Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Slap in the Facebook, or, There's a Zuckerberg Every Minute

Welcome to the latest update from Bizarro Studios North. Here's a look back at this week's cartoon offerings.

We started the week with a timely gag, commenting on recent revelations about our online privacy, or lack thereof. Maybe "confirmation" is a more apt description than "revelation," since we've all at least noticed targeted ads on our social media pages. Some people even claim that ads pop up for things they've discussed, but didn't search for online, believing that apps on their phones are listening in on offline conversations.

Quite a few people shared this one, so we can all probably expect to hear from bail bond agencies offering their services.

Tuesday's cartoon includes a ride through the Uncanny Valley. That term usually describes humanoid objects that appear almost, but not quite like actual human beings, but it can also apply to artificial voices. I find talking apps that are programmed to sound conversational or make jokes to be particularly disturbing.

Speaking of self-driving cars and odd near-resemblances, Google named their self-driving car division "Waymo," which has resulted in occasional confusion as shown below.
Source: Wazobia Global Times
Source: CBS News
These are actual, unaltered screen captures. We once even received a phone call from some news organization wanting to write about this particular technology. I declined to comment.

After completing this cartoon, I was surprised to find that the term Compassion Deficit Disorder is not new, and was coined by Diane E. Levin, professor of early childhood education at Wheelock College in Boston, to describe children who act without empathy or regard for others. There's probably something to it, at least as applied to kids who have been influenced to act that way. Unfortunately, "CDD" seems to have become a dominant characteristic of far too many adults, particularly among those in seats of power.

Here we present a Bizarro twist on a familiar cartoon trope. We're not sure how Yoga Mom & Dad ended up in front of a firing squad, but you must admire their commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

Friday's gag is my favorite of the week. When laying out a weekly sequence, I usually put the one I feel is strongest in the Friday slot. Dan Piraro and I are both animal lovers, but we also understand that our dogs and cats are playing us. This one was a true collaboration. My original sketch included the line about big, sad, dewy eyes. Dan added the "slight cock of the head," which really nailed it.

My first caption for this one was was "Infantile Court." But, we decided to go with the actual phrase "Juvenile Court." By current standards, the behavior depicted in this gag is positively statesmanlike.

Be sure to go to Dan's blog for his thoughts on this batch of Bizarritude, his always-spectacular Sunday comic, and a link to the Bizarro Shop, where you can purchase beautiful enamel pins, t-shirts, mugs and other Jazz Pickle Essentials.

Look for me on Facebook, if I haven't been removed by their goon squad.

Addendum: About That Title

The title for this week's post pays tribute to one of my favorite animated cartoons, Jay Ward's The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Each storyline ran over multiple episodes, ending with a cliffhanger situation. The series' announcer, William Conrad, would then tee up the next segment with a pair of titles, usually involving obscure pop culture references and terrible puns. A typical example would be Conrad's emphatic reminder to "Tune in again next time, for The Snowman Cometh, or, An Icicle Built for Two!"

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Old MacDonald Had Some Issues

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. It's time for another recap of the week's cartoons from the offices of Bizarro Studios North, in Hollywood Gardens, Pennsylvania.

The week kicked off with a bit of wordplay, based on a mishearing of the common phrase "inpatient surgery." The lead physician here was in such a hurry, he didn't bother to wear his face mask. Before going to medical school, he worked with a pit crew at a raceway.

Tuesday's cartoon is one of those "there's two kinds of people in the world" observations, and it takes place in an imagined anteroom for the recently departed. Any resemblance between the unhappy new arrival and a particular syndicated cartoonist is purely coincidental.

This one is a subtle marketing survey in disguise. Right now we're analyzing readers' comments, as we plan our initial sales offering of official Bizarro beard-ribbons. They're perfect for all formal occasions.

Orion is certainly a good sport, isn't he? While doing research for this gag (to confirm the correct number of stars) I learned that Orion's Belt is an example of an asterism. That's an astronomy term describing a pattern or group of stars having a popular name, but not large enough to be considered a constellation. As of this writing, I've been unable to find a definition of the minimum number of stars to qualify as a constellation, but I'd bet some Bizarro readers know the answer.

