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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 06/21/2010

Defend That 'Toon: Does 'BARNEY & CLYDE' spark a billion laughs -- or bum you out?

By Michael Cavna


Here at Comic Riffs, every strip in The Post gets spotlighted for public scrutiny. So now that the Weingartens and Clark comic "BARNEY & CLYDE" has appeared on The Post's funnypages for a coupla weeks, it's time once again to play: Defend. That. 'Toon.

For those not up to speed on "Barney & Clyde," here's Comic Riffs's recent Q&A with Gene Weingarten, the Post humor columnist (and retired comic critiquer) who co-created the strip with his son, Dan. And here's 'Riffs' announcement of the strip some months back. And here's 'Riffs noting how the comic was featured in the recent Post Hunt 2010.

The strip, syndicated by Washington Post Writers Group, centers on the relationship -- and life lessons exchanged -- between "a billionaire and a bum." In his Father's Day feature for The Post's Arts&Style section Sunday, Weingarten the Elder explained how this comic brainchild sprung from his child -- and how the creative partnership has gone a long way toward repairing his sometimes-rocky relationship with Dan.

(Today at noon [ET], Weingartens father and son will discuss their creative endeavour.)

So now that the entire class is caught up, Comic Riffs poses the Question of the Day. Do you think "Barney & Clyde" is a welcome new addition to the comics world that you're eager to read each morning? Or, were you comics editor, would you render it "homeless"? Or does your take on "B&C" fall somewhere in between?

If you're got an opinion, feel free to fire away. Now's the time to play Defend (or Defame)...That...'Toon.

Note: Gene Weingarten is a celebrity judge in The Post's "America's Next Great Cartoonist" Contest -- the voting for which closes Tuesday at 5 p.m.


Just one comment: I had to listen twice to make sure my ears did not deceive me. The Herald is really dropping those strips? Hmm-mmm.

By Michael Cavna  | June 21, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Defend That 'Toon  | Tags:  Barney & Clyde, Dan Weingarten, David Clark, Gene Weingarten, Washington Post Writers Group  
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It's /boring/.

Posted by: wiredog | June 21, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Promising, though it's a little early to tell. I was a big fan of Get Fuzzy for awhile, but eventually tired of a dumb and nasty cat, a dumb and sweet dog, and an apartment. It's hard to tell until a strip has cycled through a few story lines. There are enough characters and chance for different settings that it can last.

Posted by: JakeD3 | June 21, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I like it a lot. It would be nice if it would update each day, however. I can't get past Sunday, June 20...

Same with Little Dog Lost.

Posted by: altheman | June 21, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

So far, extremely lame. Not funny, not clever, not very original, not particularly interesting.

All in all, a regrettable decision on the part of the comics editor -- all of the contest finalists are more deserving of print space.

Posted by: 0way | June 21, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

The artwork is nice (actually great), and the recent introduction of the trophy wife and cynical daughter are promising. It seems to be relying to heavy on setting up the strip and maintaining a serialized story more than going for good laughs. In other words, it feels sitcom-ish. As I'm familiar with GW's humor work, I'm thinking that (hopefully) at some point he'll bring in more sarcasm, parody, social commentary, and absurd humor to replace the light witticisms that have made up the bulk of the humor so far.

Posted by: ChrisDC | June 21, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Boring and unengaging. I'd rather see "The New Adventures of Queen Victoria" or "Rudy Park" take its place. Just because the artists are your homies doesn't justify the strip getting this space.

Posted by: commish24 | June 21, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Let me give you a sense of my personal dichotomy on viewing a comic. My example: Non Sequitur. When it runs the long story with multiple characters in different languages I click off. When it runs the single panel I jump up for joy. Same guy, different format. Barney and Clyde fall into the first domain ... too wordy, busy, no negative space, too mentally entangled ... in other words: No Fun! The name always brings up Bonnie & Clyde ... So I have to funnel through the "rip-off scenario" that plays through my mind each time I read the name (something axiomatically is NOT creative when it uses a play on words of something original). I read through a few, not enough punch line I (almost predictable). But, it seems from reading this review that the author is an insider and will get lots of play ... Incidentally "Wired dog" hits it right on the head with his analysis of Get Fuzzy. BTW: I like this section of your cartoon page (backstage kind of thing). TWP is where I get my cartoons EVERYDAY ... from the SF Bay Area ... thanks for the podium.

