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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 06/25/2009

When Does a Common Punchline Wear Out Its Welcome?

By Michael Cavna


'MOTHER GOOSE & GRIMM' ' (KFS)Enlarge Image

Wanna get a quick guffaw? Want to see your friends, neighbors and frenemies double over in a gut-busting fit of laughter? Then your mission is clear: Know your Currently Humorous "Gag"-Reflex Terms.

Such joke words of the moment include "stalker," "tweet this" and "Appalachian Trail." (Note: Your personal cultural barometer may vary.) And right at home in that list, of course, is "restraining order."

Don't believe me? Then just take a gander at today's "Brewster Rockit" and yesterday's "Mother Goose & Grimm." Although the comic premises are significantly different, the punchline plays out the same.

And just think: Keeping a master list of these Current Gag-Reflex Words would simplify professional gag-writing, except for one catch: The expiration date on so many these terms is terribly, woefully short.

So that prompts the Official 'Riffs Reader Question of the Day: Is there a word or term that you're sick of hearing as a form of stale punchline? (Anything lamer than even "tase," "shorty" or any slang that rhymes with "izzle"?) Your comments are invited.


'BLONDIE' (KFS)Enlarge Image


Today's other Thematic Daily Double goes to "Hagar the Horrible" and "Blondie," which play off the gluttonous appetites of each strip's male lead. Because gluttony is as universal as the rest of those Big Fat Deadly Sins, the theme is trite but true. And just one reason why Hagar and Dagwood still have so many hordes of never-say-cancel fans.

Overeating, like mating rituals and mother-in-laws, springs eternal.


According to the Hollywood Reporter, the director's cut of "Watchmen" -- with nearly a half-hour of additional footage -- will get a limited release (L.A., New York, Minneapolis and Dallas) the weekend before its July 21 DVD release. The trade mag says the rollout will culminate with a July 25 screening at San Diego Comic-Con, "taking advantage of a Blu-ray Disc feature that will allow any viewer in North America to watch the movie at the same time as the audience at Comic-Con, see and hear director Zack Snyder comment on the movie, and even ask questions." (Not sure how the half-hour will improve the film, but I'll be eagerly on hand in San Diego.) ...

The Hollywood Reporter also reports that "The Dark Knight" is still picking up awards. The Batman film -- for which Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar -- garnered five trophies yesterday at the 35th annual Saturn Awards, which honor sci-fi, fantasy and horror movies. "Iron Man" and Sci Fi's "Battlestar Galactica" each picked up three awards; "Galactica" won for best syndicated/cable TV series.


THE 'RIFFS INTERVIEW: Tim Rickard goes space-y with "Brewster Rockit."

THE 'RIFFS INTERVIEW: Mike Peters lands in hot water with Juan Valdez.

THE 'RIFFS INTERVIEW: "Watchmen's" Dave Gibbons.discusses recent projects.

DARK KNIGHT: Heath vs. Jack.

By Michael Cavna  | June 25, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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Re yesterday: Your 9yo relative loved Lio. My kid wanted to know why Spongebob wasn't cut in half vertically, the way the pineapple was.

Posted by: filfeit | June 25, 2009 7:26 AM | Report abuse

>> filfeit:

My best guess/assessment: Humorwise, the "screaming" mouth wouldn't visually "read" as funny if you spliced SB vertically.
And it's the mouth that sells it, IMHO.


Posted by: cavnam | June 25, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Tell your kid tonight, "The reason that Spongebob was cut in half horizontally rather than vertically is that he was lying in bed asleep. He never knew what hit him. Sweet dreams!"

Posted by: seismic-2 | June 25, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, it would be hard to slice the pineapple horizontally and have SBSP "fall out" so I understand why he did it that way.

And I tried the "asleep" bit. He looked close and said, "he's wearing his suit. If he was sleeping, he'd be in his pajamas."

Posted by: filfeit | June 25, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

My 6 yo son loved that one. Lio definitely appeals to the 6-yo boy set. Further proof of what other commentors said, that the way to start reading the newspaper is through the comics. That, + Dear Abby + discussing comics w/ my dad is what started it for me many years ago.

Posted by: mksfromvienna | June 25, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

*narrows eyes suspiciously* Is that a reference to Sartre in today's "Get Fuzzy"??

Posted by: cat52 | June 26, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

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