If it ever gets too bleak, just remember that Al Jaffee is still making the world a better place through his incredible (and bitingly funny) illustrations for Mad at age 96 (!!!).
I was making fun of the fold-outs you’d see in Playboy or National Geographic or Life Magazine. They had these big, fancy, full-color fold-outs. Well, at Mad we didn’t have that kind of budget. So I thought, wouldn’t it be funny to do the exact opposite? We’d do a cheap black-and-white fold in.
I love that the Fold-In started as another subversive bit of meta-humor about how “cheap” Mad magazine is.
Maria Popova posts a wonderful selection of cartoons from Charles Addam’s lesser-known book of Mother Goose rhymes from 1967. Such good stuff, and fun to imagine the crossovers between the classic grim nursery rhymes and his own macabre sense of humor, juxtaposed with his mid-century New York City skylines and deadpan-faced characters.
Some comedy for your Saturday: Shaw and Lee, AKA The Beau Brummels. We saw this Vitaphone short on TCM last week, and were mesmerized by the duo’s Andy Kaufman-esque deadpan delivery of bad jokes and Vaudeville songs (stick with it for at least a couple of minutes!). Strangely modern, or in any case I gather from digging around that this was considered a bizarre, unique act at the time.
Always eat when you are hungry.
Always drink when you are dry.
Go to bed when you’re sleepy.
But don’t forget to breathe or else you’ll die.
I’ve been telling people for years that the Total Recall DVD commentary track is one of the most entertaining bits of meta-entertainment out there, with Paul Verhoeven waxing nostalgic about his directorial artistry while Arnold chuckles through literal recaps of his favorite violent scenes. Now you can enjoy Arnold’s rambling half of the conversation, condensed into a tidy YouTube package!
Life is a circus, Zippy! It can be a circus of pain or a circus of delight!
As the Bil Keane RIP notices started flooding across the net yesterday, my friend Julien reminded me of the bizarre phenomenon of Zippy the Pinhead making a crossover appearance in Family Circus back in 1994 (go look at it, it’s weird!). It wasn’t a single-panel affair: that out-of-context Family Circus strip was a followup to a week in which Bil Keane literally drew his characters into the surreal world of Zippy as a sort of exchange project. From a speech by Zippy artist Bill Griffith:
Here’s an example of something that kind of blew my mind, and a number of readers. I did a number of comic strips in 1994 in which the idea was that Zippy and Griffy were going to, at least Zippy, enter, literally, the world of The Family Circus, a single panel comic. Into the strip a few days I thought, “What the hell, I’ll call Bill Keene. I’ll get his phone number, and I’ll see if he wants to literally jam this strip with me.” I figured the chances were zero, but why not? I called him up; he was incredibly friendly. He lives in Phoenix, where Zippy is published in the local paper. Loves the strip; reads it every day. Y’know, at the end of the phone call I thought, “He’s my blood brother. We’re like the two surreal comic strip artists.”
Behind the sticky-sweet facade of everyone’s favorite round newspaper comic, it’s good to know there was an artist of subversive humor and warmth for his fellow cartoonists, appreciative of both parody and collaboration.
Thanks to the Alamo Drafthouse’s always-amazing preshow entertainment reels, Marsha and I have had this Three Stooges earworm stuck in our head for the past week. Maybe now you’ll be stuck with it too.
I wanted something nice to have at the office that tell us every time someone make a purchase on our game. Every time we make a buck Wario rings the bell and flash his greedy green eyes. If we made a lot then Wario shoot smoke from his ears!
Awesome thing that I didn’t realize I had on my bookshelf: the Tom Lehrer sheet music songbook I’ve had since I was a kid was illustrated by cartoonist Ronald Searle. I must have been unfamiliar with Searle the last time I looked through this book — his scratchy style complements Lehrer’s acerbic wit nicely.
The whole book, “Too Many Songs By Tom Lehrer with not enough drawings by Ronald Searle”, is available for perusal on Scribd, in case you’re the sort that enjoys songs about masochism, the periodic table, bull fighting, nuclear annihilation, and Ivy League snobbery…
To grumble further would be, as the saying goes, akin to pointing my Water toward the Wind. I note that Mr. Black has, in other endeavors, proved himself a Mocker after my own heart, but I can hardly begrudge him the greater emolument that issues from cavorting in the mildly naughty manner of an overgrown tot. I can further suppose that a Child of average Wit or even moderate Dullness — a boy of Nine, let us say, who can be coaxed away from the Wii of a Christmas afternoon — might pass a pleasant interval chuckling at the absurd incongruities that arise when something very large is placed beside something very small.
