Monday, September 14, 2009


"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die." - Mel Brooks
Here's a couple that probably won't pass the arbiters of taste, which doesn't necessarily mean it has to be in good taste, just not so bad. It's a nebulous gray area which I usually at some point every month get lost in, hence the prudent need for someone operating in the capacity of an editor, and incidentally is one of the reasons I stopped passing around my unedited sketchbooks to classes when I do show & tells. The last batch yielded the impending death of a small child, a moose's rack festooned with a person's remains and a poop joke. I mean, how much lower you figure one could go, right? Well, for one, sexual innuendo is a topic that's on a rather short rope:

This panel is in reference to a local custom of our newspaper to print the heroic head-counts of each hunting season with a bizarre fetish-feature called "The 60 Inch Club," which is in reference to the top end of the trophy class for mature bull moose and their antler spread. Leaving alone the use of such revealing terminology like big racks and honey-holes, there's more than enough Freudian compensation to cover just the ritual itself. Actually, the biggest fault of the cartoon would be the absolute no-no of mixing of alcohol and firearms, which perversely enough would be the tripwire or, eh, trigger for censoring , at least for a small-city family-friendly publication. Someone would complain about that, of all things.

Now this particular panel underwent some subtle changes in an attempt to come right up against the envelope and poke it just lightly enough to keep it on the side of acceptance. In the sketch version it originally went in the direction that easily could have turned graphic: blood and even the expressive pose of the hands themselves are just a bit too far over the edge. Retreating into the territory of cartoony representation affords me some leeway as far as creative license to depict violence, but still after sleeping on it I went ahead and judiciously edited it down even further (see below), plus a last-minute fix of cutting in a couple more cast shadows.
In fact, sometimes the reward in humor is in not revealing such obvious gags, dropping instead subtle hints or leaving little clues to make the viewer reach the conclusion and connect their own dots. Which will unfortunately put it out of reach of some readers, but that's the balance of choice: I'll always err on the side of not catering to the lowest common denominator in any given audience, as everyone appreciates not being treated like they're an idiot, even if it offends their sensibilities when they don't get it. After all, there's so much more to be offended by anyways, and after all, it's a joke. In the end, as always, it still comes down to what I think is funny, as twisted or stupid as that might be.
So this cartoon actually came about after being put on the spot by a friend over some coffee who works for the Alaska State Health Inspector. "Hey - you should do something about _______" is a pretty common comment I get, and all it takes is a doodle like this to preempt any further discussion. Also why I'm usually sitting off in a corner by myself, I might add.

"Everybody doesn't have to get every joke. People really appreciate not being condescended to." - Matt Groening

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