Posted by: zenmonkman | June 21, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I like it. It's getting funnier, now that we start knowing the characters. I loved the line about "your daughter."

On a different note, can you please change the comics on the Kids' Post. Put Peanuts or Garfield (something more FOR kids) there. Plus, that would allow Frazz to run all week in the regular comics section.

Posted by: drl97 | June 21, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I'll give it 2 or 3 months to develop its premise and supporting cast, but so far it's definitely not a strip that I would actively seek out. However, since this is the same comics section that exiles "Frazz" to Kid's Post and keeps "Classic Peanuts" in the regular funnies, we all know that no one in charge there really cares about the comics or what we think about them anyway.

Posted by: seismic-2 | June 21, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Still a little early to tell. So far, it doesn't seem too interesting. Would it be in the Post if its wasn't written by Weingarten?

Posted by: patrick24 | June 21, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

>> @drl97:

"The Frazz Decision," as I like to call it somewhat sardonically, is not one I will ever understand from the standpoint of editorial judgment. If Frazz were set at a college instead of a grade school, the tone would be no less "intellectual" -- yet it likely would not have been relegated to a broken-continuity existence in The Post.


Posted by: cavnam | June 21, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone at WaPo were to step forward and say, "I'm the person who decided to run "Frazz" in Kid's Post to keep room for "Classic Peanuts" in the comics section, and here's why I reached that decision." I suspect we readers shall never be told who that was or why it was, however. Amidst all the online chat sessions help daily on the Post's site, I think today's chat with the Weingartens was the only one that has ever been devoted to the comics. I doubt that anyone in charge of the WaPo funnies will ever host a chat or agree to an interview.

Posted by: seismic-2 | June 21, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I don't think two weeks is enough time to judge a comic strip. That's only 14 episodes and quite a bit is expository. I'm a lover of comics and have read hundreds of different ones. Very few grabbed me right off the bat. I might have smiled at certain story lines, but until I knew the characters I rarely laughed out loud. I hated Pearls Before Swine and Get Fuzzy at first, but I later went back and tried them again and loved them - they are among my favorites now. I'm willing to give this one time to develop.

Posted by: elyrest | June 21, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I've been a big fan of Gene's for a long time now, eagerly reading his (then weekly) chats and columns and features. I remember how excited, and even proud, I was when he won his first Pulitzer--and then his second, and then he wrote new books, started a Twitter account, organized Post Hunts, and so on. And when he began hinting at an upcoming comic strip I thought it too good to be true. I, like Dan Weingarten, read the comics for fun every day, but view them very critically. I vowed to give Barney & Clyde a fighting chance, even if my instant reaction was to hate it, if only due to my loyalty to Gene. Now that it's here, and has been here for over a week, I've already formed a strong opinion on it, in spite of myself. I think it is very good. I am quite aware that the strip is in exposition-mode--the strip can't really devote itself entirely to humor until it sets up its style, its tone, and, as this strip has been doing very well, its characters. It is building up impressive potential energy, and I suspect it will begin to go kinetic in the near future. The subjects this strip could go for range from urban, domestic, and business life; character-driven plot and humor; philosophical applications; social issues; and, of course, simple, whimsical absurdity. The range of settings and characters gives it lots of flexibility, and the fact that it's given lots of precious time to developing the characters of Barney and Clyde and establishing their friendship means that the strip won't be the kind that you read just for individual punchlines, but rather for an experience, based on your connection to the lives of the people involved, AND the humor. I think it has loads of promise, and even though it's in an awkward yet necessary stage right now, I've still found it to be quite funny and in an involved sort of way. Yesterday's made me laugh simply because of the idea of the roomful of R&D workers going crazy, and Duane being proud of that work, and Charles's June 18 "Yes, sir" made me laugh out loud for five re-readings. I look forward to reading this strip every day.

I like it.

