Saturday, March 17, 2018

As You Like It

I just noticed that there wasn't a single leprechaun-based cartoon this week, and for that, I apologize. To make up for that oversight, here are two Saint Patrick's Day gags from the WaynoVision archive:

Now, back to the current crop of Bizarro panels:

Monday's comic is the first of two in this batch featuring an overindulgent parent. Readers who pay particular attention to the placement of Bizarro Secret Symbols correctly pointed out that there's no pie shown here in the Pie King Diner. The simple explanation is that their pie is so popular, there was none available to tuck into the panel.

Tuesday's cartoon is a verbal inversion of the common phrase "vanity plate." This probably wouldn't pass muster as an actual vanity plate, since they seem to require "clever" misspellings.

While drawing the back end of a car, the idea of turning a few Secret Symbols into those ubiquitous car-window stickers was impossible to resist.

This scene depicted above is so believable, it barely qualifies as a cartoon. It wouldn't surprise us to hear from readers who've been on the other side of that desk. Oh, and there's the slice of pie that was missing from Monday's comic! 

This job interview comic appeared on March 14 (aka Pi Day), a date of particular significance to Your Obedient Cartoonist. I first met Dan Piraro on March 14, 2008. Now, ten years later, we're working together every day. Here's a photo from our very first meeting, showing Dan (rightly) regarding me with suspicion:

(Photo by Miss Ashley Stone)
No blood was shed during the encounter.

This cartoon is not meant to comment on any US President, living or dead. It was, however, inspired by hearing an NPR reporter actually say, "the President gave a major speech on drugs." We just added the logical follow-up.

Most cartoonists really do prefer medical providers who wear head mirrors, even if we don't know what they're called.

The North American Sasquatch is known for its lame sense of humor, but it's a ripe subject for cartoonists. It's made numerous appearances in past Bizarro comics, including the first one of this year.

Bigfoot also turned up in my previous feature a couple of times.

For further insight into the minds of a pair of eccentric cartoonists, be sure to check out Dan's blog. While you're there, you can marvel at his latest Sunday panel.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Spring Ahead

Before we turn our clocks ahead early tomorrow morning, here's a look back at the Bizarro comics calendar for the past week.

Monday's offering is based on an early draft of the Book of Genesis, where Adam & Eve were tempted by a talking bird rather than a serpent. 

This cartoon utilizes a form of wordplay we employ from time to time, where unrelated phrases or names are smashed together by a common linking word. A few years ago, I came up with the term streptonym as a name for this verbal construction. I've written about it on this blog and elsewhere, but it never caught on with linguists.

When this cartoon ran, many readers in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the States were shoveling snow, enduring power outages, and cursing Mother Nature. I hope this cartoon gave them a chuckle in spite of the weather, if they had enough light to read it.

Imaginary monsters under the bed are nothing compared to the actual monsters we see in the news every day. However, we're also seeing an inspiring young generation who are giving our modern-day ogres plenty to fear themselves.

Many of the comics published on Thursday noted that it was International Women's Day. We envisioned this scene, where a girl's merit badge project actually shows up to claim the merit badge. The cartoon was inspired by the work of the nonprofit organization Girls Who Code, which aims to support and increase the number of women in computer programming, and to close the gender gap in technology.

Composing the text for this one was an enjoyable exercise, finding the right words to describe the progression of moods that usually follow that initial hour of happiness. I think we got it just about right.

March 10, 2018 is the 142nd anniversary of Alexander Graham Bell's historic first phone call, which he made to his assistant, Thomas Watson. That happened on a Friday, and by Saturday, Bell had already moved on to punking poor Watson.

I took some liberties with the art, since bell was not yet 30 years old in 1876. I based my drawing on a later image of Bell making the first long distance call, from New York to Chicago in 1892. By that time, everyone was tired of hearing him pull the same gag, but they played along because he was a beloved figure who made his investors giant piles of money. 

Although home refrigerators weren't introduced until the early part of the 20th century, we're reasonably certain that Watson (who enjoyed a cold sarsaparilla) probably owned an early vapor-compression system to keep his beverage chilled to the ideal temperature.

