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Funny Paper

Heaven Help Her if the World Runs Out of Hyphens

June 25-July 1

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 7/4/2001

WE KNOW ART WHEN WE SEE IT AND THIS AIN'T ART DEP'T.: Funny Paper would like to call attention this week to the non-prowess of "Vernon Carne,"* who produces the weekly non-likenesses of celebrities that appear alongside capsule biographies in the semi-educational In Their Own Words section of the Sunday color supplement. "Art by Vernon Carne," the caption says each week, in lettering larger than the biography text. This week, Mr. "Carne" turns his attention to famous newslike personality and cancer widow Katie Couric. At least, that's what the name on the capsule bio says. The drawing sort of looks like the late Jim "Hey, Vern" Varney, if you drew the late Jim "Hey, Vern" Varney in felt-tip on a wet cocktail napkin and then left it in your pocket for a few days. And if after you took it out again, you started to draw a set of Chester A. Arthur-style whiskers** on it, but quit after doing the right side of the face because your hands were shaking too badly.

*(Exhaustive online research by Funny Paper suggests this means "the meat of the alder tree.")

**(Moderately exhaustive online research by Funny Paper suggests that the technical name for this facial-hair style, in which bushy sideburns flow into a moustache while the chin stays proudly bare, is the "Franz Josef."***)

*** (Cursory online research confirms that this refers to Franz Josef of the Hapsburgs [b.1830- d.1916], Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, and not

to Franz Joseph Haydn****)

**** (Who was, the briefest online research reveals, clean-shaven, and inclined to wear a powdered wig.)

THE MIDDLETONS: Ralph Dunagin and Dana Summers appear to have bought out some hack gagman's back inventory of jokes about baffling telecom innovations. We hope they got a discount, because these were call-forwarded from 1996. Monday: Midge mistakes the musical ring of Morris' new cell phone for one of "those loud boom boxes." Tuesday: Morris' cell phone has four functions. Wednesday: Morris mistakes the TV remote for his new cell phone. Thursday: Morris is startled by his vibrating cell phone. Friday: Morris makes a call-waiting crack re: Midge tying up the landline phone. Saturday: Tots try to one-up each other about the ring patterns of their moms' cell phones. At least nobody swallowed one this week.

MARK TRAIL: Funny Paper is not alone in its overanalysis of Jack Elrod's epic nature serial, as we discovered one bleary morning last week at Baltimore's own City Café. Waiting for a medium frozen cappucino, we noticed a decontextualized panel affixed to the tip cup: "I can't make out any details," Mark says, peering through binoculars, "but it looks like two men leaning over something." MARK TRAIL VISITS MT. VERNON, some wag of a barista had labeled the picture. Not that Funny Paper would stoop to that particular gag. Heh, heh--stoop, get it? No, we looked right through that panel when we saw it, to concentrate on the next one, in which Mark says, "Let's get a little closer . . . maybe we can learn what's going on!" and Rusty's face twists up in a spasm of animal terror.

PRINCE VALIANT: Prince Valiant explores the Cloaca Maxima.

MARK TRAIL: Sunday's featured animal: the wantonly toxic, reef-dwelling boxfish of the Pacific.

REX MORGAN, M.D.: June goes to Wendi Karol's art opening, where a man with an earring, overhearing her talking about the tissue-paper cutouts Karol gave her, offers her "$30,000 for the pair." When she demurs, he fruitlessly raises the bid to $40,000, then dismisses her as an "amateur." The artist herself, meanwhile, says that her headaches are gone. We know we're supposed to be tracing her symptoms--like Chef Tito's butt-rash--to environmental pollution. But we couldn't help noticing that her pain subsided the minute she tied up her heavy-looking braided hairdo into a supportive headwrap.

ZIPPY: Zippy, in unending pursuit of wacky roadside Americana, pays a visit to Maryland's own abandoned Enchanted Forest. Which would be a bigger honor if he wasn't visiting a disembodied cow head two days later.

FAMILY CIRCUS: Monday: Dolly looks out the window and announces "There's a full sun out today!" Tuesday: Jeffy mistakes a butterfly for a "pretty flower." Saturday: Dolly looks vertically up and down before crossing the street. Two words: lead abatement.

THE PHANTOM: The Phantom's so-called plan to keep Victoria Carter from finding out his secrets goes awry when he finds her leafing through The Chronicles, which The Ghost Who Walks evidently left lying around the john or something. Way to keep a secret, Mr. Walker. Now there's nothing to do but tell her the whole . . . damn . . . thing.

CATHY: Now that Irving is a food neurotic too, Cathy tells him about how various different diets drive away various numbers of friends. Confidential to Cathy Guisewite: also readers. Sunday: Cathy goes shopping for sunglasses.

MOMMA: Momma puts Marylou in a booster chair in a restaurant and criticizes Francis' posture. "I got that great job, the boss thinks I'm a genius, and I'm going to be a huge success," cries Francis (who just three days earlier was asking, "How come there was enough brains in the family for Thomas, but not for me?").

"They hired a boy who stands all bent over like a banana?" Momma says, witheringly. Jeez, Mell Lazarus--does your own mom read this?

LUANN: A hot cripple named Zane makes a play for Bernice, who is too broken up over Royce's graduation to professional handicap-assist dog to smell the testosterone wafting her way. "So are you ignoring me 'cuz I'm boring or 'cuz I'm a wheelie or what?" he asks good-naturedly, with the wisdom that all stereotypical handicapped persons possess.

MARY WORTH: Ian, attempting to scare Wilbur away from his ne'er-do-well sister-in-law, gets sloppy drunk and starts ranting. "Here's to Lizzy King-Girdam-Wayne-Hoag!" he declaims, staring woozily at his uplifted glass, hair askew. "Each hyphen represents a divorce, heaven help her if the world runs out of hyphens!" Overcome with emotion, he slops his drink on Wilbur.

THE LOCKHORNS: Leroy dons a comical nose-and-glasses disguise to deal with the shame of attending a "chick flick." Don't worry, Leroy. Nobody thinks you relate to your wife.

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: April gets purple streaks put in her hair.

KUDZU: Simply by hearing the hurking sounds that half the Funny Paper team made on seeing the Wednesday strip, the other half was able to guess the punchline. Q: "Dear Preacher, Give me one good reason to believe in a literal Hell . . . " A: "Survivor 3."

WILLY 'N ETHEL: Funny Paper's favorite couple shops at Al's Drive-In Furniture.

APARTMENT 3-G: Joyce, the Professor, and Gabriella are all brought together at the girls' party. The Professor promptly snubs Joyce for Gabriella, evidently being more into December than May.

GASOLINE ALLEY: The bishop isn't just a dead ringer for Joel, he's Joel's cousin--"Aunt Theodosia's boy, Noel!" So Jim Scancarelli isn't using wildly improbable physical coincidence as a plot engine after all. It's just inbreeding.

SALLY FORTH: Sally and Ted shop for a camera.

GARFIELD: Garfield does vaudeville on the fence-top. The joke here is that Garfield isn't funny. Which is pretty funny when we think about it.

CURTIS: Curtis admits to Barry that he thinks "rap is stuck in a rut." Still, he loads up on CDs. "Hey," he explains, "if all they make available to eat is pinecones, then people will eat pinecones." This would account for Mother Goose & Grimm.

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