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Posted at 1:59 PM ET, 12/ 3/2009

Should 'Pickles' be canned? Time to Defend That 'Toon

By Michael Cavna


"PICKLES," as much as any strip this side of "Peanuts," summons thoughts of the holidays. That's because for me, Earl and Opal, quite literally, are practically family.

Within my extended kin, we have a long-married pair of 80-somethings who sound so much like the senior "Pickles" pair, I've accused strip creator Brian Crane of eavesdropping on their warm, insult-barbed conversations -- a nod that, in terms of shaping truthful characters, is intended as a supreme compliment.

If the strip comes across as old-timey or less than hip to some, that is only because "Pickles" gets it so right, it does not require a "hip" replacement as a crutch. The gags range from the gently observational to vaudevillian in delivery, and so are deftly able to speak softly yet carry a big shtick. And if the jokes have that ring of such TV pioneers asMorey Amsterdam, Milton Berle or an Ed Sullivan act, it is because Crane pulls from Earl and Opal's credible heyday.

So what do you think, 'Riffs readers? If you're not a "Pickles" fan, feel free to Impugn That Toon. Otherwise, now's the time to Defend. That. Toon.

By Michael Cavna  | December 3, 2009; 1:59 PM ET
Categories:  Defend That 'Toon, The Comic Strip  | Tags:  Brian Crane, Pickles  
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Waaay under the demo, but Pickles isn't just for seniors. It's well-written and the characters are great.

Posted by: greasypores | December 3, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a huge fan, but the picture of Hillary Clinton today over George Wills column had a poorly placed microphone that made me think of last week's painful series of cold sore jokes.

Posted by: Hemisphire | December 3, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Impugn that 'toon, forsooth! I say, why pick on Pickles? It's funnier than most strips, and even though it's not in my personal top 5, I do read and enjoy its smart(aleck) take on stupid things. There are so many brain-dead and/or unfunny strips out there that the only reason to target Pickles would be ageism. Hey, is this actually a stealth poll on prejudice?

Posted by: 5232news | December 3, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Can't imagine for a minute why this 'toon needs defending. Not all the funny-pages (dating myself) readers are < 40. My husband and I send this strip to each other on a regular basis and swear that someone is watching us. VERY scary thought - for them, not for us. There are several others that should be ditched before even considering "Pickles".

Posted by: maryannk | December 3, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

"Should 'Pickles' be canned?"?


Everyone knows pickles are sold in jars!


Okay, I could not resist the joke. But seriously, I enjoy the strip every day. Two strips that SHOULD be axed though, are as follows:

"MUTTS" should be sent to the "pound";

And "Cathy" should be told she ain't funny.
Respectively, they are the worst and second-worst strips on the planet!

Posted by: JPuzzleWhiz | December 3, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of "Cathy," will someone please explain why, whenever Cathy goes to a clothing store, restaurant, the bank, etc. etc., she is always waited on BY THE SAME (intercoursing) WOMAN? Is that Guisewite (female dog) too (intercoursing) lazy to draw different people? DON'T EVEN THINK OF TRYING TO TELL ME THAT THOSE BUSINESSES ARE ALL ONE STORE!!!!!

Posted by: JPuzzleWhiz | December 3, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

The only obvious reason to choose this strip to get rid of would seem to be age-ism. It's funny - I admit, it often doesn't show marriage in a good light, but on the other hand, the seem to get through it all.

Posted by: mneu | December 3, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Can Pickles??? Why would anyone think of that, Pickles is still one of the best cartoons available. I could suggest a few others that I'd sooner see go.SAVE PICKLES!

Posted by: billbarbo | December 4, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

Pickles is a breath of fresh air. Leave it in!

Posted by: stevecone36 | December 4, 2009 5:57 AM | Report abuse

I don't follow Pickles (in print or on the web), but it's usually pretty funny when I do happen to see it.

One problem with comparative "toon defending" is that each person ends up with a completely different subjective ranking. However, it really isn't necessary to determine the exact position of any strip on the list of "favorites". It might be more useful to divide the comics into four categories:

A) Excellent: keep it, or I will cancel my subscription
B) Good: would hate to see it go
C) So-so: I would not be bothered if it vanished
F) Trash: please remove this garbage from the paper.

Personally, I would place Pickles on the "B" list (with Cathy on "C", and Mutts at the top of the "A" list), but that's just my opinion. It would be interesting to see the results of a reader poll (preferably in the PRINT edition, with a form that people could send in) using this scheme (Internet and e-mail polls are too easy to subvert).