Thanks to all of you Bizarro Jazz Pickles who read these weekly posts in addition to following the comics every day. Your interest is appreciated throughout the enterprise, from the home office at Rancho Bizarro in Mexico, to Bizarro Studios North, in Hollywood Gardens, USA.

Our CEO (Chief Eyeball Officer) Dan Piraro also posts a weekly recap along with his always-gorgeous Sunday panel. You can find that comic and Dan's commentary at

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Overture, Curtain, Lights

When I was a youngster, my brothers and I spent Saturday mornings in a sugar stupor, flipping channels as we melted our brains with a barrage of TV cartoons.

Here at Bizarro Studios North, we try to recreate those bleary-eyed mornings by re-running the week's comics on Saturday, along with plenty of interstitial chatter to remind us of the commercials we had to endure between scenes of animated mayhem. Before reading any further, eat a few bowls of any breakfast cereal with a cartoon mascot on the box to further simulate the experience.

We tread with caution when considering a pun-based comic. If it's one we haven't heard before, we work to develop a surprising setup. We were pleased with the ordinariness of this scene (with the exception of the parking attendant's lower half) and decided to run with it.
The original sketch made a reference to AvtoVAZ, Russia's largest car manufacturer. We prize authenticity in Bizarro, but the name AvtoVAZ is unknown here in the US, and is probably impossible to pronounce. We felt it distracted from the simplicity of the gag. Having the customer describe the vehicle seemed more natural, and contributed to the deadpan delivery we love.

Tuesday's gag features a medical specialist who's well suited for the job at hand.

This cartoon is not a comment on any generation or group. It's just a drawing from my imagination, suggested by the caption.

Unlike the characters depicted in this cartoon, we've been privileged to witness the emergence of a great number of activist citizens challenging the status quo over the past year and a half. We generally keep things light and funny here, but feel we must mention the inspiring young activists making their voices heard and speaking truth to power after the recent horrific crime in Florida. The brave, articulate, smart, and passionate student survivors give us hope for real change in the future. I was proud to make a monetary contribution supporting March For Our Lives, even though Amal & George Clooney's donation clobbered mine. I encourage you to chip in and help them if you are able.

The owners of this establishment are obviously considerate toward their customers' preferences.

In competitive sports, psychology is often as important as athletic ability. Don't let your opponent rattle you.

This guy again? We ran a gag spoofing the popular Where's Waldo character a couple weeks ago. Sometimes, when riffing on ideas for gags, we concoct multiple approaches to a theme or character, and we'll use them if they're not repetitions of the same joke. I think we've exhausted commentary on Waldo, but you never know, a cartoonist's brain keeps churning even when we sleep. Must be all the cereal we eat.

For even more commentary on the week's gags, plus a new Sunday panel, check out Dan Piraro's report from Rancho Bizarro.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Art of Compromise

The Week in Review
Welcome to another recap of the week's cartoons, from the staff at Bizarro Studios North.

The trickiest part of the date depicted in Monday's gag was selecting a bottle of wine to share.

It occurs to me that restaurants might be more interesting if all diners wore bibs sporting pictures of their entrées.

This poor kid never stays awake long enough to hear how the story ends. 

We got the name Örvar from Örvar-Oddr, a character who's the hero of a 13th-century Icelandic epic. We pride ourselves on the research that goes into your daily cartoon, especially when it gives us a reason to use an umlaut.

Literary scholars estimate that Shakespeare wrote Richard III two years before writing Richard II. This supports the theory that the term "spoiler alert" originated in the Elizabethan era.

Everyone dreads presentations with slide after slide of bullet points, but this guy took an overly literal approach. After the meeting, the org chart behind him was immediately revised.

There are so many choices for entertainment "content," the program mentioned here is probably available somewhere.

This is the first time head lice have appeared in one of my comics, so I searched for reference photos before working on the art. The drawings are simplified representations, but I'd like to imagine that an entomologist could identify them.

For clowns, "gag reflex" is a response to humor stimuli rather than a contraction at the back of the throat. We're not sure where you tap that tiny hammer to test for it.

It's my continued pleasure to work with Dan Piraro on the Bizarro dailies. Don't forget to read Dan's blog for his comments on the week's offerings, along with his latest Sunday panel. 

Unrelated Bonus Thing 
I just added this book to my reading pile: Poetics of Music by composer Igor Stravinsky.  

