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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 07/29/2008

The Morning Line: "Judge Parker," Laff Riot

By Michael Cavna

Judge Parker: A sly guffaw? Hardly par for the course. (North America Syndicate)

Ladies and gentledudes of the court: Let the record show that today, Tuesday, July 29, for the first time this year, we -- ahem -- laughed at "Judge Parker." Aloud.

Not even at him, which is quite common among comic fans, but with him. We think. (Sam the would-be duffer can be one tough customer to read.)

Before you think less of us than you perhaps already do, let us explain:

Most persons of sound mind can agree that "Judge Parker" rarely really goes for "the funny." At least intentionally. Oh, occasionally there's a line as a dry as the driest James Bond martini, but this is no gagfest. In the jargon of the golfers populating the strip for several millennia now, "JP" prefers to "lay up" with starch-stiff dialogue.

Because of that, when we typically laugh (silently) at "JP," we are being ironic. "Judge Parker" is amusing in spite of itself. Today, however, with his eyebrows arched just so, half-smiling at us, Sam the Reluctant Golfer seems disarmingly in on the joke. The flight attendant -- retro-attired like something straight outta AMC's "Mad Men" -- has just said she was a "top-ranked amateur in college," in golf. But Sam the R.G. seems to wink that we all are "amateurs" in college -- amateur thinkers, amateur philosophers, even know-it-all amateur commentators on life.

Perhaps we are giving Sam and "Judge Parker," too much credit. Perhaps we are over-intellectualizing to compensate for the blank slate that can be "Parker" dialogue. Or perhaps we have simply been driven to the brink of exasperation by the glacial pace of the storyline. (If this strip were truly, surreally brilliant, by the way, this painfully slow trodding of the golf story would be intended as a metaphor for actually playing golf. Except for the times we covered Tiger Woods for the sports pages, we have always personally experienced golf as a slow torture of misplayed moments and ill-advised decisions -- not unlike, say, this very "Judge Parker" storyline.)

Is Sam as wry as we give him credit for? We've hit the 19th hole, so we invite your best shots.

SIDENOTES: Can today's "Beetle Bailey" be any more out-of-touch with the U.S. headlines coming out of at least two nations? Sure, the comic page is often a bastion from the harshest realities of life, but this "B.B." calls to mind a third "B" word: Bizarre.

Beetle Bailey: Living in Iraq -- or under a rock? (King Features)

By Michael Cavna  | July 29, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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I don't usually clutter my mind with JP (I think that's the origin of Zippy) but didn't Abby say that she was a top ranked amateur in college? I think that's the whole joke and you're looking too deep. You could ask the author, but it would probably take several days to get an useful answer.

Day 1: you asked about humour in Judge Parker.
Day 2: it was about the July 29 cartoon.
Day 3: Sam was talking to a stewardess.
Day 15: Did you notice Sam seems to have migrated from an aisle seat in panel 1 to a window seat in panel 3?
Day 40: What was the question again?

BTW, BB made ME laugh. That happens once or twice a month, I guess.

Posted by: f2 | July 29, 2008 7:13 AM | Report abuse

When did Sam become a doppelganger for Christopher Reeve (c. 1979)?

Posted by: erin | July 29, 2008 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Superb essay on Judge Parker, long time in coming.

Let's take bets on how long this flight will last? A week minimum is the over / under....

(Great you noticed the 'stewardess' uniform. It stood out as I read it this morning. Also great to see Sam manning up in 1st class).

Posted by: JkR | July 29, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Props to "Sally Forth" today for humorously(!) acknowledging the whole space time continuum that comic characters struggle with. (We're looking at you "Family Circus" and thousands of others)

Posted by: J. May | July 29, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

You did miss the joke. Abbey said she was a top-ranked amateur, too. I think the "real" joke is actually funnier than your interpretation. (And should it frighten me that I just stood up for JP and its humor?)

But more importantly, if you're going to write about the comics, please read them!

Posted by: L | July 29, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

The Beetle Bailey strip was a perfect illustration of a typical, by the numbers, not necessarily relevant, the regs said we had to teach it today, Army training session, using the platform mode of instruction. Mort got it right. Nothing bizarre whatsoever. Happens every day. There's the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way!

The only peculiarity was that it's the Air Force that's mostly into bombing things. The Army shoots them

Retired Lt Col

Posted by: Bruce | July 29, 2008 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps I'm the only one, but I assumed "top-ranked amateur in college" was in reference to...well...something a little more shady that "golf." Though it does involve a "putter" and a "hole."

Posted by: BobT | July 29, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

OK, sure, Abby said that she was a top-ranked amateur in college, but in Michael's defense, that was about a year or so ago. Or maybe it just seems that way. I think we're all still suffering from the after-effects of Abby's pot brownie adventure.

Of course there is no better commentary on the glacial pace of story strips than the classic bit from Golden Girls --

Dorothy: Wow, I haven't read Apartment 3-G in twenty years.

Blanche: Oh, well let me catch you up! It is later that same day... ...

Posted by: LarryMac | July 29, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Beetle Bailey being out of touch, yesterday Beetle was writing to his parents to ask for $10. Ten dollars!? Are the Baileys really *that* poor (Beetle did go to college, after all), or has Walker lost track of inflation since about 1975?

Posted by: Tom T. | July 29, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Beetle Bailey is among the worst offenders of bad comics sticking around ... apparently there's some military genre that we need to address in the comics page even though this strip representative of one from the 50s not the 21 Century.

The fact that it takes like seven people to produce this is beyond embarrassing it's pathetic.

Posted by: Natty | July 29, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

have any of the characters in Beetle Bailey ever actually fought in a war/ or conflict?

Posted by: david | July 29, 2008 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Somewhere I have some Underground Comix, perhaps Bill Griffin, where they forced Beetle Bailey to address the fact that the military was at war in Vietnam. Beetle Bailey seriously needs to address current concerns.

Posted by: Neener | July 30, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

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