Posted by: kilby | December 4, 2009 6:32 AM | Report abuse

We LOVE Pickles!! It is one of the funniest comic strips written! Some days Earl and Opal are my parents; other days they are various aunts and uncles. But, every day they make me laugh! I swear, their conversations have happened in my family!! Absolutely keep Pickles!!!

Posted by: jegregory | December 4, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Keep it! Why did the question even come up? There is humor, observation of human nature, demonstration of love in a family, several generations of relationships, and did I say HUMOR.

Posted by: PAreader | December 4, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Pickles is exactly what readers of all ages need; a perspective on mortality.

It also serves as good conversation with family. "Did you read yesterdays, todays, last week, the Pickles cartoon that ..."

They are family and family they should stay.

Posted by: topwriter | December 4, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

We are north of sixty and believe that the author of Pickles listens in to most of our conversations. It is a very amusing strip and should definitely continue.

Posted by: dunlopecker | December 4, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Please keep it. It's one of the kindest, gentlest comics despite the "insults," because they are clearly done with love.

I lost my dear wife three years ago, and one of the most depressing aspects of that is that I always assumed that's how we would be when we were older...

Posted by: bobaberman1 | December 4, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I love Pickles! Can Get Fuzzy

Posted by: dlcd | December 4, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

You can get rid of anything BUT Pickles. I can easily live without Zippy and Bizarro. Actually, why not get rid of both of those, and carry Pickles twice?

Posted by: babsy1 | December 4, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Pickles is definitely a keeper. Been reading it since it showed up in the SA, also on line, I read it again... Great strip!

Grand Avenue fits in the same keeper catagory.

Posted by: ZeldaJane | December 4, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Pickles is terrific. It is one of the few that continue to draw me to the comics page.

Posted by: afisaacs | December 4, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Pickles seldom provokes belly laughs, but more frequently than not it does at least inspire a hearty chuckle or, even at worst, a warm smile. It also provides genuine insight into human behavior within a realistic family dynamic. That's far more than can be said for most strips - certainly the "zombies", such as that one about another, Circular, Family. There are very few comics (or, for that matter, any other features in the newspaper) that concentrate on senior citizens, and it's nice that a comic exists that shows what it's like always to be forgetting things and repeating yourself.

You should definitely keep Pickles. Those of us who are at an age where we would perhaps be appreciative of a section of the newspaper that is, um, sort of the inverse of "Kids' Post" (maybe "Geezers' Post"?) can really relate to Earl and Opal. It's nice that a comic exists that shows what it's like always to be forgetting things and repeating yourself.

Posted by: seismic-2 | December 4, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

When you compare Pickles to the other 'senior citizen' strip, Crankshaft - well, it's no contest.

To me, it's a good, solid, reliable cartoon, and helps to make a well rounded funny page. Frankly, a comics page that only had my very favourite strips wouldn't appeal to very many people, as I go for the edgy strips with an element of the bizarre. Strips like Pickles, One Big Happy, Baby Blues are all high quality, even if they don't really hit *my* funnybone very hard.

Posted by: marshlc | December 4, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Please keep Pickles. It's a favorite of both my husband & myself as well as of many of our friends.

Posted by: estherkfoxe | December 4, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Please keep "Pickles". Sometimes we think Earl and Opal are channeling us. We often find ourselves quoting them to our family and friends.

Posted by: jlsz | December 4, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Why do we always have to defend the funny strips? Comics are supposed to be funny, not political as so many are becoming, not a soap opera (e.g., Judge Parker), or trite (e.g., Mark Trail). Keep the comics funny, including Pickles, Classic Peanuts, Mutts, Zits, Blondie, and Sherman;s Lagoon.
Thank you.

Posted by: JCollins1 | December 4, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Pickles is the favorite comic of both my husband and myself. It reaches all ages
whether one is actually in that playing
field or one is simply amused by relatives
in that age group. I never read the comics
before being turned onto pickles. Now I can start my day off with a smile.

Posted by: cliffave | December 4, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

When I first saw Pickles, I had my doubts. And I admit it was due to a bit of agism (being in my early thirties). But I find I really enjoy it on a daily basis over the past year. It frequently makes me release a good hearty laugh. Like others posting, I see various relatives in Earl and Opal. Sometimes, my wife and I see ourselves in them some forty years down the road. The writing is crisp and has a beautiful sense of timing.

It's a keeper

Posted by: jabacevi | December 4, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I should hope not! It's one of my favorite cartoons.

