Cartoons People Don’t Get

Every so often I get an email from someone who doesn’t understand one of my cartoons.

To be fair, sometimes even I don’t understand some of them. Often I think of them in the shower before my coffee, or at night when I get up to use the bathroom, and by the time I get to actually drawing them a week or so later, even I have to wonder what I was thinking.

But, those cartoons are not infrequently purchased/published, so I’ve pretty much given my brain free reign.

Here are a few that I get asked about a lot:

This one is mainly an art issue I think. For some reason that day I just found it damn impossible to draw chameleons! The joke is supposed to be that one of the chameleons is wearing camouflage to blend in even further. But when you can’t tell what the hell the two main characters are, the joke becomes a lot harder to get.
This Halloween cartoon is sort of a weird one too. The art is pretty good I think; I even looked up the original movie poster for Poltergeist to make sure I got all the details correct. Anyway, the “Bawk Baaaawk…” is supposed to be the “They’re heeeeere…” line from the movie, but maybe that’s too far back in pop culture to be immediately recognizable. Got me. It makes me laugh.

Another cartoon that I spent waaaay too much time on for sort of a lame pun. The idea here is they’re all outside, so no one will get a joke that’s apparently inside. Looking back, this shoulda hit the recycle bin…

Sometimes a cartoonist is really digging deep for subject matter, and this cartoon is the result of perhaps looking too far a field for material. The word ‘orange’ is largely considered to have no words that rhyme with it, and I thought that would really piss poets off.

You’re not missing anything in this cartoon, it’s just really weird. I think I was heavy into some Jack Ziegler at this point and this just sort of popped out.

And finally, this cartoon has caused a lot of folks to scratch their heads. The idea here doesn’t revolve around the fact that it’s the letter ‘g,’ but on the font. The font is Times New Roman (if I remember correctly) and that seems really serious to me. So I guess if a Times New Roman ‘g’ had an agent trying to get him work, it might be hard to perceive that letter as funny.

Whew! It feels good to get some of that off of my chest. I’ll dig a little deeper and see what other stuff I can find later. I’m fairly sure there are more that are confusing, obtuse, and just downright odd. (I think I just wrote my epitaph!)

2 thoughts on “Cartoons People Don’t Get”

  1. This is the sort of thing I'd love to see more of. The creative process is hit-or-miss and occasionally hit-and-run. It's interesting how a joke that baffles — the Inside Joke cartoon was a puzzle — can suddenly seem extremely clever when explained. I've often thought my cartoons would sell better if I provided the appropriate footnote.

    I wonder if a cartoon that doesn't work immediately is poorly-conceived, or merely the victim of its job description as a two-second entertainment. If I read the Inside Joke panel for longer than two seconds, I have an idea I'd be nodding.

    Which brings up another idea: I wonder how many cartoonists really laugh at cartoons? It happens to me on occasion, but it's always a surprise.

    And speaking of surprises, I'm reading the preview for this post and I notice that the paragraphs have formed one large knot of type. Is there a trick to keeping the paragraphs distinct?

  2. Hey, Mark! This has been on my list of 'Blogs To Do' for a while, and now I wish I'd done it sooner. A couple of people have told me how much they enjoyed this post.

    I've thought in the past of adding a short comment to cartoons in the site, thinking maybe it'd be fun to give some inside info on each. But then I think 'that's a lot of freakin' typing!'

    As far as when cartoons don't work, I think it's probably a little from column A and a little from column B.

    My goal is usually to create a cartoon that's quickly understood and enjoyed. But I have to say, as a cartoonist, I love cartoons that make me work for another second or two to get them. Those always make me laugh the hardest. It's like discovering a secret somehow. So I guess I don't mind if people don't get my stuff all the time. I figure the few who do will really really enjoy it.

    As far as formatting paragraphs in comments, that seems to be just in the preview phase, as you post came out fine in the couple of browsers I looked at. I'll see what I can do…

    Thanks for stopping by!

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