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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 09/11/2008

The Morning Line: ¡Viva la Revolucion, Mon!

By Michael Cavna

In theory, it should not work. You should not be able to dress up rats and cats and ducks as agents and soldiers and rastafarians and have it, on paper, be this entertaining.


"Noooo zeeeba, no cry..." (UFS) Enlarge Comic

In reality, though, we are digging this week's "Pearls Before Swine" plotline -- and it's not just because Stephan Pastis has drawn some unexpectedly beautiful palm fronds in that last panel. (Or just because "Pearls" and "Hi and Lois" allegedly colluded on Castro jokes this week.)

No, it is because Pastis has seemingly studied the Sacred Book of Funny till he can recite it chapter and verse. He apparently has heard and reinterpreted the oral folklore of Commonly Accepted Stock Hilarity that all good cartoonists must absorb from the culture. These include such ideas as:

1. In the right hands, Rasta can be funny. We don't know who first struck this comedy goldmine -- perhaps the same humorist who realized "Amish" can be hilarious -- but decades of blissed-out, ganja-tokin' Rasta-man caricatures in the movies ("Cool Runnings," anyone?) have only helped the comic cause, mon.

2. Have sunglasses, will laff. If you're going to give a rodent that air of militaristic authority -- or give a Rasta-duck that (pungent) air of Marley-esque mellow -- then stick some shades on your critters for a Touch O' Character.

3. Pain, humiliation and suffering form the trinity of high hilarity. Pig must suffer. Rat must torment. And somewhere, a lion must have his kinghood mocked by zeebas. This is the natural order of cartoon humor. (Cue "Lion King.") It's the circle. The circle of strife.

Whatever Stephan's methods, the comics page is the funnier for it, mon.

By Michael Cavna  | September 11, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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Comments

zeebas?

Posted by: VaL | September 11, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

"zeebas?"

That is how the buttock-headed crocodiles in Pearls Before Swine pronounce the word "zebra".

Posted by: All will be explained in time | September 11, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Cat's certainly smoking something. I'm rather suprised that didn't get killed in editing.

Posted by: EricS | September 11, 2008 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, but the comic theory behind this strip's effectiveness is based on two simple words: "Wrong island."

And this isn't exactly trail-blazing stuff; either. In a long-ago story arc (I want to say 1975), "Doonesbury" features some Marines trying several times to land a force on American Samoa, which was then under the governance of Uncle Duke who ordered the seizure of a cruise ship in an attempt to wring additional aid out of the US. This was a broad spoof on the Cambodian seizure of the container ship "Mayaguez" in 1975. The strips were reprinted in "Tales From The Margaret Mead Taproom" by Nicholas von Hoffman and Gary Trudeau.

Posted by: Daniel J. Drazen | September 11, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Daniel, your dissertation on "comic theory" is, um, interesting, but perhaps a bit misplaced when discussing a comic strip about talking animals. They're called the "funny pages" for a reason, let's not try to lose sight of that.

Posted by: M Street | September 11, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I LOVE this strip, it is hysterical! It took me a while to get used to it, but it is funny!

Posted by: Alex | September 11, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

"El Jefe" must be related to Al Jaffee.

Man, I used to love MAD mag.

Posted by: MSchafer | September 11, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I love the evil cat on PBS so much. He can do no wrong.

Posted by: Barb | September 11, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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