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Bizarro is brought to you today by Evolution Hiccup.

I was discussing cartoon cliches last night with someone I met at a friend’s house and he mentioned that Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor at The New Yorker, recently put together a list of them. Without reading the list, the ones that come to my mind most readily are “crawling through a desert,” “stranded on a tiny one-tree island,” “two people in a bar,” “a psychiatrist’s couch,” and the famous “ascent of man” line of evolving mammals, like the one above. There are dozens more, of course.

Two reasons cartoonists love to use these cliches are 1) they are setups that lend themselves well to saying something about the human experience, and 2) they are a fun way in which cartoonists can engage in a sort of friendly competition. For us, it’s less about who has sold the most books or gotten the most cartoons published, it’s about putting your best psychiatrist’s couch joke out there and seeing how it stands up against your cartoonist heroes.

I’ve done quite a few “ascent of man” cartoons like the one above. The most famous (of mine) and the one I’m most proud of can be found under these blue words. As you can see if you clicked that link, it isn’t funny, but it’s poignant and true and I think it will stand the test of time. If there are people around in a couple hundred years and they come across that cartoon, they’ll still get it.

The one today is a little more opaque, I think. It’s a product of my belief that all humans have a sense of arrogant pride about how much we’ve created as a species––complex language, writing, philosophy, the innumerable discoveries of science, modern technology and medicine––yet most of us never achieve anything of note at all. A very tiny fraction of us have created the amazing world we live in, the rest of us have just learned how to use it. In short, the overwhelming majority of us have evolved to where we are now, then do nothing more than turn around and try to dress up the chimp for a cheap laugh.

I’m no different, of course. I’ve not contributed anything life-changing to the planet. I just draw silly pictures for money in an effort to stay out of an office cubicle. So far, dressing up the chimp has worked okay for me.

This cartoon about punctuation was born out of my childhood memories. Like many families in the 1960s, a vacation to us meant piling into the station wagon and driving somewhere with a cheap motel (with cheap diner attached) and some kind of inexpensive attraction. We also moved across country twice in that station wagon, so we got plenty of family road time. Something our dad used to do to amuse us was to point out the signs that said “Stop Ahead” and get all of us kids to help him watch for the head so he didn’t run over it. It made us laugh.

This cartoon about the Dark Ages got some good play on the Interwebs this week. As you can imagine, people argued over whether it is stupider to believe the “official” story behind various historic events, or the conspiratorial versions. The latter are far more entertaining, of course. A few of my more philosophical friends and readers, however, posed questions about the nature of reality in the first place.

On a side note, several people complained that this cartoon disparages mechanics and they wished I’d have picked a different scenario. I have nothing against mechanics, by the way, it was an arbitrary choice.

And also, yes, there are isolated regions of America where there are people who pronounce “oil” to sound like “erl”.

Murder isn’t funny but the real subject of this cartoon is karaoke, and it most certainly is. Under the proper conditions, I have on occasion had one hell of a lot of fun with karaoke. My biggest dilemma with it is trying to decide whether to pretend to be a rock star and sing the song well, which is a blast, or go for the humor by pretending to be a melodramatic diva.

Come to think of it, that’s the same dilemma I have in almost everything I do: go for the humor, or play it serious. I’ve gotten in trouble many times by going for the humor but playing it serious can be so boring. Sometimes you just need to dress up the chimp.

One reader wrote to me this week to say it was unfortunate that this cartoon about the bloodthirsty king published the same day the U.S. bombing of Syria was in the headlines. He was concerned I would get a lot of hate mail accusing me of being insensitive, so I see his point, but the truth is it could not have been better timing. My cartoon is about the mental illness of power-hungry leaders who care nothing about human lives outside of their own tiny circle. I’d say this cartoon accurately describes both of the main actors in the Syrian story this week. (Yes, Assad has been more violent than Trump, I get that. Let’s not start shouting about who is worse. Neither of these assholes care about anyone outside of their tiny circles and we’ve yet to see how many innocent people will suffer/die under Trump. If he ignites a nuclear incident, he wins hands down.)

I used to have two children but now I have two adults. We’re close and always have been but raising them was equal parts rewarding and difficult. I tell my younger friends who are considering having kids to be sure they fully understand that it is not a hobby, it’s a career that will eat every other part of your life until there is nothing left of you other than being Mommy or Daddy. When they finally move out, you have to reinvent yourself. That suits some people very well, others not so much.

Another thing to consider is the exploding population vs. limited natural resources, and the large number of children in orphanages and foster care. Adoption is a far kinder, greener way to go than producing your own crotch fruit. I’m not preaching because I didn’t adopt, I’m just putting it out there. Both of my daughters––thus far, anyway––have decided against having kids. To be honest, I’m fine with that. I don’t want to attach myself emotionally to small children then watch them suffer at the hands of Trump’s policies, environmental and otherwise, the disastrous effects of which will last far beyond his 4-to-8 year reign. I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect the world is at something of a tipping point. I may not live to see the collapse, but babies born now certainly have an excellent chance of doing so.

