Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 7, 1999

Lee Dresselhaus / L’Observateur / July 7, 1999

So..I wish I were a cartoonist. If I could draw, that is. Which I can’t. And Imean draw, not create stick figures, which is about all I can do.

Cartoonists are generally these wonderfully versatile people who bring their characters to life on the cartoon page of the paper and they breathe such life with their pen and ink that they manage to make us believe the weird little characters they draw and we laugh at them. Or we used to.Nobody would laugh at my stick figures, or at least they haven’t yet and I suspect they won’t start anytime soon. So what am I talking about? Gladyou asked.

Have you seen the comics page lately? I realize I often miss things. Beingpleasantly blank is part of my character and I’ve grown rather fond of that aspect of my personality. It makes things easier sometimes. But, I’m justnot sure what happened to the humor in the comics. While I wasn’t lookingsomeone came along and took the “funny” right out of the funny pages.

They just don’t cut it anymore.

Okay, so that I’m not alone in this, when is the last time any comic strip on that page made you laugh out loud? No, I’m not talking about that little, “hmph” thing we all do when we see something mildly amusing. Somethinga little better than average will get two “hmphs” out of you over your morning coffee. I mean really laugh out loud. A three hmpher or better. Canyou think of any strips that make you laugh out loud? See? Told you. Hmph.The comics just don’t seem to have the quality of humor that they used to.

Even the older staples have lost their edge. Peanuts is stale, Blondie is adrab gray, and Barney Google is, well, I just don’t know what to say about that whole thing. B.C. should be extinct, the Wizard Of Id needs to concoctsome magic potion to bring him back to life, and Beetle Bailey has spent enough time picking up cigarette butts and being screamed at by Sgt.

Snorkle and should retire gracefully. He’s the oldest private in the historyon the military, after all. Any military anywhere. And all of these werecutting edge strips in their time. Even in their weaker moments they werethree hmphers. Part of the problem is that some of these older strips areno longer done by their creators. Their original artists note the wordartists have retired or departed to their just reward and the strips are being done by replacements, pretenders to an inky crown that they didn’t earn. The bright side is that the new strips are even worse.Enjoying the comics was a not-so-long-ago Sunday ritual. It was fun, evenanticipated fun, to get a Sunday paper and read the comics. You could lookforward to it. Sometimes you would make a point of buying the Sundaypaper just to get the comics. Well, not anymore. Most of the stuff justain’t that funny now.

I looked at some of the newer comics and came to a dismal conclusion: There’s not a three-hmpher among them. There is actually a comic stripcalled “Booger.” Yep. Booger. Aside from the word having somewhatrepulsive connotations, okay, never mind connotations, a booger is a booger – the strip rated about a half a hmph. Then, as if having our Sundaybreakfast comics smeared with inch-high letters saying “BOOGER” wasn’t enough, we get to see “ZITS”, yet another wonderfully appealing early morning strip. Booger and Zits. Sheesh. It’s enough to make you put awaythe paper without even giving the strips a chance.

Among some of the other, newer strips, I guess Dilbert rates the highest.

In my humble opinion, that is. He can be a two-hmpher at times but mostof the time stays in the .75 to one-hmph range. I hear that Cathy is funnybut it’s a girl thing mostly, so I don’t get it. I can’t rate it because I don’tthink women hmph at all. They snort when they laugh sometimes, but Idon’t think they hmph. There must be a different system there.So what did I find funny? Bloom County was funny. A socially challenged,verbally eloquent penguin living in a rooming house with a 10-year-old genius, his insecure best friend who has a closet of anxieties in his room, a sleazy lawyer, and a really grody cat named Bill has got to be funny. Andit was. It was an intelligent four-hmpher almost every time. And it hadthe good sense to retire gracefully before the formula got old.

Gary Larsen’s Far Side was funny. Two little cavemen standing beside adead mammoth with a tiny arrow in its side and one of the cavemen telling the other that they should mark that spot down, now that’s funny. Larsen’sstuff was consistently four to five-hmph material. It also retiredgracefully.

Oh, well. If I had talent I’d be a cartoonist. If I could draw, that is. Hey, Iwonder how many hmphs those cartoonists would give this column? Never mind. I withdraw the question.

Lee Dresselhaus is a regular columnist for L’Observateur

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