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Being Funny
3-27-02

As many of you know, I draw and write a comic strip called Cheese-N-Rice. So far, it's only done for my own pleasure, but I'd love to be syndicated some day and be able to do it for a living. I don't think I'm as funny as Scott Adams or Darby Conley, not yet anyway, but I think my strips are unique and enjoyable.

But of course, someone I know read them and thought she could do it better. She thought she could be funnier. Well, shit. I could be funnier, too. But I don't think many people realize the limitations to drawing a commercially viable comic strip.

First off, you're limited by the boundaries of good taste. I can't do gross jokes. I can't say shit, piss, and and whatafuckingmoron. I have to have stuff tame enough to be in someone's Sunday newspaper. I have to have stuff I wouldn't mind my mother reading. Or your mother. Or anybody's mother. Beavis & Butthead and South Park not withstanding, there's not a lot of opportunity for a vulgar, even if it's realistic, cartoon. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a prude, and since the Elsie character is much like me, she's more likely to tell Genny to "piss off" than "shut up." Oh, I suppose I could draw for alternative papers, but I'd like to actually make a living if I'm going to do this. It would take me the same amount of time to draw a strip that will be published in two newspapers as two hundred. Yeah, and there's comics in magazines like Playboy, but I really don't want to do another stale "Bimbo Gives Santa A Blowjob" gag. (Do they even do new cartoons, or do they just rerun the old ones? Does anyone notice? Am I the only one who even reads them?)

Secondly, there's the size limitations. While this is somewhat flexible, you still need to fit everything in three or four frames, except for Sunday strips which are usually longer. You can't be too wordy, and you can't take forever getting to the punch line. There's a lot of ideas we have that get tossed aside because there's no frickin' way to convey the whole idea in strip format. Plus, you never know what day is going to be someone's first day reading your strip, so you want it to make sense without having read the previous three weeks.

Third, you have to be consistent. Your characters have to be developed, and stay in character. You have to be able to come up with new ideas every single day. When Lynn Johnston got signed by a syndicate to do "For Better or Worse," she signed a twenty year contract. TWENTY FRICKIN' YEARS! Oh, it's one thing to come up with a couple weeks or even months worth of material, but that's more than 7000 strips. That's a helluva lot of pressure. Although, from my point of view, I'm going to spend the next twenty-or-thirty-some years working, unless I win the lotto. Since I don't even play the lotto, I'm going to be spending a great deal of time working on solving some kind of problem for other people, whether it's in web design like I'm doing now, or whatever other career I may go into. Wouldn't it be a buttload more fun trying to come up with something humorous every day, than trying to figure out how to please a fucked up client who doesn't want a blue background on her website because she "doesn't look good in blue"?! I think you know my answer.

Lastly, and most importantly, the humor has to be original. I can make my friends laugh by saying, "No soup for you! Come back ONE YEAR!" like Seinfeld's Soup Nazi, or by saying, "It's frickin' freezing in here, Mr. Bigglesworth!" a la Dr. Evil in Austin Powers. But no one is going to pay me money to do a strip about that. Jerry Seinfeld and Mike Myers already got paid to write it. Besides, no one wants a lawsuit. So your humor has to be your own. It can't just be regurgitated pop culture references. Think of it as the difference between someone who crammed and memorized their schoolwork to ace a test, and someone who actually learned and can apply the knowledge to their real life.

So, before you read something and think, "I could to better than that," really think about what you're saying. Could you be that funny without swearing? Could you be that funny in three or four small cubes with that few words? Could you be that funny over a long period of time? And could you be that funny without relying on what genuinely funny people have said before?

No?

Then shut up... er... I mean, PISS OFF!

 

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