hillwilliamses--with a hawk nose, a DA, and late-Elvis sideburns--fires a warning shot at Mark and Rusty. "They may have just been trying to scare us out of this area," Mark says. "Well, it scared me," snivels the cowardly Rusty. Sheesh, how'd Mark Trail get stuck with such a worthless sidekick? Trade Rusty to the Phantom for a Bandar poison pygmy. Throw in a second-round draft pick and some cash and the Ghost Who Walks might take the deal.

Not that Trail needs the help. By Saturday, he has tracked down the mountain folk and--still with his trusty camera around his neck--is ambushing the gun-toting poacher with a flying tackle.

SALLY FORTH: Marcie voluntarily hits the glass ceiling, turning down a promotion to avoid working for a high-pressure boss.

BEETLE BAILEY: Beetle voluntarily hits the glass ceiling, starting a fight with Sarge to avoid getting a seniority-based promotion.

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: Things take a farcical turn as scary, control-freak mother of the bride Mrs. Sobinski storms into the bridal boutique just as Elly is about to treat Deanna to a wedding gown. The ever-resourceful boutique clerk hides Elly in a dressing room till the crisis blows over.

MOTHER GOOSE & GRIMM: Wednesday, Mike Peters botches a one-panel joke about "Buffy the Umpire Slayer" (which Peters thinks is so funny, he puts it in quotes himself), referring to a "silver stake" in the ump's heart. Silver? Why? Vampire slaying doesn't require silver. Maybe the ump was killed by the Transcontinental Railroad.

Thursday brings "Where we get plutonium from," with scientists following what's supposed to be Disney's Pluto with a poop-scoop and a Geiger counter. This is the worst drawing of Pluto we've ever seen. Fair-use crusader that we are, Funny Paper still thinks Disney should sue.

And Friday brings a still worse strip. "I got this dribble glass and whoopie cushion at Goodwill," Mother Goose says. "Somewhat of a misnomer, isn't it?" says Grimm. Yeah, if Goodwill actually were a gag-gift store, it might be a misnomer. But it's not. So the joke is pointless.

LUANN: Old Mrs. Horner, after advising Luann about love and fate, introduces her to "one of my special men." It's Gunther! For some reason, Greg Evans is drawing Gunther in especially geeky form in this plot line.

DOONESBURY: The aimless college kids try to hack into Dick Cheney's heart. We like.

THE LOCKHORNS: Thursdays strip ventures into Beakman & Jax territory with a baking-soda-and-vinegar line.

APARTMENT 3-G: Lu Ann makes waves with her shipboard-dwelling long-lost classmate Greg. We think Greg is supposed to be good-looking, but his hairstyle and face change in every single panel on Sunday, as Bolle and Trusiani keep rotating his head to try to figure out how to draw him.

WILLY 'N ETHEL: Willy and a companion, too loaded to walk, crawl into the house through "a special door Ethel made for me and the cat."

"The weird thing is," Willy adds, "I didn't even know the cat drank."

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