Thursday, March 15, 2012

Closed Captioning

Just a little bit further down the slime-line from ripping off cartoonists, now there's re-captioning New Yorker gag panels with random Santorum quotes, which is about as funny as doing it with random Charlie Sheen quotes, which is almost as original as pairing them with Kayne West tweets. None of which should be confused at all with doing it using clever, literal captions. But seriously, without expressly labeling each example, it's pretty hard to any of them apart from each other. Which is an insight about one particular approach to cartooning, and by extension, the nature of humor itself.

Cartoon caption contests are pretty weak to begin with, probably a sign a cartoonist is creatively bankrupt and out of ideas, or under the lash of an editor who wants to connect with the readership. Worst still is sending the message that as a cartoonist your work is so formulaic and generic that half of your job can be easily replaced by an untrained monkey

Even Google is now getting in on all the fun now with their take on recaptioning, along with other websites such as Neatorama's one is posted below that is hacked uncredited from a B. Kliban panel. Maybe someone should enter in the creator's original caption ("Carl Meets His Match in Ramon") to see if it wins. Ha ha, now that'd be funny.

One has to wonder just how hard it would be for folks to maybe actually draw their own damn cartoons - having taught it for years I know for a fact it really isn't all that challenging. Supposedly "being funny" is the true trick, that mysterious, unteachable aspect that one is either born with, or you just don't "got it." Then again, neither is auto-repair or cooking for that matter, among many trainable professions regarless of any "genius" element. 
But for some reason I guess writing captions is perceived to be easier when it comes to being a cartoonist. That and it's obviously much easier to ride off of the work of someone else's drawing, with a large part of the humor coming from the fact it's obviously and crudely cut & pasted commentary. Bonus irony points awarded if the material is from an already well-known, iconic source, like the Peanuts thing recently being played out, or even worse, The Simpsons.

Aside from the whole purity troll thing (ie one cartoonist does everything in creating a cartoon, including writing, drawing, coloring etc.), even as failures these would be perfect examples a common technique in beginning cartooning/gag writing classes, where the original text is whited-out, photocopies are made, and students come up with their own lines. Another version of this theme appears in cartoon jams using a variation of the three-panel timed exercise, where person #1 does panel #1, person #2 (without seeing panel #1) draws panel #2, and then person 3# unfolds the entire strip and draws a third concluding or bridging panel based off of the developing narrative (here is another variation, just in a different order).

These are all similarly related to a legitimate method of gag writing, that of non-sequitors and utilizing random juxtapositions of image and text. Just one more way to "get ideas," as opposed to sitting around waiting for them to spring forth, fully formed and funny.

No comments:

Post a Comment