Everyone has standards.
Mine, in one context, are apparently quite high.
Meaning I enjoy less,
But complain more.
I think today about “single-panel” cartoons and the all-time greats in the field, like the recently late Gahan Wilson.
The oblivious blind man, pressing the doorbell at the School of the Deaf.
That was his.
The desperate dentist, yanking a tooth so hard, the patient’s entire skull flies out his agonized mouth.
That was his too.
You see what I mean? Those images are unique, explosive and indelibly memorable.
Something has happened to the majority of “single-panel” cartoons. They rarely surprise me. Or if they do, they surprise me in a “So what?” kind of a way.
A lot of cartoonists lean on the workmanlike formula of “incongruous juxtaposition.” But as with crudely off-color jokes, simple “incongruous juxtaposition” is not enough.
Those jokes also have to be funny.
A beached whale, wearing jockey shorts. And the caption says:
“The one day I don’t put on clean underwear.”
Whales in jockey shorts. An “incongruous juxtaposition.”
But then what?
The shoreline waters are glutted with black. A recognizable bottle lies capsized in the distance, draining its pollutant into the sea. And the caption says:
“There has been a massive ink spill.”
“Ink spill” replacing “oil spill.” But beyond “incongruous juxtaposition”, what exactly’s the point?
This one actually lampoons the “incongruous juxtaposition” motif itself.
A woman and man, colorfully dressed as a trapeze artist and a clown appear in a standard business office. And the caption says:
“Caption: we work in an office; however, we have dressed for the circus. What a humorous mixup.”
This exposing depiction of the way most cartoons are constructed is the artistic equivalent of “We entirely give up.”
I know there are many laugh-inducing cartoons, and feel free to mention your favorites. Me, with my “unreachable” standards, I’m looking for “sublime.”
Rivaling my favorite:
A car drives by a rural farmhouse. And the caption says:
“Number of Tllda Swinton spottings in Kansas – zero.”
Or a juxtaposition, serving an actual comedic idea.
Picture of a galley ship, with the oars flailing madly in every direction. And the caption (from a voice inside the ship) says:
“Come on, guys. It’s only a bee.”
The best are the best because they’re the best.
I just wish there were more of them.
Of course, if there were more of them “the best” wouldn’t be special, so I suppose I should be grateful for the pedestrian ones.
But I’m not.