Saturday, August 26, 2023

Pie in the Sky

This is the weekly dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend Dan Piraro created Bizarro in the late twentieth century and continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.


I learned that I never really know the true story of my guests' lives, that I have to content myself with knowing that when I'm interviewing somebody, I'm getting a combination of fact and truth and self-mythology and self-delusion and selective memory and faulty memory.

Terry Gross

A recent comic sent me on a search for quotes about self-deception. I'd hoped to gain some psychological insight regarding people's uncanny ability (or determination) to ignore facts that contradict their chosen narrative.

Along the way, I encountered some wise words from Terry Gross, my NPR dream date. What she describes is probably true for all of us. 

However, there's definitely a segment of the populace who knows that what they claim to believe is objectively false, but will never admit it, because of their own past statements or public actions.

It's objectively true that we love to include a pipe pic in our blog entries, and will continue to do so as long as quality images keep finding their way to us.

A longtime Bizarro reader and supporter snapped this one at Detroit Urban Artifacts, which looks like a spectacular antique store.

I've seen many photos of pipe-smoking dogs, but this is the first pink ceramic poodle.

Thanks to David D for spotting this pooch and sending us his shot.

Now, let's peek at the latest Bizarro gags.

Monday's caption is what you might call a mental pun. It works when you look at the printed word, but I can't imagine an appropriate spoken pronunciation. It simply has to resonate in the mind's ear.

It was fun to draw once I decided where to place the mustache.

Would the knitted items in the drawing be considered hats, co
zies, or something else altogether?

In recent months, I've done three comics involving piggy banks. (See Example A and Example B). Sometimes ideas come in multiples, and we're grateful when they do.

These three are the belated offspring of a gag I wrote for Bizarro long before becoming the daily cartoonist.

That first one is still my favorite.  

This is the panel that led to my musings about self-delusion. I wrote mongers on the character's sign because theorists lends too much legitimacy to the types of claims that inspired the gag. I propose that we replace the term conspiracy theorist with conspiracy fantasist.

The panel also drew comments from three camps:
  • Readers who understood the joke
  • People who identified with the character and took offense at the mention of facts
  • Self-styled editors who presented corrections ("That should be a tin foil hat," "The word [x] should be [y]," "This would be funnier if...")
One wonders if commenters in that third category would tell a musician that they should've started a song with an E7 chord, or hand them rewritten lyrics.

Friday's panel brought your cartoonist great joy. I love wordless gags and especially wordless clown gags.

It warranted a vertical layout in the strip version.

Speaking of converting panels to strips, I'd assumed that Friday's reconfiguration would be a simple task, but proved myself wrong.

Fortunately, I worked it out and learned a little about doing my job as efficiently as I can. I'd initially attempted another vertical strip, but the tomb became too small to read. Returning to landscape orientation, I extended the background greenery and shortened the mic stand. The lines in the reduced art became much thinner, so I filled in the epitaph lettering and added heavier outlines around the monument.

Then I had to decide what to do with the caption. Whether it remained as a single line or split into two lines, the box interfered with the drawing. The tall, multiline caption box now seems an obvious solution, but because I'd been doing things more or less the same way for over five years, discovering it was a bit of a struggle.

Perhaps if I see this comic a few years from now, I'll have a comforting false memory of the strip layout coming together easily.

Bizarro in the Wild

My dear pal and colleague Jim Horwitz was shopping with his kids at an art supply store in Minnesota and noticed a Bizarro comic displayed near the cash register. It had been carefully clipped from the newspaper, partially hand-colored, and mounted on a piece of mat board, all of which absolutely delights me.

"Jimmy Ho" has written many gags that Dan Piraro turned into Bizarro comics, and he's the creator of the online comic, Watson, which I highly recommend. Watson is funny, goofy, passionate, sincere, smart, sweet, and unique, much like Jimmy himself.

That wraps up another pile of laffs from the Little Shop of Humor in Bizarro Studios North.

Drop by again next Saturday, when I'll have a fresh batch of cartoons and commentary cooked up for you.

Bonus Track

Pussy Cat: "Ce N'est Pas Une Vie"
RCA Victor (France) 45 rpm, 1966) 

Since we kicked off this batch with a faux-Gallic joke, I have an excuse to share a track by one of my favorite 1960s French yé-yé singers: Évelyne Courtois, who adopted the name Pussy Cat based on the Tom Jones hit, "What's New Pussycat?"

