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Funny Paper

Good Heavens, That's No Deer in the Trap!

April 23-29

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 5/2/2001

You Can Say That Again! Dep't.: Weight loss is in the air this week. Monday in Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, Loweezy tosses fretfully in bed, dreaming first of eating cake, then of eating a carrot. "Dadburn diet!" (By Friday, however, she's scarfing down the absent Snuffy's share of dinner.) The same day, in Mother Goose & Grimm, Mother Goose puts Grimm on short rations, telling him the vet says he's overweight. On Tuesday and Wednesday in their eponymous strip, Herb complains to himself and Jamaal about the diet his doctor has put him on. In Thursday's Momma, Marylou announces that she's on a lettuce, rice, and water diet--to which Momma responds with a crack about Marylou's skinniness, thereby further undermining her body image, thereby driving her further into eating-disorder-land. And, finally, on Saturday, a doctor tells Hagar the Horrible that he needs to diet. All this in a week when Cathy, the Fertile Crescent of fat-anxiety gags, is occupied with Dilbert-style material on corporate downsizing. It's as if all of Toonland is pitching in to cover for Cathy Guisewhite.

God Watch Dep't.: In Tuesday's B.C., Johnny Hart proves yet again that evangelism and comic strips don't mix, with a lame gag about 3-in-1 Oil and the Trinity. On Thursday in Marmaduke--Marmaduke!--a child, pestered while attempting to pray, suggests that the big not-so-melancholy Dane's antics may be pushing even the vast limits of God's patience. "You'd better start behaving, Marmaduke . . . I think even He can run out of forgiveness." Funny Paper is shocked by this blasphemy--nobody ever gets tired of Marmaduke's hijinks!

Also, in Kudzu, there are two lame Bible-translation jokes. See below.

THE MIDDLETONS: The Worst Gag of the Week award goes to Monday's two-kids-and-a-stuffed-rabbit strip:

"Wanna see my bunny?"

"He's cute! Hey! He has a radio! What kind of music is he listening to?"

(Funny Paper hates itself for even typing this.)

" . . . "

(Deep breath, Funny Paper. It's almost over.)

"Hip hop."

FAMILY CIRCUS: A jarring note of self-awareness creeps into the Keane universe. On Friday, Jeffy leans back smugly in bed and asks Mommy, "Did I do anything today that was cute enough to tell Grandma about?"

Then on Saturday, the whole cosmic fabric of the Circus is ripped open: As Daddy, unshaven and in grubby clothes, tries to hide around a corner, Dolly calls out to a passing woman, "Hi, Mrs. Clarke! Wanna meet my daddy?"

Where to begin? FP has never seen Bil Keane's alter ego in such a disheveled state--such advanced slovenliness is usually comics shorthand for a man coming off a two-day bender. The whole gag is predicated on the idea of social shame. There is no shame in Family Circus! The family's public and private faces are one and the same. That's the whole point. They don't even have thought balloons.

And now, suddenly, we see signs of an inner life. Alarming signs. Mrs. Clarke, off down the street, is pert and slim. And why is Daddy shrinking from her gaze? He's already gone out in public in his grubby clothes, after all. No, the problem is that a woman is seeing him. A woman who, now that we think of it, looks remarkably like Thel--Mommy--only a bit less pretty. Aren't they always?

MARK TRAIL: Comic-cimematographic note: Normally, FP ignores the pull-back panels in Mark Trail, in which the strip suddenly shoves Mark and friends into the distance and focuses on a passing critter. But this week contains not one but two of what can only be described as gratuitous beaver shots.

Plotwise, Mark's manly reserve crumbles as the missing and badly wounded Andy languishes, with Tabby, in a deer trap. "I can't think about going to the awards dinner with Andy missing!" he sobs. Finally, on Saturday, young Ranger Tom finds Mark's missing animal companions: "Good heavens, that's no deer in the trap!" Hey, aren't Saint Bernards supposed to go around rescuing lost people, not vice versa?

And speaking of missing persons, how come Jack Elrod's got the solo byline? Did partner Dodd blunder into a deer trap too? His name is missing from all but the Sunday strip, in which he gets a byline in the title box, though not in the panel, for the omnibus profile of "frogs and toads, the tailless amphibians." That's not animal of the week, for cripe's sake; that's order of the week. (Order Anura, for the record.)