These two methods clearly do not agree with one another, which means one of two things: either I’m terribly over-analyzing the content of the illustrations of a beloved children’s book, or the bunny’s bedroom is moving at extremely high velocity relative to the earth, so that relativistic time dilation makes the six-minute rise of the moon appear to take an hour and ten minutes. Calculating the necessary velocity is left as an exercise for the interested reader.
A paper in the academic journal Palliative and Supportive Care analyzing perceptions of death and dying through the lens of New Yorker cartoons. Science!
“Personification of Death” (n = 38) included a subtheme of “Bargaining with Death.” The main theme included representations of death with human attributes, such as the Grim Reaper. Examples are the Grim Reaper sitting in a bar talking to another man; the caption reads, “Sometimes I give myself the creeps” (from 2005; Mankoff, 2006. p. 28). The subtheme involved people negotiating for more time to live. Many of the cartoons in this theme show the Grim Reaper standing at someone’s door as he or she tries to negotiate his or her way out of dying. For example, one such caption read, “Couldn’t I do a couple of hundred hours of community service instead?” (from 1990; Mankoff, 2006. p. 46). This can be seen as the legacy of death (Elgee, 2003), that we are all its slaves.
As Seen on TV, a tribute to doing it wrong. I love this aspect of awful informercials, and in our household we’ve even coined a specific adjective to describe it: twombly. As in “No, no, don’t use your sewing machine on the curtains while they’re still hanging! You’re doin’ it all twombly!”
The New York Times has up a nice review of the new Charles Addams exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York:
The city street is dark and deserted. The buildings are empty. There are no witnesses. A lone man carrying a briefcase, after a long day at the office perhaps, approaches a subway staircase. Out of the subterranean gloom, a giant human hand protrudes, its index finger beckoning the office worker, inviting him into the depths. His eyes are wide with astonishment, his face showing the hint of a grin, as if the bizarre, illicit invitation were not entirely unwelcome. […]
Above is my personal favorite Addams cartoon, perhaps one of my favorite cartoons of all time. His drawings are often cited as finding their humor and inspiration in the macabre — I think their lasting appeal comes more from his ability to find joy in laughing at and rejecting the bleakness of modern life.
A dog, a cyclops, and others kill some time with the help of wormholes and hobbyist self-modification. Made in 2008.
Pellet Gunn by Tim Beckhardt. Not 100% sure that I get the full story, but it’s great in a non sequitur, underground comix sort of way. His line work and hand-filled blacks are nicely composed, and the animation is fun. Extra points for the Philip Guston painting in the background.
Taito’s new Cho Chabudai Gaeshi, a game based on a literal interpretation of the Japanese idiom “flip the table” (chabudai gaeshi). It gladdens my heart to see new weird games being made for the arcade. At least it’s easier to relate to than Boong-Ga Boong-Ga.
As one commenter on Kotaku notes, “If they localized this in the US it’d have to be called ‘F*ck This’”
The Three Stooges attempted pathos in Cash and Carry (1937). The Stooges arrive at their home, a dilapidated shack in the city dump, only to find a little boy they don’t know doing his homework at the kitchen table. The Stooges do not react with great sentiment to this child. Larry pipes up, “Come on, beat it.” But, then, they realize that the boy is wearing a leg brace and needs the support of a crutch to stand and walk. The boy tells the Stooges that his mom and dad are gone and he’s being raised by his big sister. Moe, normally gruff and scowling, smiles sympathetically and softens his voice. He has never acted more tenderly to another individual. But the other two Stooges do not show much concern. […] Seconds after meeting the crippled orphan boy, Curly accidentally hits Moe in the head with a pipe and it’s back to their usual comedy business. A pathos comedy was, in the end, no more significant to the Stooges than a haunted house comedy.
From Why You Want to Bring Me Down?, a great comparison of the use (and perhaps more often, misuse) of pathos in comedies, from Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd to Adam Sandler and Robin Williams.
An animatronic version of Pixar’s Luxo Jr. has appeared outside Disney’s studios in Hollywood, performing a couple of different shows depending on the time of day. That’s some fluid movement there! Even in robotic form, the character exudes more pathos than most animated film characters do in their respective movies. (Via Boing Boing Gadgets, which has the other Luxo performance video handy for watching)
William Hogarth’s final engraving, a self-satirical illustration of the end of time, parodizing the bathetic imagery in his contemporaries’ works. I admire a guy who can go out on a bit of pessimist humor. (see also this explication of the print)