At age 17, Coutrois was the guitarist and songwriter for France's first all-female rock band, Les Petits Souris. She was inspired by the British mod scene, and in addition to original tunes, she covered songs by the Zombies, the Moody Blues, the Hollies, and the Small Faces. "Ce N'est Pas Une Vie" is her version of the Small Faces' "Sha-La-La-La-Lee."

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Artful Dodger

This is the weekly dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend Dan Piraro created Bizarro in the late twentieth century and continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.


Welcome, Friends of Bizarro.

I’m running a little later than usual this week, so we’re jumping right in with no opening quote, and no pithy commentary from your cartoonist.

Of course, we can’t have a blog entry without a pipe pic, and it’s a beauty.

This sophisticated image advertises an exhibit by the prolific and multi-talented illustrator Bob Staake, appropriately titled The Endless Imagination of Bob Staake.

A tip of the Bizarro summer porkpie with deep gratitude to Bob for allowing me to share this with you. If you’re in Cape Cod between now and mid-October, it would be worth your time to check out his show.

Here’s a look at the works recently exhibited in Gallery Bizarro.

Monday’s jailbird is of course Crockett Johnson’s Harold, of purple crayon fame. He was apprehended when his getaway car melted. 

Johnson also created a charming comic strip, Barnaby, whose title character looked a lot like Harold. Barnaby had a cigar-smoking fairy godfather named Mr. O’Malley, who was visible to children but not adults.

This week included a portmantuesday.

He could at least have committed to a Sharpie.

Either way, the procedure will pay for itself.

We haven't had a pirate gag for a while, so I was happy to come up with this one. The phrase "drop anchor" is my favorite element.

Saturday's gag used up all of my knowledge of hockey.

Thanks for checking in. We appreciate your readership and encourage you to keep those comments and pipe pics coming in.

Come by again next week for more of this sort of thing.

Bonus Track

The Residents featuring Snakefinger
"Jailhouse Rock"
from The 13th Anniversary Tour (1986)

After drawing the Harold cartoon, "Jailhouse Rock" was on continuous play in my head, particularly the lyric referencing the Purple Gang. The human brain is a weird and fascinating organ. 

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Dining, Drinking and Dancing

This is the weekly dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend Dan Piraro created Bizarro in the late twentieth century and continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.


Music should never be harmless.

Robbie Robertson (1943-2023)

We lost another musical master this week: the Band's Robbie Robertson. Much has been written about the Band, and their complex, often contentious interrelationships. Despite the conflicts, they created a hugely impressive body of work, which has stood the test of time.

I've been listening to some of their music while working this week, though they're always part of my regular rotation. Thanks to a friend's Facebook post, I've been enjoying a stellar soundboard recording of a 1970 show at Pittsburgh's since-demolished venue, The Syria Mosque.

I was too young to attend that concert, but their 1970 album Stage Fright was the first of their records I'd ever heard. It happened after school at a friend's house whose older sister had excellent taste and a generous nature.

I treasure the music of Robertson, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, and Garth Hudson (the last surviving member), and am grateful to Bob L's big sister for giving us access to her LPs way back when.

I photographed our latest pipe pic while visiting an old friend earlier this month.

Heads Together was one of the city's many great record stores. As soon as I got my driver's license, I regularly made my way to the city's Squirrel Hill and Oakland neighborhoods to spend the meager wages I earned stocking shelves at the local Shop & Save.

Thanks to my old pal Dan Charny for sharing this artifact during our visit.

Now, let's take a peek at the latest Bizarro gags.

I'm always trying to create wordless gags, but a punchline consisting of just two words is pretty satisfying too. Also, I enjoy drawing anteaters and ant farms.

I also enjoy drawing centipedes. This panel was inspired in no small part by a recent comic by my esteemed colleague Dave Blazek, in his feature, Loose Parts.

Dave's work is always hilarious, and I read Loose Parts every morning, which frequently causes me to spit my coffee.

I'm fairly certain that some corporations have done market research to find the sweet spot for aggravating customers.

Thursday's joke is a simple switcheroo on the trope of actors supporting themselves in food service until their big break comes along. I think that acting and making coffee are both honorable professions.