Dodd wouldn't have made that blunder. Damn you, Elrod! What have you done with Dodd?

LUANN: Luann passes her driver's test.

DOONESBURY: Thanks to a combination of cartoonist's indolence and syndicate incompetence, Sunday's Doonesbury is a rerun of a rerun. Moreover, it's a rerun of one of the lame strips in which Garry Trudeau makes fun of how stupid and lazy today's college kids are. Gee, you sure made the college kids in Doonesbury a lot smarter and funnier back in the '60s, when you were one yourself, you aging boomer hack.

KUDZU: Suck-zu! Maybe Mother Goose & Grimm isn't the worst strip in the paper after all. Monday: The parakeet watches Robert Downey Jr. suffer on Celebrity Boot Camp--a funny made-up TV show that's just perfect for punch-line-hammering. Tuesday: The parakeet watches Kathie Lee Gifford suffer on Celebrity Boot Camp. Wednesday: The parakeet watches P. Diddy (speaking creepy hip-hop-by-way-of-Amos-'n'-Andy jive) suffer on Celebrity Boot Camp. Thursday: The Rev. Will B. Dunn confronts an up-to-date cyberspeak Bible translation. Friday: Feminist hag Ida Mae won't speak to white male Kudzu. Saturday: The Rev. Will B. Dunn confronts an up-to-date cyberspeak Bible translation.

REX MORGAN, MD: The doctor gets ever more loosy-goosey. Asked to help formerly doctor-hating paterfamilias Willis McBride push his truck from a muddy ditch, Rex does a squint-take with a quarter-sneer, then laughingly tells the missus he solved the problem by calling a tow truck. Saturday, he gets excited--wildly, concentric-rings-in-the-irises excited--when infant Sarah pulls his finger and seems to say "Daaaad!"

JUMBLE: TOOK THE "HEAT", A PANE PAIN, FAR OUT, RUNNING MATES, YOUR BALANCE, REST A "SPELL".

CURTIS: Curtis rides to school with Michelle in her dad's limo, and the two get accosted by Derrick and "Onion." Luckily, girls mature faster than boys -- so Michelle uses a combination of feminine wiles and superior strength to slam Derrick against the wall in a chicken-wing.

GARFIELD: Jon and Garfield are still down on the farm. Jim Davis' farm jokes still aren't funny. Hey, you can't tell the cows from the ladies! Hyuk.

THE PHANTOM: In the weekday plot line, lady reporter Victoria, seeking the story of the Phantom, listens to a skull-ring-scarred roughneck telling of his encounter with the Ghost Who Walks. An elderly waiter cuts in to tell his own 60-year-old Phantom story--a tale that leads, on Saturday, to a point where the waiter is about to describe what the Phantom himself said. "There the real story begins," he says. So that's a story within a story, branching off from a story that's supposed to be material for a subsequent story, all within the greater narrative of The Phantom. Deep, guys. Now quit stalling and give us some fresh plot.

APARTMENT 3G: Speaking of stalling: The . . . girls . . . discuss . . . their . . . future . . . living . . . arrangements. . . . Will . . . they . . . split . . . up? . . . Will . . . Margo . . . move . . . in . . . with . . . her . . . beau? . . . Is . . . it . . . still . . . Apartment . . . 3 . . . G . . . if . . . they . . . don't . . . all . . . live . . . in . . . Apartment . . . 3 . . . G? . . . Now this needs a postmodern frame tale.

MARY WORTH: Syl and Brad make plans to go to Fresno to see "a little boy named Timmy," aka their secret offspring. Mary and Minnie see through the vagueness and call them out on the paternity question, making the young couple sprout facial blush-rays. The professor fumes about his sister-in-law while he puts on his pants.

YOU CAN: Sunday science explainers Beakman & Jax confront a question from Stephen Baumgard of Salt Lake City, Utah: "How does rubbing a butterfly kill it?"

A: "No one has asked us that question in that way before. How it kills is usually by starvation."

Q: Who is keeping an eye on young Stephen Baumgard of Salt Lake City, Utah?

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