Posted by: ThatNoirGuy | June 21, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Still no laughs. Could use a joke or two while setting up the charecters. Also, premise is old and frequently done. For real rich man poor man comedy get a copy of "My Man Godfrey", any Jeeves and Wooster story or any number of other things. Going to need a twist to be different. Since the WashPo is unable to run Frazz in the correct order, please put it bak on the comics page and move Garfield somewhere.

Posted by: olddog1 | June 21, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I think it's still in the character introduction phase. I read the strips "backwards" from newest to oldest and I liked it more and more as I read. Lots of potential material with the mom and the daughter and the secretary. I loved the "poison letter" bit! LOL! Clyde and Barney's relationship is amusing. I wouldn't mind seeing it flesh out. One comment: my animation professors would slay me if I submitted a character design whose upper arms were sooo much longer than their forearms the way I've seen it twice in these strips. Once with the guy opening the door to the red and blue R&D room and again with the wife sitting at the vanity.

Posted by: tiga_lilee | June 21, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

So far neither funny nor interesting, but maybe too early to tell. I will continue to give it a chance for a while. I'm not a fan of GW's humor in general, however (I still mourn Dave Barry), so I'm not too hopeful.

Posted by: crystal4 | June 21, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Artwork is top-notch. So far, the two main characters have had a hard time earning my sympathy. The idea of a noblesse-oblige rich man and a wise bum just reeks of liberal pretentiousness. I also see some glaring similarities with Dilbert's big evil company workplace and genius trash-man character.

Posted by: vicguru | June 21, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I haven't laughed, or even smiled, at Barney and Clyde.

A good strip doesn't need "exposition." This isn't Mary Worth, except in its level of wit.

How many of you read the first two weeks of Peanuts or Doonesbury or Get Fuzzy? You didn't need to. Plus I bet those first two weeks had some laughs.

Gene says to give them 6 months!! Why? That's 182 chances for them to get a laugh? Why would you read a boring strip for 6 months? Why can't it be funny NOW? If you're starting a new strip, why not start with your best stuff to get people interested? Maybe they did.

Posted by: Skeptic21 | June 21, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I almost never like a new comic strip from the first time I read it. Barney and Clyde is an exception. I immediately liked the strip as well as the premise. From personal experience, wealthy people are generally out of touch with the struggles that ordinary people, much less homeless people, go through every day. There's great potential to mine comedy from that cluelessness and I'm looking forward to seeing how the strip develops.

Posted by: Mockingbird1 | June 21, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

It looks nice. END TRANSMISSION.

Posted by: ArlingtonJoe | June 21, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Like asking if I think a two week old child has a chance to make the Redskins. Way too early to tell. I'm a big fan of "Sullivan's Travels" as well as the previous mentioned "My Man Godfrey," but let's see what happens once this thing gets on its feet and moving.

Meanwhile, I think it's nice that the Miami Herald editor made it sound like the greatest, most significant comic strip ever conceived by the mind of man. If Calvin and Hobbes were merged with Pogo, Little Nemo and the Far Side, the resulting strip would have no prayer of living up to that introduction.

Posted by: MikePeterson1 | June 21, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

The Miami Herald editor's comments say it all: B&C is the perfect comic for readers who don't get, like and/or appreciate Pearls Before Swine.

Posted by: chlamb | June 21, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

I like it well enough to keep reading and see where it goes. I like the trophy wife character's possibilities. I just hope it doesn't get too "preachy" since I've already read Marx' Communist Manifesto.

Posted by: soccermutha | June 21, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

It's funny, just not a funny comic strip. Were it a sitcom, a comic book, or any other medium with a viewing time of over twelve seconds, I'd be roaring with laughter.

Also, as a dose of actual, constructive criticism, it does not behoove a comic strip character to be introspective. It's a hard habit for writers to break, but ya gotta learn to show, not tell.

Posted by: liuhostetler | June 21, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

The rich man, poor man friendship concept is tired. Trophy wives are much funnier in real life, and if you live in certain parts of DC or MoCo, you've got ample opportunities to enjoy that (also tired) punch line.

Gene's humor has a certain borscht belt quality to it - there's something mannered about it. And I'm not even close to a young hipster.

