Comedy, and its opposite, gravity

The final “Dilbert,” in its Sunday-funnies incarnation, anyway.

Wile E. Coyote never saw the edge until he went over it.

Then it was “Ffffeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww … pow!”

Working the ragged edge for fun and profit is a hazardous occupation. Become enraptured by your own artistry and suddenly you notice a certain lack of mission-critical support. That telltale rush of air. From joker to joke in one easy misstep.

Uh oh. …

Until cartoonist Scott Adams took his header I hadn’t read “Dilbert” in years, but I remembered the strip being funny, even though I hadn’t had any real personal contact with office culture since I quit The New Mexican in 1991.

Apparently the strip had become less amusing over the years — to some readers and editors, anyway — and then when Adams shat the bed with a David Duke impersonation over at YouTube, before you could say “Meep meep” it was “Ffffeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww … pow!”

I got a little too far out over my skis a time or two, mostly before Twitter mobs became a thing.

The University of Northern Colorado’s Mirror gave me the heave-ho after my cartoons inchwormed up some overly tight arseholes. Years later the weekly Sentinel chain in Denver showed me the door; it was part of the usual layoffs, but I got mine for being a dick. The publisher was a twat. These two things can coexist, even find happiness, but ours wasn’t a match made in heaven.

As a freelancer for VeloNews and Bicycle Retailer and Industry News I annoyed a few readers and advertisers with cartoons and columns, but my crimes were rarely felonies and management almost always had my back.

When I finally left it was under my own steam and nobody changed the locks afterward. There were no mourners, but neither was there a lynch mob. I’ll call that a win.

Dilbert and The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter appeared the same year, in 1989. Thank Cthulhu old Fatso never made it as big (har de har har) as Dilbert did. ’Tis unknown what class of a dick I might have made of meself on the YouTubes.

• Editor’s note: Props to The Firesign Theatre’s Nino the Mind-Boggler for the headline.

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15 Responses to “Comedy, and its opposite, gravity”

  1. matlinp Says:

    Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post has said that while there is free speech, there is no consequence-free speech. I’ve known of Scott Adams’ political views for quite some time, but, to be fair, I seldom, if ever, have found them spilling over into his strips. On the other hand, what he said recently is just so beyond the pale, that few, if any, publishers/distributors wanted to have anything to do with him lest they get painted with the same brush. I’ve read the strip for the past few years out of habit more than anything. It’s not something I will greatly miss.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Yeah, basically, you can pretty much say what you please, but nobody has to pay you for saying it.

      It all reminds me a bit of how Dennis Miller seemed to lose his sense of humor when he took that hard swing to the right. Herself and I used to love his show; saw him live once out in California and he killed. But then all of a sudden he just became unpleasant.

      Now, P.J. O’Rourke, there was a funny conservative. That dude could make me laugh out loud.

  2. carl duellman Says:

    We still get the paper and I still read the comics. Few of them are reliably funny and some are definitely better than others. I wonder why some of these strips are still being published. Maybe they are free for the paper to run? Anyway Dilbert was one of the strips that was usually good and clever and sometimes funny. But Scott Adams shit in his own bed so see ya! Pearls Before Swine was another strip that was pretty good but the characters made some crack about running over cyclists so I quit reading it. How much does it cost a newspaper to run a comic strip?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The comics all come on the cheap from syndicates, which is one reason it’s so hard for a newcomer to make a mark. You can’t just roll into the local paper — assuming you still have one — and say, “I’d like to draw a strip for you.” They can get all the usual hogwash for chump change.

      Andrews McMeel distributed “Dilbert.” They also distribute “Pearls Before Swine,” “Garfield,” and most of the other strips in The Albuquerque Journal‘s Sunday funnies. Zombie strips like “Beetle Bailey,” “Dennis the Menace,” “Hi and Lois,” and “Blondie” just linger like a fart in an elevator.

      Meanwhile, the “Mt. Pleasant” strip just got croaked after only two years. You can read about that and more over to The Daily Cartoonist.

      • carl duellman Says:

        Our local newspaper had a guy, Andy Marlette, that did some editorial cartoons and he was pretty funny and biting. He has since moved on but he did end up making a daily comic strip that is still in our paper. It’s not that funny.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        It used to be that major dailies had their own cartoonists. There was Paul Conrad at the Los Angeles Times; Pat Oliphant at The Denver Post (later The Washington Star); Jeff MacNelly at The Chicago Tribune; Mike Peters at the Dayton Daily News; and so on.

        The Albuquerque Journal has its own cartoonist, John Trever. This is a real luxury for a paper that size.

        I remember Doug Marlette, but I don’t think I’ve ever checked out Andy’s work. I’ll have to give it a squint.

        More than a few editorial cartoonists have added a strip to their quivers. MacNelly and Jim Borgman come to mind. The more you can do, the more you can earn. This is why I stuck with writing and editing; cartooning was fun, but the other work kept the lights on.

  3. khal spencer Says:

    Wile E Coyote is a good analogy. He was always really good at running off cliffs or forgetting to throw the bomb after he lit it. Getting on the Internet and calling Black people a hate group? Not gonna go over too well with that there commie pinko fascist enemy of the people media enterprise. I never saw that slant on his comic strip, but when you let out a powerful stale beer fart in a small room, people tend to want you to leave. Or the people leave.

    Adams has an absolute right to speak his mind, but he doesn’t have the right to have anyone buy his comic strip. New Mex owner Robin Martin and her senior staff run an admittedly liberal leaning newspaper with a liberal readership. It is her choice and given the hand grenade Scott Adams recently rolled under the tent flap, I’m not surprised they gave Adams the bum’s rush, as did the Journal. Speech is free, but the consequences of shitting one’s nest are the fringe benefits that go with it.

    Voting with one’s checkbook is fair game, whether me or Robin Martin. When REI virtue signaled that it would no longer stock Giro or Bell bicycle helmets, which I think are among the best helmet companies in the business (and furthermore, fit my head), because the two companies were bought by the same mega-conglomerate that owns a gun company, I wrote REI and told them those were my two favorite helmet brands and henceforth, I would happily buy my bicycle helmets elsewhere. I vote with my checkbook as well as my ballot.

    Yeah, I’ll miss Dilbert, even if Scott Adams is a bit of a total asshole and even if the strip was getting long in the tooth. It was still one of the few I read on the funny page. The strip might as well have been written by someone working at LANL. But it ain’t my decision.

  4. khal spencer Says:

    Speaking of weird.

  5. Comedy, and its opposite, gravity — Mad Blog Media – THE FLENSBURG FILES Says:

    […] Comedy, and its opposite, gravity — Mad Blog Media […]

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