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Posted at 2:05 PM ET, 02/ 3/2010

THE RANT: Did the HuffPost misplace its 'funny'?

By Michael Cavna


This is not a rant. It's too small for that. You could call it a "runt."

That's because our highhanded and harrumphing "runt" for today involves catching up to a recent Huffington Post item that we came across some days back. Comic Riffs is excavating this item days later not because we are outraged, aghast or steaming in a fit of pique (though sh-sh-shivering in this latest snow of snows, we'll take any heat source we can get). No, rather we are simply, purely surprised.

Surprised, because the HuffPost can be a genuinely hilarious place to enter, lounge around and rest your funny bones. Why, when a talent such as Larry David or Albert Brooks is contributing, say, it's world-class funny. (Even if one's politics lean differently from Albert's or L.D.'s, their timing and voice and word-choice are gifts so alluring, one would have to be an intellectual eunuch not to laugh at least a little.) And toward the political middle, there's even "Friend of Comic Riffs" Will Durst, who contributed to HuffPost just last month.)

Which brings us to what we hope is merely freakish aberration -- a calcified deposit of seriously unfunny on the humorous "humerus" that is the HuffPost's funny bone. We all occasionally miss when handicapping what's funny. (Even us? Yeh, there have been oh-so-rare days that even we should be called "Comic Whiffs.") But still: We are compelled to nail this What-the-Hades-Were-They-Thinking? (Or Smoking?) thesis to the HuffPost's front stoop:

In a recent Huffington Post, er, post, the editors gallingly declare that the spoof Scott Meets Family Circus is recommended reading as an example of Big-Time Funny -- a place to get yer ha-ha's out. To which we say...

Ummm, yeah.

Here's the rub, as all you true comics fans know: The ancestral line of "Family Circus" satire is as long as one of Bil Keane's dotted black lines traipsing through a map-happy Sunday.

See, Scott, if you're going to send up "Family Circus," there are at least two sets of gigantic footsteps you must measure yourself against. One, of course (and I'm sure you're way ahead of me, comics fans) is the sublime "The Dysfunctional Family Circus," Its satire was so inspired, its fame lives on. And Comic Riffs's other fave spoofing of "FC" occurs whenever "Pearls Before Swine" decides that Billy should come over and play. (I should note: I've sat with both "PBS's" Stephan Pastis and "FC" co-cartoonist Jeff Keane at the same table and they appear to get along swimmingly. If they did not, I'm quite sure Pastis wouldn't have dared go into Iraq with Keane, where any Bodily Mishaps of Retribution could have readily been chalked up as USO "collateral damage.")

But back to the question of the day: Does Scott Gairdner's attempt to walk in those giant clown shoes of "Family Circus" spoofage succeed? Well, I suppose your opinion largely depends on whether you've ever before stumbled upon "FC" parodies such as "Dysfunctional." If you have, then Scott's efforts -- though not unskilled -- likely read, in terms of creative originality, like a copy of a photostat of a Xerox of a mimeograph. Only blurrier.

Funny? This "parody"? Ummm, yeah. (Although 'Riffs will admit that Grandma does look strikingly like Howard Cosell in profile. Nice call, that.)

So, to make amends to your readers, HuffPost (and we do hope you note your readers' many on-the-money Comments), we only wish that you might hand Albert Brooks or Larry David a Sharpie and encourage either of them to give it a crack. By the time Larry David depicted himself playing a game of "telephone" with PJ, Dolly and Jeffy, we'd be rolling in the aisles. And not just the political ones.

As "Grandma Cosell" herself might say: We're just telling it like it is.

By Michael Cavna  | February 3, 2010; 2:05 PM ET
Categories:  The Comic Strip, The Rants  | Tags:  Family Circus, The Huffington Post  
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Comments

Even the most philisophical of panels in the "Nietzsche Family Circus" (http://www.losanjealous.com/nfc/) is funnier than Mr. Gairdner's lame attempt at parody.

The "Disfunctional" version is far better than either of the above, of course, but it should be noted that the author did cease production of it at the personal request of the Keanes.

Posted by: kilby | February 4, 2010 6:07 AM | Report abuse

Beyond all the spoofs, for at least a decade, the "comments" section on Amazon.com have been full of tongue-in-cheek philosophical treatises on The Family Circus books. They get removed periodically, and lately haven't been as lengthy as they were before, but some people do persist.

One example:
"Former Satan-worshipper and convicted serial killer Bill Keane stuns the world again with this wonderful little piece of writing. Definitely one of my favorite books, this is the story of a young boy's road to death. Keane has incorporated many personal experiences into this book, making it almost autobiographical. He excels in describing young Jeffy's late night Satanic rituals,... After Jeffy's father discovers of these practices, Jeffy is sent to jail, where the story takes a dramatic turn, as Jeffy develops a homosexual relationship with four fellow inmates..., 3 of whom are over 20 years older than him. The final scene, where Jeffy is put to death in the electric chair, is one of the best written pieces of literary mastership I have ever read in my life, as well as a culmination of years of suffering for Jeffy. ...Truly amazing"


Check out the comments on these books for a taste.:

http://www.amazon.com/What-Does-This-Say-Family/product-reviews/0449148149/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_helpful?ie=UTF8&coliid=&showViewpoints=1&colid=&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

http://www.amazon.com/Daddys-Cap-Backwards-Bil-Keane/product-reviews/0449148165/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_helpful?ie=UTF8&coliid=&showViewpoints=1&colid=&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

http://www.amazon.com/I-Had-Frightmare-Bil-Keane/product-reviews/0449146154/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_helpful?ie=UTF8&coliid=&showViewpoints=1&colid=&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending


Posted by: revry | February 5, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Are you able to write anything that cogently makes a point? It reads like someone trying to disect why Spiderman couldn't actually happen in real life, but somehow winds up talking about why they don't like the new Dr. Who...

I've read both of the other parodies you reference, and I think Gairdner's is hilarious. Lighten up.

Posted by: andyteri | February 6, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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