The day after the Galaxy Awards, country singer Ramblin' Slim Bodine gave a concert on the very same stage. Although his lyrics refer to modern concerns, Slim considers himself an old-school performer, and has been known to rant against "mirrored-sunglass-wearin', headset-singin' frat-bro poseurs." Ticket sales for the show were weak, and Slim had to vacuum the aisles after the show to cover his advance payment.

Cartoonists often use humor to explore subjects that may not be inherently funny. In the real world, obsessive and/or compulsive behaviors can range from a mild inconvenience to major obstacles to life, work, and relationships. At some time or other, we all exhibit some of those tendencies.

Laughing at life's tragedies is an ancient human tradition that can have psychological benefits. Many situations routinely appearing in cartoons would be unpleasant (at best) if experienced in real life: being stranded on an island, cracking one's head on the ground after trying to kick a football, or meeting the Grim Reaper. 

The cartoon is not meant to minimize anyone's difficulties, but rather to acknowledge our common struggles as human beings, and, hopefully, to remind us that sometimes a laugh helps to mitigate their power over us. 

Also, hearing that song all the way through could send anyone to their therapist.

Well, that's more than enough amateur psychology for an ink-jockey to put in one blog post, wouldn't you say?

Until next Saturday, please keep reading and commenting, be good to yourself and your friends, and be sure to read Dan Piraro's weekly blog for his thoughts on the week's gags, and to see his glorious Sunday comic.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Delicious Self-Destruction

Looking back over the week's Bizarro comics, it strikes me that half of them show characters in perilous (perhaps life-threatening) situations. Let's call them cautionary tales, and not psychoanalyze the cartoonist, shall we?

Although unicorns can be trained to use a box, even small quantities of airborne glitter present a serious respiratory hazard, and are nearly impossible to remove from clothing, hair, and skin. Thinking through the premise of this cartoon gave me a renewed appreciation for my feline housemates.

Some pets are highly trainable, and can learn to obey a variety of spoken commands. Others, however, are less responsive.

The unfortunate character about to eat his own baked effigy bears an unintended resemblance to performer and writer Peter Bergman (1939-2012). Bergman was a member of the revolutionary comedy group, the Firesign Theatre, who helped to twist the teenage brain of this cartoonist, and whose influence is present, at some level, in all of my work.
Sketchbook page, January 6, 2018
This gag started as an unconscious doodle of a voodoo doll, which reminded me of a gingerbread boy, and led to a drawing of a cookie stuck with a pin.

Bizarro CEO (Chief Eyeball Officer) Dan Piraro and I exchanged several emails discussing which spelling (bologna or baloney) to use in this caption. We finally decided to go with the Americanized spelling, since it also means "nonsense," and there's no question about the pronunciation.

The officer in this panel added a note to the traffic ticket reading, "I laughed, I cried, I added three points onto your driving record."

Our final cartoon of the week reminds us of the sad truth that some harmful behaviors are also highly addictive.

The poor creature in the foreground wondered aloud, "If we weren't meant to eat toasted marshmallows, why do we have arms that are such perfect cooking twigs?"

Thanks for following Bizarro for another week. Be sure to read Dan's weekly blog for his take on the week's comics, and to see his latest Sunday panel. Also, Dan's been posting his recent paintings on his Instagram page, and they're wonderfully surreal.

Oh, and watch those sweets.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Truth About Jellybeans

Happy Saturday, Jazz Pickles. We've been hard at work here at Bizarro Studios North, and are pleased to share the most recent output from our staff.

It's not clear how the inmate can smoke while sucking on a pacifier, but you never know what you're capable of if you're in the joint long enough.