Posted by: shirleyj1 | December 4, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Please keep Pickles. My favorite comic...

Posted by: myStor | December 4, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Please don't get rid of Pickles. It has a gentle wicked humor that I love. This smacks of agism to me too. So many other cartoons could go, such as Hagar, Tank McNamara and quite a few more. I'm shocked you'd pick on everyone at the Post 30 and under?

Posted by: LSHaddox | December 4, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Pickles has been mine and my husband's favorite comic for years. I swear Brian Crane has a hidden listening device in our house! It is the first thing I look at in the comics and cheers up my day. Our paper in Pueblo, CO, FINALLY got it! Otherwise, had to read it on line. They still don't have Sunday's. So I look on line.

Posted by: yentyl | December 4, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I love Pickles and see more and more of us and our friends in it as we age.

Posted by: maryrowell1 | December 4, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I am really surprised at the number of Pickles supporters. I don't have anything against the strip, but it would rank a "C" for me on kilby's scale. However, all of the pro-Pickles readers have made me reconsider my opinion. I'll put it back into my daily reads and see what I've been missing.

Posted by: ishkabibbleA | December 4, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

My heavens, there must have been a link on the front page for so many people to comment and fear that Pickles might be banished. Michael Cavna you have raised the blood pressure of many a reader who don't know that you do this for different comics all the time.

As for myself I think it is funny and sweet and always worthy of a read.

Posted by: elyrest | December 4, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Pickles is my # 1 comic strip. My husband and I both in our 70's find Pickles so true to life and funny. I'm sure that a lot of seniors as well as others enjoy Pickles. In fact I start my day with that comic. Please leave Pickles right where it is. I like the relationship that Earl and Opal have with their grandson, too. Delightful strip.

Posted by: Mandy6 | December 4, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Please keep Pickles! It's clean, funny, and appeals to many age groups. Keep Pickles, along with Red and Rover, Sally Forth, Baby Blues, and Zits. Comics I can still let my kids read!! Want to make room? I suggest Zippy the Pinhead, Lio, Tom the Dancing Bug, Brewster, Boondocks....shall I go on??!!

Posted by: HappyGirl2 | December 4, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: stevemcceney1 | December 5, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Pickles is great -- often laugh-out-loud funny. As a seasoned citizen, I recognize a lot of myself and friends in the actions and conversations of the Pickles. Just recently I had to defend my inclination to wear sweat pants in public. Please keep Pickles.

Posted by: rgeaste | December 5, 2009 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Please, please keep Pickles. It is one of the few strips I read on a regular basis.
It is down to earth and funny.

Posted by: dharper24 | December 5, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

A day without "Pickles" would not be as much fun. My wife and I are Earl and Opal in many enjoyable ways.

Posted by: Lakeguy | December 5, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

There are many other comics that can go before Pickles. Please keep the strip it's great.

Posted by: 63roundbody | December 5, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Please please keep Pickles. It's one of the best strips, especially since it doesn't try to be hip. The newer, hipper strips are fine, but Earl & Opal are needed. I often share them with my wife.

Posted by: mudhog1 | December 5, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

On my lap at the moment is our cat, Miss Kitty, named after the character played by Georgia Ellis in "Gunsmoke"--on radio. That should suggest my age.
We still pick up the Post daily, but I've taken to reading the comics via this web page. Rather than defend Pickles, I'll simply list my "must read" strips (leaving to others to suggest what my choices might say about me): The four "headline" strips at the top of the page, plus Sally Forth, Judge Parker, Lio, Pickles, Get Fuzzy, and Candorville.
Judge Parker manages to have both plot and complex (well, for the comics pages) characters, Doonesbury continues relevant, and trenchant after all these years, and the others just tickle my funnybone.
So--keep Pickles, and while you're at it, how about returning FBOFW to the print pages?

Posted by: scades | December 5, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I wasn't finished. I tried to use spell check and ened up in a black hole. I wanted to say that we are morping into Earl and Opal every day and that makes me look forward to as many more years of marriage as fate allows us. lucieelvin

Posted by: lucieelvin | December 5, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I have been a fan since I started reading the Post six years ago. The humor is pithy and easily accessible to all ages. I feel that Pickles makes a nice bridge between classic and modern comics. Please, keep Pickles

Posted by: haldon12 | December 6, 2009 2:29 AM | Report abuse

Pickles is the first comic strip I look at each morning. I'm a 78 year old man and I relate to Earl. He is hip to me. It's always wise to start out the day with a chuckle. Please do not mess around with a winner.

