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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 02/12/2009

Today's Shopping List: 1. Beer; 2. Death; 3. Comics

By Michael Cavna

As most everyone's father used to say, often with a trace of Wise Paternal Authority: "The only sure things in life are birth, death and taxes."

Judging by the comics, though, not even that saying is a certainty. Survey the bleak and besotted landscape that is today's funnies, say, and the list of life's Sure Things gets a curious case of gloomier-yet revision. Instead, it's now "beer, death and layoffs." And not necessarily in that order.

Yes, here come the sure hints of "Depression Humor." To wit:

Whether you're pillaging Scandanavian lands of yore, or just returned from vanquishing duffers and doffers in the foggy bog that is olde Scottsdale, there's only thing for manly men to do by the first panel: Grab a brewski and chug metaphorically from the marrow of balloon-dialogue life.

Either that or "Judge Parker" and "Hagar the Horrible" -- taking a cue from "Dilbert" -- are about to begin product-placement for Heineken (next up: cameos by John Turturro) and Erik the Red Ale, the only true civilized mead of "humorously henpecked" Norse hubbys everywhere.

As opposed to poor Helga, who surely turned to the homemade hooch long ago. (What -- with her stirring the pot night-and-day, you thought she was ladling up lamb soup?)

Ah, the Grim Reaper, that endless source of dark-hearted gaggery, the scythe that launched a thousand strip jokes. (And while we're on topic: Has there ever been a New Yorker issue that didn't feature a "death" strip? Seriously. That would be as sacrilege as going months without a desert isle or prison gag. But I redress.)

"Rhymes With Orange" has its graveyard fun, but the medal for wry bravery should really go to Earl in "Pickles" -- the more he "ages," the more endearing his philosophies toward capital-D Death have become. The man may love his long naps, but I especially admire the heck out of Earl because he's REALLY at peace with The Big Sleep.

Long live Grandpa, the Earl of Pickles.

Again, taking a cue from the headlines -- if not again from the downsized Dilbert -- "Close to Home" and "Brewster Rockit" tap the pain of our pink slips. But what if -- based on today only -- one of THESE strips were being laid off?

Sorry, "Close to Home" -- you'd be hitting the bricks. Brewster's Rockit's "labor pains" are not only funnier, but pun-wise, he had me at "felling." (Besides, one needn't look too hard for a potential meta-commentary on the fate of many print-newspaper comics.)

And don't worry, Ted. Surely there's a webcomic that will take you on. I hear the profits from those are staggering.

At least that's what I read on some Web site.

If you see your own examples of Incoming Depression Humor (layoffs,
anyone?), fire away. So to speak.

By Michael Cavna  | February 12, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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The Brewster Rockit in today's Atlanta paper spelled ''feeling'' correctly. Your paginator must not have updated the correction.

Posted by: FCRizzo | February 12, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

>> thanks, Frank. "brewster" cartoonist tim rickard tells me today he indeed meant "feeling" -- though, amused, he seemed intrigued by the propos pun of "felling."

edge still goes to brewster over close to home.


Posted by: cavnam | February 12, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Isn't the SI swimsuit magazine out yet? That used to be a great solution for depression. Especially in the dead of winter. :-)

Posted by: MSchafer | February 12, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Just out of curiosity, was yesterday's Sally forth the first mainstream comic to mention gay marriage?

And in passing, as if it were no big deal.

Posted by: wiredog | February 12, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

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