Tuesday's gag was partly inspired by my good pal and bandmate Tom. He loves to share music from his collection of early jazz 78s, and he does wear a nineteenth-century derby from time to time. Tom doesn't smoke cigarettes, but the cell phone he carries is the closest modern equivalent to a vintage candlestick model.
The technology depicted in the cartoon is similar to a real business that existed in Pittsburgh for more than sixty years. Many bars and restaurants around town had a large wooden speaker cabinet tucked away in a corner. On top of the speaker sat a black telephone with a coin slot, but no dial or buttons. When a customer dropped a quarter in the slot, a kindly lady would answer and ask what song the patron wanted to hear. She'd almost always find the requested number in their giant library of records. The Telephone Music Service is long gone, but Pittsburghers "of a certain age" remember it with affection. 

Even if you never studied Greek mythology, you probably recognize Sisyphus. Like the Grim Reaper, Mister Peanut, Satan, and Saint Peter, good old Sisyphus is one of those characters cartoonists love to play with. His punishment of perpetually pushing a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down is an apt metaphor for a multitude of human activities.

In my first sketch, the character looked more like a teenager, and he was pushing a giant wiffle ball.

While we know that dogs and wolves evolved from a common ancestor, toy breeds such as chihuahuas make it a little hard to believe.

Our Friday cartoon is a cautionary tale, reminding kids to beware when Easter falls on April Fools' Day.

We generally avoid basing a cartoon on a pun, unless it's unique and surprising. This one was suggested to Dan by a reader, and we worked for a while to come up with an image for it. On its own, that wasn't quite enough, but the caption adds some commentary on the dearth of new ideas in popular culture.

Speaking of reboots, Dan Piraro's site,, has undergone a snazzy transformation thanks to the super-big-brained-genius team who redesigned it. You're strongly encouraged to check it out, and read Dan's recap of the week's funnies.

Thanks for following, reading, sharing, and commenting on Bizarro. We appreciate every reader.

Have a great week, and think twice before dipping into a child's Easter basket.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Flotation Device

Another Saturday has rolled around, which means it's time to review the most recent pile of Bizarro comics.

The joke in Monday's cartoon is only a tiny step away from reality. In our current age of plutocracy, privatization, and piggishness, it would come as no surprise to hear that the Department of the Interior was selling off the National Parks.

Tuesday's gag is a tip of the old porkpie to the prolific and hilarious J.C. Duffy, heavyweight champion of fly in the soup gags.

Manny, Moe, and Jack ended up having the last laugh. They not only launched a hugely successful auto parts business, but then they used it to realize their dream of becoming models, despite their unnerving appearance.

As some readers may know, we create a separate "landscape" version of each daily Bizarro for those client newspapers who run it in a comic strip slot. This involves rearrangement of the text and image, and often some additional bits of art. Today's was a little bit of a challenge, but we had fun with it. Here's the strip configuration:
By the way, this marks the first time I've ever drawn the Flying Saucer of Possibility floating in water.

Friday's cartoon underwent a few changes on its way to publication. The original line of dialog was simply, "Play me a bedtime podcast." That was mildly funny as a soft critique of modern parenting, but it lacked punch. Dan Piraro once shared a story with me about Bizarro's early days, and an editor who encouraged him to dig deeper in search of an extra level of humor by letting an idea stew for a while, and reworking it. That was sound advice, and reinforces the fact that the key to improved writing is editing, which doesn't always mean removing words, but choosing them carefully. The dialog as published added some much-needed comedic tension, with its mix of self-awareness and cluelessness, and gave the gag a satisfying layer of irony.

...and on Saturday, another criminal is undone by poor vocabulary.

Thanks, as always, to the community of Bizarro Jazz Pickles* for reading and commenting. Please check out Dan Piraro's weekly blog for more thoughts on this week's comics, and to gaze in wonder at his latest Sunday panel.

Here's hoping we all keep our antennae above water until next time.

*Proud Jazz Pickles can show their love and support by wearing an official BJP enamel pin, available from Dan's web store.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

As You Like It

I just noticed that there wasn't a single leprechaun-based cartoon this week, and for that, I apologize. To make up for that oversight, here are two Saint Patrick's Day gags from the WaynoVision archive:

Now, back to the current crop of Bizarro panels:

Monday's comic is the first of two in this batch featuring an overindulgent parent. Readers who pay particular attention to the placement of Bizarro Secret Symbols correctly pointed out that there's no pie shown here in the Pie King Diner. The simple explanation is that their pie is so popular, there was none available to tuck into the panel.