I'm surprised that GW seems to think his name had so little bearing on the strip getting syndicated.

But since the strip seems to appeal to fans of middlebrow humor, readers are probably stuck with it, huh?

Posted by: trichobezoar | June 21, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

One more comment - I second the earlier comment questioning why this strip needs weeks to set up its premise and methodically introduce the characters. Meanwhile in the next greatest comic competition, GW's favorite strip needed less than one week to lay out its more involved story line (divorced mother, smart alec teenager, country inn, rock star ghost.)

^That was not my favorite of the contest entrants, either. Perhaps the Post could run some comics and humor pieces for folks whose sense of humor isn't GWs? Obviously the man has plenty of fans, but from the comments, there seems to be a solid group of us differently humored.

Posted by: trichobezoar | June 21, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

I thought the whole point was to bring in good and funny comics. Well you have done neither. There has to be be better stuff out there than a comic that takes 6 months to get it right.

I say bring in something else that doesn't need half a year to ferment and become palatable.

Posted by: buckeye96 | June 22, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Since the WaPo contest for new comics is ending, last night I went back and re-read all 10 entries. Then I went back and re-read all the B&C strips to date. Frankly, if B&C had been entered as one of the strips in the competition, it would rank somewhat above the middle of the pack, but it wouldn't be one of the top contenders. If this strip had been submitted to the syndicate by the father and son team of "John and Joe Smith", would WaPo have bought it? I have my doubts.

I note with special interest the video clip above, wherein the Miami Herald editor says that "Pearls before Swine" is one of their least popular comics, so they are dropping it in favor of B&C. Yes, that makes sense - the people who so despise "Pearls" are likely the same people who think that the title "Barney and Clyde" is a subtle and clever pun, so they will like the Herald's decision. These are the same people who have kept "Family Circus" in business all these years, of course, so probably the future is bright for B&C. Sorry, Mr. Pastis...

Posted by: seismic-2 | June 22, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Did Gene ever work at the Miami Herald?

Oh, yes according to wikipedia he did. Another shiv into the liver of journalistic integrity.

Posted by: greasypores | June 22, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

"Time will tell" is not a really smart marketing strategy in this era of surfing. People are not that patient. Perhaps some of the stronger standalone gags, ones not dependent on chronology, could be moved up in the rotation to create a stronger "branding" in the minds of the readers.

Posted by: hlabadie | June 22, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

As several have mentioned, the artwork is pretty good, but so far not even a chuckle for me. Maybe they need to start a story line about what kind of toilet paper each character uses, and which way they hang the roll.

Posted by: capsfan77 | June 22, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

It's nice.

It's not a knee-slapper. Not like the joke GW & son had at the end of Sundays article-but that kind of joke would never get past the editor. If it does, I want to know how much GW paid her-

It has potential. It's very well drawn. It reminds me of an old TV sit-com, and I'm surprised a lawyer from Disney hasn't served you with papers for using a billionaire in your strip (don't they sue everybody for even a hint of copying?).

As long as it doesn't replace Pearls Before Swine, Mutts, Red & Rover, Brewster Rockitt, or any of the other strips, I guess it cn stay.

Good luck, guys!

Posted by: InkSlingerz | June 22, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Dismal. Besides the nice artwork, it has nothing to recommend it. I don't like this as much as my least favorite Post strip (Mutts, Family Circus, Prickly City, etc.) Drop instantly.

Posted by: ndancis | June 23, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Ooooh, how about a compromise? If the Post feels compelled to continue this strip, then they have to drop the second worst. Choose one: Prickly City, Peanuts, or Family Circus.

Posted by: trichobezoar | June 23, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

It's batting about .333 for me so far. One hit for every three at bats. Honestly, NOBODY is consistently funny in the comics. It's too hard to produce a gem everyday. And most are decidedly unfunny, especially if they've been at it awhile. I subscribe to many of the strips online and it's almost a waste of time to weed through them for the funny ones. One exception for me is Zits...pretty consistently humorous. No wonder it won cartooning's most prestigious award this year. Maybe B&C will become another exception like Zits.

Posted by: jerryfisher1 | June 23, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

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