While reading another book on music, I came across a reference to Stravinsky describing the job of a composer as simply putting the time and energy into the work of writing music, rather than waiting for inspiration to drop from the sky (I'm paraphrasing). That explanation of the work behind creative endeavors made me want to read more.

Much of the material will most certainly be over my head, but it should be interesting to follow as much as I'm able.

This 1956 paperback edition also has a terrific cover designed by Paul Rand (1914-1996). Rand was an influential modernist graphic designer, and was responsible for the iconic logos for
IBM, UPS, Westinghouse, ABC TV, and many others. In addition to logos and books, he did advertising and editorial work, product packaging, made paintings, and was an art director and educator. He lived to the age of 82, which doesn't sound like enough time for all he accomplished.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Art Imitates Tech

The week of February 12 started out amicably and ended on a belligerent note. We hope each day at least included a laugh for Bizarro's readers.

Monday's gag was intended as nothing more than a humorous comment on the similarities (and differences) between the social activities of canines and humans. I imagined a networking site for dogs might be called "Sniffer," and I liked that it sounded similar to "Twitter." To our surprise, the cartoon was shared by a guy named Scott Darling, who co-founded Sniffr, an actual dating app for dog lovers. It looks like a fun and useful app, and includes options to arrange play dates for your dog or send out lost pet alerts. Who knew?

Customer Support explained that their product performs precisely as advertised.

For Valentine's Day, another social media/dating app cartoon, reminding us that people both expose and conceal themselves online.

Paradoxically, their baby shoes are gigantic.

Thursday's offering may be read simply as a dark and somewhat disturbing gag set in a creepy guy's basement. Or, it might illustrate the wisdom in hiring qualified, experienced professionals over "outsiders" who want to "shake things up."

For someone who's always trying to hide, this Waldo fellow ought to consider a less conspicuous wardrobe.

Thanks for following our shenanigans for yet another week. Don't forget to read Dan Piraro's blog for his perspective on this batch of gags. Oh, and check out the snazzy Bizarro Enamel Pins Dan's offering in his online shop!

See you next Saturday.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Philosophical Puppetry

Groundhog Day has come and gone, and as of this writing the wind chill factor outside Bizarro Studios North is barely above zero. Your faithful cartoonist is staying warm by working over a glowing lightbox to keep you supplied with fresh gags as we count the days til Spring.

We started the week with a rather bleak cartoon, showing two puppets (or two puppeteers) debating the existence of free will. I had fun drawing the weird, old-fashioned toys in this one. Although it's not necessarily a laugh-out-loud joke, Dan Piraro and I agreed that it is a Bizarro cartoon. Dan will undoubtedly have more to say about this one, so be sure to visit his blog.

After Monday's Kafkaesque offering, we lightened the mood by eavesdropping on a pair of coworkers at the local apiary, enjoying their morning cup of nectar.

Today's panel reminds us that it's possible to over-prepare for some things. When drawing a cartoon with an inanimate object or an animal as a sentient character, I generally try to render it as realistically as I can. Maybe "realistic" is a stretch, but I prefer to avoid adding arms, legs, and eyes if they aren't necessary to get the joke across. It's not an inflexible rule, more of a preference. And sometimes a pencil is just a pencil.

I wish I was clever enough to come up with an Ambrose Bierce style definition of populism, particularly in its current manifestation. Since I'm just a cartoonist, this panel will have to do.

Criminal investigators who tack photos to the wall and connect them with pieces of string are probably not as common as TV and movies would have us believe, but we all immediately recognize a scene like this. Before photography existed, fictional detectives had to set up evidence walls like the one shown here.  

The most enjoyable part of creating this gag was playing around with the "Olde English" language. The least enjoyable part was drawing those ropes.

By the way, our cartoon sleuth is the forefather of a famous 20th century gumshoe.

These guys are nearly as frightening as War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death, and probably equally inevitable. 

Side note: Today's cartoon includes no Bizarro Secret Symbols, because the cartoonist barely left enough room for the signatures and the date. This is yet another reason I'm so happy when we come up with a wordless gag.

As always, I thank you for reading and commenting, especially if you slogged all the way through this post. Don't forget to read Dan's weekly recap, and order your Bizarro enamel pins while supplies last!

