Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Truth About Jellybeans

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. We've been hard at work here at Bizarro Studios North, and are pleased to share the most recent output from our staff.

It's not clear how the inmate can smoke while sucking on a pacifier, but you never know what you're capable of if you're in the joint long enough.

Tuesday's gag was partly inspired by my good pal and bandmate Tom. He loves to share music from his collection of early jazz 78s, and he does wear a nineteenth-century derby from time to time. Tom doesn't smoke cigarettes, but the cell phone he carries is the closest modern equivalent to a vintage candlestick model.
The technology depicted in the cartoon is similar to a real business that existed in Pittsburgh for more than sixty years. Many bars and restaurants around town had a large wooden speaker cabinet tucked away in a corner. On top of the speaker sat a black telephone with a coin slot, but no dial or buttons. When a customer dropped a quarter in the slot, a kindly lady would answer and ask what song the patron wanted to hear. She'd almost always find the requested number in their giant library of records. The Telephone Music Service is long gone, but Pittsburghers "of a certain age" remember it with affection. 

Even if you never studied Greek mythology, you probably recognize Sisyphus. Like the Grim Reaper, Mister Peanut, Satan, and Saint Peter, good old Sisyphus is one of those characters cartoonists love to play with. His punishment of perpetually pushing a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down is an apt metaphor for a multitude of human activities.

In my first sketch, the character looked more like a teenager, and he was pushing a giant wiffle ball.

While we know that dogs and wolves evolved from a common ancestor, toy breeds such as chihuahuas make it a little hard to believe.

Our Friday cartoon is a cautionary tale, reminding kids to beware when Easter falls on April Fools' Day.

We generally avoid basing a cartoon on a pun, unless it's unique and surprising. This one was suggested to Dan by a reader, and we worked for a while to come up with an image for it. On its own, that wasn't quite enough, but the caption adds some commentary on the dearth of new ideas in popular culture.

Speaking of reboots, Dan Piraro's site,, has undergone a snazzy transformation thanks to the super-big-brained-genius team who redesigned it. You're strongly encouraged to check it out, and read Dan's recap of the week's funnies.

Thanks for following, reading, sharing, and commenting on Bizarro. We appreciate every reader.

Have a great week, and think twice before dipping into a child's Easter basket.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Flotation Device

Another Saturday has rolled around, which means it's time to review the most recent pile of Bizarro comics.

The joke in Monday's cartoon is only a tiny step away from reality. In our current age of plutocracy, privatization, and piggishness, it would come as no surprise to hear that the Department of the Interior was selling off the National Parks.

Tuesday's gag is a tip of the old porkpie to the prolific and hilarious J.C. Duffy, heavyweight champion of fly in the soup gags.

Manny, Moe, and Jack ended up having the last laugh. They not only launched a hugely successful auto parts business, but then they used it to realize their dream of becoming models, despite their unnerving appearance.

As some readers may know, we create a separate "landscape" version of each daily Bizarro for those client newspapers who run it in a comic strip slot. This involves rearrangement of the text and image, and often some additional bits of art. Today's was a little bit of a challenge, but we had fun with it. Here's the strip configuration:
By the way, this marks the first time I've ever drawn the Flying Saucer of Possibility floating in water.

Friday's cartoon underwent a few changes on its way to publication. The original line of dialog was simply, "Play me a bedtime podcast." That was mildly funny as a soft critique of modern parenting, but it lacked punch. Dan Piraro once shared a story with me about Bizarro's early days, and an editor who encouraged him to dig deeper in search of an extra level of humor by letting an idea stew for a while, and reworking it. That was sound advice, and reinforces the fact that the key to improved writing is editing, which doesn't always mean removing words, but choosing them carefully. The dialog as published added some much-needed comedic tension, with its mix of self-awareness and cluelessness, and gave the gag a satisfying layer of irony.

...and on Saturday, another criminal is undone by poor vocabulary.

Thanks, as always, to the community of Bizarro Jazz Pickles* for reading and commenting. Please check out Dan Piraro's weekly blog for more thoughts on this week's comics, and to gaze in wonder at his latest Sunday panel.

Here's hoping we all keep our antennae above water until next time.

*Proud Jazz Pickles can show their love and support by wearing an official BJP enamel pin, available from Dan's web store.

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.