Posted by: JohnPrice | December 6, 2009 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Pickles is the best comic strip out there. It is so funny because it is so true and real.

Posted by: lynnengel | December 6, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Pickles isn't overly funny, but it's a good, lighter look into the issues of elderly life. It is well done artistically. You guys have carried the same Opus Cartoon for almost 2 years now, and carry some real junk like Cathy, Six Chix & Zippy, so what's the issue with Pickles?

Posted by: uncleross | December 6, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Pickles is one of only nine comics I look forward to reading every day. I frequently send the link to friends I know would also enjoy it.

Keep it!!

Posted by: Jason32 | December 6, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Silly as it may seem, I went to the trouble of registering with the Post just so I could submit a comment here. I'm a single, 70-year-old woman. While I was subscribing to a daily paper, I couldn't stop myself from looking at Pickles, but always found it offensive to me as an older adult.

For the last year or so I've been reading my local paper online; I put together my own list of fave comics to read online every day, and definitely didn't include Pickles. My list is headed by Pearls Before Swine; it includes such comics as Zits and Baby Blues, but also Judge Parker and Rex Morgan, M.D., which my paper stopped printing years ago. And yes, I'll admit it: I've resumed reading Mary Worth!

Posted by: wilusa | December 6, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Honestly, I wonder why I read the non-funny funnies sometimes. But Pickles is consistently spot-on.

Posted by: vivzig | December 6, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Keep Pickles. It's one of the most reliably enjoyable comics of the bunch.

Posted by: AbbyCat1 | December 6, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand what wilusa finds objectionable or offensive about Pickles. Maybe as a single woman she has never experienced an Earl-Opal situation. As a 72-year-old woman,( two years older than wilusa) I don't find it offensive to me at all as an older adult. Pickles and Stone Soup (which takes me back to the not so good old days of raising a teenager like Holly)are my favorite strips.

Posted by: orawh | December 6, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Not my cup of brewed leaves, but I'd say it shouldn't be on the block. Here's the thing I think should be considered to keep the comics page fresh: if the creator of the strip is dead, it should have the axe swinging down on it.

I'm looking at you, Mark Trail, Hagar, Blondie and so on. Give new cartoonists a chance. I know that people complain whenever a strip is dropped and complain about the new strip. I remember Calvin and Hobbes getting a chilly reception (and I can't remember what got dropped to make room).

Posted by: erik_k | December 6, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Pickles is the best strip since Calvin & Hobbes left us.

Posted by: vallo | December 6, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Pickles is too real to drop! Many of the comments and much of the humor has circulated in my family for generations. This is reality comics at its best.

Posted by: wilmerdadfrog | December 7, 2009 1:33 AM | Report abuse

Pickles is about real life stuff. Who hasn't dealt with cold sores and TP on their shoe? (just to mention this past weeks story line). It is one strip that I get a chuckle from more often than not.
Keep it!

Posted by: Garth2010 | December 7, 2009 1:50 AM | Report abuse

soooo....I guess the lesson is "Defend That Toon" should be featured more often on the Post's homepage? Seriously, it's cool to see to so many passionate reactions to a comics discussion.

Posted by: ishkabibbleA | December 7, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: ehmp2vav8or | December 7, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I love Pickles and they make me laugh. My parents are around their ages, and what Opal and Earl do are just like my parents! I love that even though I can't be there with my parents, I can live vicariously through Pickles. And when you add in the kids and grandkids, it is fit for all ages. I cut them out and send them to my mother who's paper doesn't carry them. She gets a charge out of it too! Entertainment for all...

Posted by: mermaiden24 | December 7, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Can it. Save space for something good. Or just leave it empty, that'd be an improvement.

Posted by: jwkinraleigh | December 7, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse can't, just can't cancel Pickles. My husband is 87 with advanced macular degeneration. I'm 74. Every day begins by my reading Pickles to my husband. His day, therefore, begins with a laugh. We've read the stip for years - way before he lost his sight.

Posted by: landsn | December 7, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

No way you can take Pickles away! I always save it for 2nd to last when reading the comics because I like to save my 2 faves for last. I am in my 30's but LOVE the old timer's humor.

Posted by: jgallo11772 | December 7, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Keep it! what are you thinking, KEEP IT. I've loved it from the first time I saw it and at times it's like it has a webcam in the home of some friends of mine, who seem to be the inspiration for this strip, right down to the grandson and the daughter.
when their dog got stuck in the closed recliner, the first one I ever read, I knew I loved it.

Posted by: Harise | December 8, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

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