Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Don't Get It

Well there's good news this week on the comic strip front. "Cathy" is retiring. Now I get that different people will find different things funny, but I also believe to some extent that funny is funny and as far as Cathy goes I find it difficult to believe that it is funny.

Truth be told I've given up on the comic strips to a great extent. It must be hard to come up with ideas and this is amply demonstrated by the low batting average of most of the strips. So, given that most days I won't get many laughs or even a chuckle, I don't read the strips. Except for Dilbert. That one I like.

Given all that, for most of the strips I understand why they exist and how they are sometimes funny and manage to stay in the paper. What I don't understand is the longevity and continuing existence of "Family Circus". A better name for this would be Lamely Circular. The creator Bill Keane has made a living pointing out what kids do and most of what kids do is not that funny. Observational humour I think it is supposed to be, but it's strong on the observational and weak on the humour.

I remember thinking when I was younger that maybe when I have kids I'll get it. Nope. Oh maybe he finds a gem now and then, but his percentage puts those in the diamond in the rough category. (I must admit to a perverse joy left over from my childhood - man this strip has been around a long time - when Mr. Keane does the Saturday comics where he shows little Billy's trail through the neighbourhood).

I know the daily circle is rarely funny because I am for some reason drawn to Family Circus even though I know my hopes will be dashed. When I decide to read it the thought that comes to mind is one of those wasp traps that has about one hundred dead wasps in it already, but still the wasps keep coming. Can't they see all the other wasps who have tried and failed? Why do they keep coming?

So, while I say good riddance to "Cathy", but I don't have much hope for the rookie strip that takes her place to be much better. After all, if there were good ones out there wouldn't Bill Keane be retired by now?


  1. Anonymous Comic-readerAugust 15, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    Pearls Before Swine is usually pretty funny, and so is Zits, one which was not mentioned in your poll. Also, Foxtrot is usually good for a chuckle. One of the most constantly funny comics I have read is Tundra, which appears sometimes in a Vancouver paper. I have a book of it myself, and think that many of them are quite humorous, some even side-splitting.

  2. My friend Ben calls it "The Family Cervix," which is funnier than anything Keane has produced on my watch.

    Calvin and Hobbes is the benchmark for all comic strips, though I have a big place in my heart for Bloom County and Doonesbury (in its hayday, which was long ago). And Waterson, unlike so many who ply that trade, had the integrity (not to mention the money) to get out before he ran out of things to say. Waterson has also never allowed images from the strip to be licensed in the hopes it might keep the strip save from commercial degradation. Unfortunately, Calvin and Hobbes images get ruthlessly exploited by pirates, dashing that particular artistic fantasy.

  3. ...and no, not the "arrr billy" type of pirates, before anybody gets the idea to crack wise.

    And sorry to all for the near incomprehensibility of my penultimate sentence. I hope its meaning shines through despite my urgency to press the "post comment" button before doing the necessary proofreading.

  4. Oh, and The Far Side, of course. Gary Larson (another one who got out while the getting was good) was the Steven Wright of comic strip writers.

  5. Gary Larson I totally agree. His cartoon titled " The real reason Diosaurs are Extict" which showed a couple of dino's smoking cig's was great! As for all the others? Can't say as I've checked out the comics in the paper since my Dad was paying for it? Cheers, xelA.

  6. "Cathy" retiring? Say it isn't so! But Cathy's endless dieting and obsession with her weight was so very, very humourous. Now how am I supposed to learn about what it means to be a modern working gal?

    And Family Circus? I agree about the inexplicable draw to this relentlessly unfunny comic strip. Those impish kids, what WILL they get into next? Oh, Billy. Oh, Dolly. Oh, PJ. Such adorable urchins!

    As sad as the current comic strip situation seems to be, it's not as if they were all uproariously funny 10 or 20 years ago. But I did get a kick out of that Rex Morgan, M.D. What a pip. Haw, haw.

  7. All you people should let the criticizing of humour to the pros.....Speaking of which, where is he this week??!? I thought that he would be the first to comment on this annoyance!!!
    For more info on Professional Humour reviews, please see:

  8. Tritanium, I think he is still reeling re: Felipe Esparza.

  9. Thank you, Tritanium. But comic strips aren't in my purview. That being said, Bloom County was my early favourite, then Robot Man was awesome. I've stopped reading since then. But I disagree with Dan (surprise, surprise) in thinking an artist should get extra points for quitting early. Run out of things to say? How is that even possible? Dan is well over 50 and hasn't run out of things to say. Why should a comic strip?

    As for Family Circus, it's the unfair butt of many jokes. It is what it is. It's not meant to be funny to us. It's harmless and cute to its demographic.

    Cathy? Good riddance!

  10. Guy, you have a 5 year old. If Family Circus is not funny to you, then what *is* its demographic? Perhaps you mean Family Circus is not meant to be funny at all, just cute. Do you think it's cute?

    The Victoria T-C Comics page is comparable to middle-of-the-road music. It's so watered down that there is no flavour to it anymore.

    My favourites: Bloom County, Bizarro, Foxtrot (in no particular order)

  11. S., why do you even look at the "funny" pages anymore?

    I don't think I'm Family Circus's demographic even with a 5-year-old. Even at my advanced age, I'm too young... and too old. It's for early readers, grandparents, and probably the extremely religious who don't allow themselves to laugh at anything stronger. Still, why criticize it? It's harmless. And it even provides some ironic laughs at its expense. So count me int the pro-Family Circus camp.

  12. Having something to say and having something FUNNY to say are two different things. If anybody should know that, it is you, Guy.