If you're the type of person who turns up their nose at less prestigious wines, read up on how inmates make alcoholic beverages. The research I did for this panel gave me a renewed appreciation for "bottom shelf" commercial beverages.

Everybody has one pet peeve regarding their partner, right?

I just noticed that the week's gags are heavy on food, beverages, and music, reflecting the motivations of your cartoonist.

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North in scenic Hollywood Gardens PA. I've got to run, as my (small "b") band has a gig this evening in nearby Ellwood City, and it's time to pack up the car and hit the road.

Hope to have you back next week. Your comments are always welcome.

Bonus Track

The Band: "Up On Cripple Creek"
From The Ed Sullivan Show
November 2, 1969

"A new recording sensation for you youngsters."

Saturday, August 05, 2023

Two For the Price of One

This is the weekly dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend Dan Piraro created Bizarro in the late twentieth century and continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.


The freelancer lives in suspense, dangling like a puppet from the edge of a cliff.

Virgil Franklin Partch (aka ViP)

Having survived as a freelance artist for years, the words of my cartoon hero Virgil Partch always rang true. Since becoming Bizarro's daily cartoonist, I no longer consider myself a true freelancer, but I'm not exactly an employee, either. I suppose I'm something of an independent contractor.

I seldom take on freelance work or commissions, but I decided to accept a recent opportunity for a special project. As soon as I signed the agreement, a familiar feeling of unease and uncertainty descended, like a mooching distant relative.

As I type this entry, I think I have a clear picture of what I'll do for the first of two designs to be executed, so the anxiety is manageable. No doubt it's creatively beneficial to occasionally stray from one's daily routine, but it usually involves more than a little angst.

Wish me luck, and in a few weeks, I'll share the results of this extracurricular activity.

Our pipe pic this time around is a digital representation of an early animation device known as a phenakistiscope.

This example is a fair representation of the life of a daily cartoonist. We must continually produce for a hungry audience. Perhaps we need an idiomatic expression to describe our occupational pursuit. 
Sorry, I can't make it to the party tonight. Gotta feed the frog.
A tip of the old Bizarro porkpie to Jazz Pickle Alaric N. for bringing this fascinating image to my attention.

Earlier this week, I took a break from the drawing table to catch up with two old friends, both of whom I first connected with over a mutual love of music.

Mike, the gent in the middle, is a terrific drummer and a knowledgeable student of many types of music. On the right, in the white tee is my friend Dan, who I have not seen in many years. When I was a wee college student, Dan opened Pittsburgh's first used record store, the Doo-Dah Shop, where I spent many hours browsing the racks and avoiding the classroom. Mike and I met while shopping at Dan's place.

It was a pleasure to reconnect with old pals, and I returned to the studio refreshed and ready to feed that frog.

Let's see what that old amphibian feasted upon this week.

That's a diligent call center employee.

If only painting the walls of the house were as fast and easy as Photoshop's paint bucket tool.

A French cousin was rumored to have reincarnated as a soufflé.

As an astute Facebook commenter said, there's no joy in bullying a laptop.

Friday's gag depicts a reading by Woolen Ginsberg.

I had to shuffle the art and reverse the layout for the strip configuration, and I think it resulted in a superior composition. This feels more like a subterranean poetry club than the vertical panel version, wouldn't you say, Daddy-o?


Occasionally, a caption will appear at the top of a panel, as in today's gag.

In another deviation from practice, the strip has its word balloon in the center. I must have been feeling wild and crazy that day.

Thank you for lending your eyeballs to this stuff. Come by next week for more words and pictures.

Bonus Viewing

The Al & Arnie Show
From The Paragon of Comedy
Showtime, 1983

Between HBO's The Pee-Wee Herman Show (1981) and the network debut of Pee-Wee's Playhouse (1986), Showtime ran The Paragon of Comedy, a special starring John Paragon. Paragon played Jambi on the Pee-Wee shows, and Paul Reubens appeared in this sketch on the Paragon special.

The death of Paul Reubens saddened us here at the studio. I looked forward to every appearance he made on Late Night with David Letterman, and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was the first DVD I ever purchased. 

I still have my fan club membership card.

Thanks for the laughs, Mister Herman.