Tuesday's cartoon is a verbal inversion of the common phrase "vanity plate." This probably wouldn't pass muster as an actual vanity plate, since they seem to require "clever" misspellings.

While drawing the back end of a car, the idea of turning a few Secret Symbols into those ubiquitous car-window stickers was impossible to resist.

This scene depicted above is so believable, it barely qualifies as a cartoon. It wouldn't surprise us to hear from readers who've been on the other side of that desk. Oh, and there's the slice of pie that was missing from Monday's comic! 

This job interview comic appeared on March 14 (aka Pi Day), a date of particular significance to Your Obedient Cartoonist. I first met Dan Piraro on March 14, 2008. Now, ten years later, we're working together every day. Here's a photo from our very first meeting, showing Dan (rightly) regarding me with suspicion:

(Photo by Miss Ashley Stone)
No blood was shed during the encounter.

This cartoon is not meant to comment on any US President, living or dead. It was, however, inspired by hearing an NPR reporter actually say, "the President gave a major speech on drugs." We just added the logical follow-up.

Most cartoonists really do prefer medical providers who wear head mirrors, even if we don't know what they're called.

The North American Sasquatch is known for its lame sense of humor, but it's a ripe subject for cartoonists. It's made numerous appearances in past Bizarro comics, including the first one of this year.

Bigfoot also turned up in my previous feature a couple of times.

For further insight into the minds of a pair of eccentric cartoonists, be sure to check out Dan's blog. While you're there, you can marvel at his latest Sunday panel.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Spring Ahead

Before we turn our clocks ahead early tomorrow morning, here's a look back at the Bizarro comics calendar for the past week.

Monday's offering is based on an early draft of the Book of Genesis, where Adam & Eve were tempted by a talking bird rather than a serpent. 

This cartoon utilizes a form of wordplay we employ from time to time, where unrelated phrases or names are smashed together by a common linking word. A few years ago, I came up with the term streptonym as a name for this verbal construction. I've written about it on this blog and elsewhere, but it never caught on with linguists.

When this cartoon ran, many readers in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the States were shoveling snow, enduring power outages, and cursing Mother Nature. I hope this cartoon gave them a chuckle in spite of the weather, if they had enough light to read it.

Imaginary monsters under the bed are nothing compared to the actual monsters we see in the news every day. However, we're also seeing an inspiring young generation who are giving our modern-day ogres plenty to fear themselves.

Many of the comics published on Thursday noted that it was International Women's Day. We envisioned this scene, where a girl's merit badge project actually shows up to claim the merit badge. The cartoon was inspired by the work of the nonprofit organization Girls Who Code, which aims to support and increase the number of women in computer programming, and to close the gender gap in technology.

Composing the text for this one was an enjoyable exercise, finding the right words to describe the progression of moods that usually follow that initial hour of happiness. I think we got it just about right.

March 10, 2018 is the 142nd anniversary of Alexander Graham Bell's historic first phone call, which he made to his assistant, Thomas Watson. That happened on a Friday, and by Saturday, Bell had already moved on to punking poor Watson.

I took some liberties with the art, since bell was not yet 30 years old in 1876. I based my drawing on a later image of Bell making the first long distance call, from New York to Chicago in 1892. By that time, everyone was tired of hearing him pull the same gag, but they played along because he was a beloved figure who made his investors giant piles of money. 

Although home refrigerators weren't introduced until the early part of the 20th century, we're reasonably certain that Watson (who enjoyed a cold sarsaparilla) probably owned an early vapor-compression system to keep his beverage chilled to the ideal temperature.

Thanks to all of you Bizarro Jazz Pickles who read these weekly posts in addition to following the comics every day. Your interest is appreciated throughout the enterprise, from the home office at Rancho Bizarro in Mexico, to Bizarro Studios North, in Hollywood Gardens, USA.

Our CEO (Chief Eyeball Officer) Dan Piraro also posts a weekly recap along with his always-gorgeous Sunday panel. You can find that comic and Dan's commentary at