Olive Oyl and I have one cat, Boo, and one dog, Jemima. Our dog is extremely emotional and has a lot of anxiety issues. Among the things that scare her are wind, people speaking passionately about any topic, cuss words (even when only muttered under the breath), loud trucks, parades, and fireworks. Mexico was not her first choice for relocation because they shoot fireworks and have parades here almost daily. Some weeks are quieter than others, but never do more than a couple of days go by that we don’t hear “bombas” going off somewhere nearby, often right over our house. We’ve already gotten Jemima something called a “Thunder Jacket” and that helps a bit, but we’ve decided to also get her a therapy dog. We hope that she’ll be comforted by having another dog around while we’re gone. This week, an opportunity presented itself to rescue an adorable puppy from the streets of our ‘hood, so look forward to some pics of our new family member soon. I will, however, NOT be posting pictures of food.

Thanks for your attention, Jazz Pickles. I always enjoy our time together. If you want to help support my cartoons and commentary, please have a big ole gander at the suggested ways of doing so below. The four of us at Rancho Bizarro will be most appreciative!


52 thoughts on “Humorlution

  1. Your family must have traveled smoother roads than mine did. In the Canadian north we came across a lot of signs that said “bump ahead”. With seven brothers mine seemed to be the head that always got bumped.

  2. I used to read the comics in Punch regularly when I was in grad school (30 years ago). They had a series of running cliches they would pass around among the cartoonists — lemmings jumping off a cliff, people calling the suicide hotline (Samaritans), etc. I loved seeing the different takes as a “theme and variations.”

  3. I wear your t-shirt of the ascent of man with pride. thanks for the #45 humor this week. it has not been a good week for us old Peace niks.
    Keep doing what you do… it keeps me smiling.

      • I came to your site tonight hoping to find a link to your adult site, but instead I stumbled upon these. I had hoped to suggest some type of funny that included a courtship between Un and DT. I hadn’t really thought about the similarities, but both countries are clearly strapped with __________ (fill in the blank with whatever your heart shrieks).

        Anyhow, I stumbled upon my old friend – the Fragrance of the Fittest. This was based on my Sunday Punny suggestion about 6 years ago and it makes me happy to see it again (even if my name or initials are absent this time). The creature in repose was my profile picture for a time.

        Anyhow, thanks for keeping on keepin on.

        • Good to hear from you again, Brad. Happy to hear you enjoyed seeing your old pun suggestion on one of my title panels. I often grab old art for those and that one seemed perfect. I don’t have an adult site anymore and I’d forgotten all about it until you mentioned it. :^}

  4. I’m with you; I managed to avoid a real job by being a professional pianist my whole life. The best part is that it’s a sit-down job. And if The Queen walks in? I don’t have to stand up! My funnest moment was playing for the Cardinal’s Dinner. I ‘piped’ him in with Monty Python’s ‘Every Sperm Is Sacred’, quite a nice little cantata, without the words….even got a smile & a nod…my pleasure, you sanctimonious pile of….
    I actually saved almost every one of this week’s cartoons, especially the ‘Stop, A Head’, as I’m a notorious Grammar Granny to my friends (not the other ‘N’ word, thank you). As of January 1 I opened separate files for the different cartoon topics I collect, mainly for Fb reposts. But it’s like spending $200 at the grocery store, then coming home & putting it all away…half an hour later you walk into the kitchen & wonder where all the food is…I can never find all the great stuff I just downloaded…

    • Oh, I love it!!! That is so perfect!!! I’m not a musician but I would love to play musical jokes on people like that ha ha!!

  5. As a childless biker chick, I really liked that sixth one, but I pretty much always love your cartoons.

  6. Both husband and I laughed out loud (actually made noises, not “LOL” or whatever it is) at your “under the blue” evolution cartoon.
    Many, MANY of your cartoons do this for/ to me — bring out loud laughter — and I really appreciate that, especially these days!

    My all-time favorite cartoon (which I’ve loved for decades) is by M.K. Brown, who was the first person I ever emailed when I first went on line (she answered to my surprise!) and who I just now discovered was married to the brilliant cat man B Kliban. It’s called “bananas on a stick” , link here:

    • Kliban’s stranger work (not his cats) was my inspiration for being a cartoonist. And I’ve also always loved both his and M.K.’s artwork. So beautiful and virtually no one draws like that anymore. It’s so sad that their kind of art gave way to the naive scribblings and stick figures of today’s cartoonists. The badly-drawn modern stuff can be funny, too, but I miss the artwork.

