Hagga laughed, and kept on laughing.

Introduction

In James Thurbur’s miraculous foray into the realms of whimsical  and linguistic fantasmagoria, The Thirteen Clocks, prince Zorn of Zorna and his unique companion, the Golux, are tasked by the Evil Duke of Coffin Castle to find a thousand jewels and return, all in the space of nine and ninety hours, in order to win the hand of the beautiful princess Saralinda.

Desperate, they seek out Hagga, who in exchange for saving the life of Good King Gwain of Yarrow, was blessed (or cursed) with the gift of weeping precious gems. When they find her, she’s all cried out; “Once I wept when maids were married underneath the April moon. I weep no more when maids are buried, even in the month of June.”

Unable to make her cry with his most tragic tales, the Golux tries another tack; he tells ridiculous stories to make her laugh, but all he gets for his trouble are rhinestones, pearls, and semiprecious gems. Nothing seemed to help, until “without a rhyme or reason, out of time and out of season, Hagga laughed and kept on laughing…and precious jewels twinkled down her cheek and sparkled on the floor.” “I wish that she had laughed,” the Golux sighed, “at something I had said.”

The heroes gathered up the gems and returned in time to save the princess from the salacious attentions of the evil Duke, but as they left, Hagga laughed and kept on laughing.

Theme

I get Hagga, I really do. I have a sense of humor that is bizarre, often sophomoric, and wildly mercurial. Sometimes I’ll encounter something in life that clamps my funny bone in the jaws of a bear trap and won’t let go, and heaven have mercy if  it strikes when I’m in public. I recall being around 18 when Bored of the Rings by Harvard Lampoon was published; I had purchased it and was sitting in a Nedick’s in New York reading it, laughing so hard that I thought I’d either be thrown out or taken away by the men in the white coats. I’ve alluded to other instances here.

In keeping with the spirit of uncontrollable laughter, I present to you a series of cartoons, some print and some electronic, which have resulted in meltdowns of various levels over time. Many of you will think that these are impossibly stupid, and that’s just fine.

The Far Side by Gary Larson

The cartoon that introduced me to Larson in the first place.
This Far Side never ran in the papers; it was rejected by Larson’s editors.

Don Martin, cartoonist for Mad Magazine

Don Martin’s sound effects are legendary. This is probably the granddaddy of them all.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Many of Watterson’s efforts had similar results, but this one was the cream of the crop.

Garfield by Jim Davis

It’s widely accepted that Jim Davis never intended for Garfield to be funny, rather commercially successful. This one brought me and my kids to tears.

Broom Hilda by R. Myers

A classic from the ’70s.

B. Kliban

Many of Kliban’s strips were excruciatingly funny to someone with a twisted mind.

Overboard by Chip Dunham

Dunham’s hapless pirates have been a source of much mirth.

Wildwood by Tom Spurgeon and Dan Wright

Wildwood was a touching and sincere strip with a far-too-short run. This one is by far my favorite.

Rose is Rose by Pat Brady

Brady still writes the strip, but in 2004 he passed the artwork torch to Don Wimmer. I think it was the floating skulls that got me on this one.

Certainly there are other things in life that have made me laugh without being able to stop – I’m thinking of the baked-bean supper from “Blazing Saddles” (who doesn’t appreciate a good flatulence joke, really), the pie fight from “The Great Race,” and the feeding machine from Chaplin’s “Modern Times” – but these are the things that floated to the top while I contemplated this particular subject.

I hope you have things in your life that have done the same for you. Laughter, they say, is good for the soul.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Milkshake, Hold the Cup

Berkeley Breathed, creator of “The Academia Waltz,” “Bloom County,” and “Opus” (there, Melissa, I used an Oxford Comma, I want a gold star) has long been a favorite of mine, right up there with Doonesbury and before that, Pogo (Mogg’s teeth, I miss Walt Kelly. I can’t imagine what he would be doing with the rich fodder this recent election and current administration would have given him.)

And cartoonists sometimes repeat a gag, because reasons. But Breathed has taken this particular punchline and recycled it at least twice, with various results. The first appearance was in 1978 or so:

Bloom County - Hold the Cup (3)

The Academia Waltz

The joke was good enough to launch his next and longest-running effort:

Bloom County - Hold the Cup (2)

The very first “Bloom County.”

But there was still more outrage to be had:

Bloom County - Hold the Cup

Another Bloom County

And Jim Davis, never above using imitation as the sincerest form of flattery, even worked it into one of his Garfield strips:

Garfield - Hold the Cup

Remind me never to go to Irma’s diner. She must be related to the lady who runs the “Bank of Ethel” over at Dilbert.

Now, the last question in my mind is, “How many people have actually gone to Burger King and tried this? If I were behind the counter, I’d simply say “Hold out your hands” and see where things went from there.

On that note, I am reminded of the story about an American couple on vacation in Wales. On their journey they find themselves in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and decide to have a bite to eat, all the while debating the pronunciation of the town’s name.
They stop for lunch and one tourist asks the cashier, “Before we order, could you please settle an argument for us?”
The young lady behind the counter agrees.
“Would you please pronounce where we are for us – very slowly?”
The girl leans over the counter and says, “Buurrrrgerrrrr Kinnnnggg.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

Even the best cartoonists repeat now and then.

I grew up on Peanuts™. I learned how to read with the first Peanuts book that appeared in 1952, and read them voraciously as other volumes were published. Over time my collection was sold or given away (heresy!), and when I came to my senses decades later I began collecting them again.

peanuts-1952

The challenge with the original books was that Schulz was very selective about what he allowed to be anthologized, and many of his strips vanished from the public consciousness. Happily, later arrangements with Schulz and his estate allowed the entire collection to be republished either by Fantagraphics (beautiful but very expensive) or online at GoComics (colorized but free.)

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the GoComics edition, and read it faithfully and daily. But recently I came across a strip that rang a loud bell:

peanuts-bread-and-budder-sandwich-1

I remembered this strip clearly, but something about it seemed “off.” When I finally had some time to do a deep search of the internet, I was able to find the one I remembered:

peanuts-bread-and-budder-sandwich-1

Same gag, re-drawn, slightly different punchline. According to comments at the GoComics site, there may also be a strip where Linus tells Lucy that if you cut a PB&J sandwich, all the flavor runs out.

Why the re-do? Could be any number of reasons. Maybe Schulz liked this punchline better and wanted to see it published. Charles M. Schulz created a total of 17,897 Peanuts strips; maybe he just forgot he had done this one and the idea stuck in his head, so he “re-created” it. Maybe he was stuck for an idea on a given day. Whatever the case, if this is the only true duplication of a gag that he ever did, that’s a prodigious feat.

Other cartoonists repeat occasionally (and not just re-runs for vacations or filler.) I’ve seen one or two examples, but most of them keep coming up with fresh ideas (or in the case of some comic strips, not-so-fresh ideas) for years or even decades. Schulz was undeniably one of the masters of the genre, and an inspiration for countless cartoonists who followed.

The Old Wolf has spoken.