Populism Postscript

The Blasters performing their incisive tune, "Common Man," in 1985:

Saturday, February 03, 2018


The Latest Batch of Bizarritude

Here's something the groundhog didn't predict yesterday: another cartoon recap from Bizarro Studios North.

Last week, we ran a cartoon making fun of the banjo. Now we're picking on accordions? Where will it end? (This isn't even my first accordion-based gag.) 

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that my first musical instrument was in fact an accordion. Today, I'm a harmonica player, and, really, what is a harmonica but an accordion without the bellows and keyboard?

A couple weeks ago, Bizarro showed a newly-arrived angel in therapy for being overly happy. That one and today's both came out of conversations over a sketch that didn't quite hit the mark.

My initial rough of the angel at the shrink (below) was okay, but Bizarro CEO Dan Piraro and I both felt it could be improved.

Dan suggested that the patient say something like "Heaven is amazing and all, but to be honest, it still isn’t as much fun as I had on Spring Break in Tampa back in 1997." He explained that he chose the year because a person who was in college back then would be about 40 now, which is a common age to begin lamenting the loss of youth. The new line of dialog and the nostalgia for college days suggested to me an image of a couple of angel-dudes clinking beer glasses. The "Amen" response gave it a little extra comedic bump.

One could argue that this gag goes overboard in terms of being "meta." I prefer to think of it as "multidimensional."

I refuse to comment on this cartoon in order to avoid self-incrimination.

We never tire of jokes about dogs sniffing each other's territorial markings. My favorite detail in this one is the chihuahua as the jaded plainclothes detective.

Prior to the procedure, the patient wasn't very bright. I don't know where I first got the concept of a society of pumpkin-headed humans, but I've used it as the basis for a couple of things in the past.

Truck on over to Dan's blog for his take on this week's funnies, and (I hope) a peek at some of the fine art he's working on lately.

By the way, have you seen the amazing enamel pins in the newly-opened Bizarro Shop? No lapel, necktie, or hatband should be without one!

Five Weeks In...

I'm happily shocked to realize it's already been more than a month since I joined up as Bizarro's daily cartoonist. I'm thrilled to be working alongside a dear friend who's the best in the business, and to receive so much great feedback from the loyal and attentive readership. Not every comment has been positive, but I do read every one, and they're all appreciated. I'll keep doing my best to provide laughs Monday through Saturday, and will join you every Sunday in marveling at Dan's masterful work.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

String Theory

This sextet of Bizarro cartoons includes a few music-related gags, possibly because music occupies such a large section of my personal phrenology map. Whatever the reason, let's run down the chart, and see if any of these have a beat you can dance to.

Several readers suggested that Monday's cartoon could instead have featured accordion, bagpipes, tuba, etc., but banjo players are known to have a healthy, self-deprecating sense of humor, and love to tell jokes about their chosen axe, so that's the direction we took with this gag. Before someone else points it out, the irony of a ukulele-strumming cartoonist poking fun at the banjo is not lost on me.

As a side note, if you're ever in Pittsburgh on a Wednesday, I highly (and non-ironically) recommend checking out the weekly open rehearsal of the Pittsburgh Banjo Club.

Here we reveal a little-known hiccup in the development of a classic toy. This panel also features the tiniest stick of dynamite to appear in Bizarro to date.

It turned out to be even more disturbing in black & white.

Those rear-window stick figure things have been around longer than most people realize, but there's no craftsmanship involved these days. For two bits, the kid would do Happy Hooligan whizzing on the Packard emblem.

A scene from the short lived cable series, Law & Order: Puppetland.

The drawing that sets up Thursday's gag is rather weird, but it's consistent in its twisted logic. For the joke to deliver, the reader has to "hear" the music, and then anticipate what comes next. My friend Shannon Wheeler once told me that his best cartoons (which you've probably seen in The New Yorker and elsewhere) show the middle of a narrative, with the reader filling in the beginning and the end. That was my intent here, and I think it came pretty close.

Dogs. They sure love smelly stuff, don't they?

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. Please surf over to Dan Piraro's blog for his thoughts on this week's offerings. 


Finally, here's a wonderful 1927 banjo recording by Harry Reser. Enjoy.