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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 01/30/2009

Miffys for 'Tank McNamara' and 'Curtis'

By Michael Cavna

Morning, Cartoon Nation...

One summer, while teaching a course in cartooning to teens, I found myself repeatedly emphasizing two recommendations:

1. Keep the writing tight.

2. Keep your characters' reactions authentic and true. If you can't do that, you'll never find the true laugh.

This week, "Tank McNamara" and "Curtis" blew those theories all to heck.

So this week, both strips share this blog's lowly Miffy Award.

TANK McNAMARA: In "Dilbert," Scott Adams's routinely hits his gag within 40 words. Many strips come in at 50-60 words. And "Lio," of course, never has dialogue. (Neat feat, that.) But in mainstream strips, there is one type that is as rare as the dodo bird: The Seldom-Spotted 100-Word Strip. This week, though, one "Tank" strip clocked just a few words short of the stunning 100-word mark.

As some readers noted yesteday on this blog: Sorry, but we simply don't have time for 100 words, Mac--we've got to speed to "Family Circus" for the one-second read. Say this for the Keanes: They don't make us work!

CURTIS: This is the single most inauthentic/lame/hamhanded/completely tone-deaf character reaction I've seen in many, many months.

Have you ever contemplated actually losing a child, or have known someone who did? The parent might experience everything from frozen terror to wild fear to manic rage. Any of those reactions, I would buy? But a mom who manages a wry, snide comment, tossed offhandedly?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is the most moronic non-gag in many, many moons.

Okay, thanks--I've vented. I feel better now.

Those are my Miffys. If you've got Riffys or Miffys this week, fire away.

By Michael Cavna  | January 30, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Riffs  
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Regarding "The Seldom-Spotted 100-Word Strip" and noting the almost-100 length of today's "Tank McNamara"...what about today's "Zippy", which has 110 words--and that's not even counting as two words the single words that he had to break into two to fit them into the balloon, which could raise the count even more. So...why "Tank" but not "Zippy"? H-m-m.

Posted by: zerodefect01 | January 30, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

>>to: zerodefect01:

you're absolutely right. perhaps foolishly, i still occasionally expect pithy from "tank." "zippy," on the other hand, IS the dodo bird -- and nearly the last of its breed.


Posted by: cavnam | January 30, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

It's a silly sight gag, but something about this morning's "Non Sequitur" made me snort orange juice out my nose over the breakfast table. (Speaking of sights and gags -- sorry for the mental image)

Posted by: greggwiggins | January 30, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

OK - it's Saturday so it might not count, but I just about dropped my teeth over 9 Chickweed Lane today. Did anyone else catch the anatomical reference in the author of "The Big Book of Dutch Humor"? I'm assuming the editor never studied male anatomy . . .

Posted by: JubalHarshaw1 | January 31, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Jubal, thanks for pointing out 9 Chickweed Lane today. I read it, but I just blew by the author's name, pronouncing it in my head in a vaguely Dutch way. I can understand why there may be only 57 copies of a Dutch humor book around though. The people from the Netherlands that I know take themselves VERY seriously.

Posted by: elyrest | January 31, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

>>to: Jubal...

Indeed, that chickweed is spectacular. (holding it "in his hands," even.) we may need to create a whole new award for cartoonists, & editors, who perpetrate such sly punnery. (perhaps--ahem--the Dutchy...)


Posted by: cavnam | January 31, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The dialogue in "Curtis" is almost always remarkably unrealistic, the parents and the kids speaking the way parents and kids just don't speak--the kids in particular. The author of the strip also has a peculiarly unfunny sense of humor. He takes a particular delight, a la Tyler Perry, in threats of violent punishment--something he puts on shameless display in this week's plot.

Posted by: bucephalina | February 1, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Another thing about Curtis; why is he always dressed in jeans, a shirt and a pullover sweater, even in summer strips when he's complaining that they don't have AC?

Posted by: capsfan77 | February 2, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

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