      • I so agree. Being as I am older than dirt (not too sure just what that means, but I am old) I find I read and laugh over fewer and fewer comic strips and cartoons. Much of it is the drawing and some of it is the continual (questionable) humor at the expense of another. Your humor I enjoy and appreciate as it is not mean spirited, just funny. Although there are times your humor makes me uncomfortable and I worry about poking a stick at a sleeping bear. However, I find myself doing the same thing as humor is my protection against reality, even if only for a few minutes. Keep the humor coming, I look forward to and enjoy receiving your weekly jokes. We too did the silly Stop A Head routine. I feel very dated when I recall so many of the things we laughed so hard about. There was the Lucky Strikes ad Lucky Strikes Mean Fine Tabaco or LSMFT which we translated to loose straps mean floppy tits. Or when I innocently began using Oh sob as the woman I babysat for said it and I thought it meant cry your heart out. My mom had to gently tell me the woman was actually say Son of a bitch or as my mom put son of a biscuit eater. Then there was the joke about the guy who backed into the propeller of a plane. Disaster. After telling that joke around the neighborhood my older brothers explained what it really meant. Opps. Seems I was the classic little sister repeating things I thought I understood but didn’t. And then there was … well you get the idea. Those jokes stick in my memory and I love being able to laugh about them and myself. I’ve only just discovered you (a year or so) and I thoroughly enjoy reading your humor from years long gone.

  7. Cliches get a bad press, but as Terry Pratchett so wisely said, ‘The reason that cliches become cliches is that they are the hammers and screwdrivers in the toolbox of communication.’

  8. Your planetary contribution happens everytime someone laughs, or your obvious and not so obvious absurdity makes someone else think. You can take plenty of credit for those things.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Olive Oyl occasionally photographs meals that she has prepared and is particularly proud of, which I can understand, but I cannot imagine what makes people want to photograph and post online food from restaurants they aren’t on the payroll to advertise, I will never understand. Got a chuckle out of your site.

  9. “crotch fruit”
    HAHAHAHAHA! That’s a new one for me.
    Can you claim inventor of said phrase?
    If so, KUDOS!
    If not, I appreciate your culpability in the spread of such an accurate meme!
    Please continue…

  10. When I was a kid I could never understand why my parents drove right past those “Do Not Pass” signs without a care in the world. I thought they meant you weren’t allowed to pass the sign, not other cars. My parents always obeyed the “Do Not Enter” signs, after all.

  11. I have been an avid reader of your cartoons for many years. I would like to say that they are an important part of my day and never fail to amuse. The Barbie cartoon today made me laugh out loud and is just wonderful. The drawings are also of a very high level. I send you my sincere thanks .

  12. I live close to the mountains, always have. We were always looking for Rock. He was supposed to be on the road. Sometimes we’d catch a glimpse of him but he was always just lying there. My buddy always turned the radio up.

    • Good memory. I did it in the 90s and recently someone wrote and asked me to run it again. I’m not supposed to do that but I do from time to time when requested. :^}

  13. So, about a year ago we were adopted by a local street cat, and he’s perfectly happy being our furry furry roommate. But, he get’s really weird when I start talking passionately about something. Just like your dog. Is this really a thing? He doesn’t do it when my husband talks, just me. It’s very odd.

    • I read that dogs’ sense of smell is so good that they can literally smell our moods. According to the article, when we are happy or sad or whatever, we emit certain hormones that they can pick up on. So if you’re sad, it is not uncommon for your dog to come sit next to you and nuzzle in an attempt to comfort you. If you’re angry, they can smell that, too, and will slink away. When Olive and I talk about Trump, for instance, our dog hides. I don’t know if this applies to cats, however.

      • Several months ago, Keith Olbermann did a great rant on Trump never having had a dog. It explained so much about Donald of Orange! He does frequent rants on the GQ site on Youtube.

  14. You make me smile every day and I appreciate that. Especially nice when you make me laugh out loud while drinking my morning coffee…not always a pretty sight but a funny one for sure!

  15. Hi Dan – great ‘toons as usual – love ’em! I agree with your observation that the vast, vast majority of humans just sorta exist seemingly unproductively. However, I would offer that the billions of billions of neurons/axons in the brain just transfer energy as they were designed…just like individual humans. We’re part of something MUCH bigger don’tcha know. :)

    • Olive Oyl believes in that kind of energy activity, as well, but I have trouble believing in things I can’t see evidence for. Not meaning to be snarky, just being honest about my own mind.

    • The headline is all that is legible. I’ll be posting my weekly blog about the past 7 days cartoons in a few hours, so give it a quick read and see if it helps. :^}

  16. Wow, the ascent of man cartoon was a lot deeper than I thought. I saw it as being about the arrogance of tourists, and how they try to make the place they’re visiting perform for them so they can brag to their friends back home.

    • That can work, too. The fun thing about art of any kind is that interpretation can vary! (Arrogant tourists is one of my biggest pet peeves, too, by the way!)

  17. Re The Importance of Punctuation –

    Way back when traveling in altered states, we’d (too) often cry, “WHAT’S IN THE ROAD, A HEAD?!?”

    Whether in or out of a car, we’d also (too) often cry, “WHAT’S CRAWLING UP, YOUR LEG?!?”

    OK, we weren’t necessarily in altered states, just the altered state of stupidity. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    • I love putting the pause in the wrong place in a sentence, or chaning the order of clauses in a sentence. As I leave the house, I sometimes say to Olive, “What I’ll be is back in an hour.” Maybe not funny, but I am amused by it. :^}

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