Comedy Is Dead


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Happy Halloween!

I totally swiped the “comedy is sacred” gag from Alexandra Erin. (With her kind permission).

The inspiration for this cartoon is pretty obvious – the world is full of comedians, and often staggeringly successful comedians, complaining that comedy is being killed by excessive political correctness (or “wokeness,” or “SJWs,” or whatever term they settle on this week). Examples include Dave Chappelle, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr, Bill Maher, Kevin Hart, Todd Phillips, Chris Rock, and I’m sure many more.

Comedy isn’t dead – there’s amazing comedy on TV, in movies, and in a seemingly bottomless pile of Netflix stand-up specials, including specials by people complaining that it’s become impossible to do comedy nowadays.

They’re partly right. Some comedy does become harder to perform. (Aziz Ansari talked a lot about this in his recent Netflix special). For example, the prospect of widespread condemnation would deter many comedians from doing openly antiblack or antisemitic bits nowadays. But is that a bad thing? Do we want a society that never moves on, never learns? To paraphrase Ansari, a culture that never looks back at it’s old humor and winces, is a society which hasn’t learned or grown.

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Artwise, this is an unusual one for me. I started this one with an idea of comedians scattered across a floor, each one picked out by a spotlight. I really wasn’t clear on how to arrange them, so I drew all five figures the same size, head to toe, and then played around with different arrangements until I had a composition I thought worked. It’s not my usual approach, but I hope you enjoy the result!

In theory, a cartoon like this is a real time-saver for me – just five figures, done! In theory. But in practice, knowing that I only had to draw five figures led me to lavish much more attention on drawing each figure, so no time actually was saved. Oh well.

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There were only three cartoons in October (so you were only charged for three!). I lost a bunch of time this month attending the Humboldt County Children’s Author Festival. (For those of you who don’t know, I have a second career creating children’s graphic novels). This is a very neat festival – the organizers bring in 25 authors every other year, and they send us to three schools each, so in the end about 75 schools get an author visit.

Most of the schools are schools that otherwise would never have visiting authors. The first school I visited this year, required me being drive 50 minutes up a winding mountain road, to visit a two-room school where I talked to eight kids about creating comics.

It’s a privilege being invited to a festival like this, and it’s also very fun for me, both for the chance to visit kids in schools, and for the chance for me to talk with other authors.

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Thank you so much for supporting these cartoons!  I really couldn’t do it without your support, and frankly the support of all y’all patrons has changed my life.

You’re seeing this cartoon a week or so before anyone else, but if you’re supporting at the $5 level or above, feel free to share it immediately.

Special thanks to $10 donor Jonah Wacholder, who is also thanked on the sidebar! Jonah, if you’d like me to email you a high-res copy of the cartoon, signed to you, for you to print out and hang, just let me know!

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This cartoon has one large panel, plus an tiny extra “kicker” panel below the bottom of the cartoon. The panel shows five people – stand up comics – scattered across an abstract space. Each comedian is being picked out by a spotlight. All five of them have microphones, and all are speaking out, as if they’re talking to an audience. They speak in order from back to front (so each successive comedian is closer to the “camera” than the one before).

The first comedian is a man wearing a button-up shirt and dark jeans, and looks really angry.

FIRST COMEDIAN: If I can’t do rape jokes without getting hissed then comedy is dead! DEAD!

The second comedian is a man with a shaved head. He is wearing a black tee shirt and sitting on a stool, scowling.

SECOND COMEDIAN: Seinfeld won’t even do college campuses anymore. This is how life under Stalin felt!

The third comedian is older than the other comedians, with wide, frightened eyes. He’s wearing a vest and tie; his collar is unbuttoned and his tie is hanging down a bit, not flush against his neck. His tie has a floral pattern.

THIRD COMEDIAN: If I have to drop “women are irrational” and “Asians talk funny” from my set, all I’ll have left is “airline food” and “it’s too hard to program my VCR!”

The fourth comedian is a blonde woman wearing an open button-up sweater over a striped dress and black tights. She looks angry.

FOURTH COMEDIAN: Free speech means the world owes me a living without any $#%!ing criticism!

The fifth comedian has short-cropped hair, an annoyed expression, and a big sneer. He’s wearing a  tee shirt with a logo on it (most of the logo, whatever it is – well, it’s a big exclamation mark – is blocked by word balloons). He’s speaking straight to the reader.

FIFTH COMEDIAN: Comedy is sacred and the work I do is important to society!

FIFTH COMEDIAN: Anyhow, lighten up! They’re just jokes and they don’t mean anything!


The fifth comedian is talking to Barry the cartoonist.

FIFTH COMEDIAN: At least I can still make fun of fatties without much pushback.

BARRY: We’re working on that.

This cartoon on Patreon

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6 Responses to Comedy Is Dead

  1. 1
    John W says:

    Reminds me of a song by The Style Council, “The Stand Up Comic’s Instructions”

  2. 2
    Erl says:

    I really like the layout! It carried me through the comic with clear momentum and a freer path, and it really showcased the detailed work you’d done on each of the figures.

    It also (for me) felt like a smoother transition between the different points. Like the visual equivalent of fading from one song to the next. A really nice touch on a format you have pioneered (many related figures making their own versions of an ill-considered argument).

  3. 3
    Saurs says:

    I think the last and largest head (fifth comedian) gets to the heart of the issue, for me, anyway where, on the one hand, the Rigors of Joke-Making translate into an obscure and fragile art, the process of which is a carefully-guarded secret set behind at least one gate or two and never open to the scrutiny of uninitiated outsiders (despite the fact that paying club ticket-holders routinely act as guinea pigs for corporate comedians preparing for their next televised or streaming special), but on the other hand, this is just ephemeral meandering and off-the-cuff improvisation; how dare you take it seriously, try to analyze it for its content, or assign to it a grade? It’s all a little precious, like a satire of the rightwing myth of the academic Ivory Tower, where even poor jokes/scholarship have merit and deserve an open and paid-for airing without being subject to peer or lay review.

    You’ve captured that self-serving mixed message nicely: “my dick joke is simply that, you prude, but criticizing it or questioning its existence is tantamount to literal emasculation, please try to keep up.” It’s as good an illustration as any of the Medium is the Me(a)ssage at work in the popular consciousness. The method is perceived to be sound and without peer, so the end-results must always be valid, however much they conflict with other, competing values. It’s a kind of illiteracy that depends upon the speaker perceiving themself to be rational because they know the dictionary definition of reason, assume they must possess it, and correctly understand that it is regarded as good and desirable to exercise it, forgetting or never knowing in the first place that reason depends not on simply inverting or subverting norms. We hear a lot of bluster about moral relativism and the creep of the “po-mo” into everyday existence, but I think that particular call is generally coming from inside the house.

  4. 4
    Saurs says:

    re “illiteracy” mentioned above, I also think this is the product of ahistorical ignorance and temporal distance from the modern origins of their own trade. A lot of reactionary comedians correctly glean that they are, broadly speaking, heirs to a tradition that upended or satirized a lot of ugly, prevailing norms of a previous generation or two. So it stands to reason, if reasoning is a little too onerous, that they, too, must be speaking truth to power, otherwise everyone would love their jokes. It’s always a little bewildering to me when a popular entertainer appears to craves the validation from the sort of people they actively hate. It’s true that establishment Anglo comedy is perceived to have a liberal slant, but if you hate liberals and want to court their wrath and maybe even monetize it to attract a like-minded audience, there is no better way than playing victim to a fictional, humorless liberal hivemind. That game, too, has a long right-wing history and, what’s more, the jokes write themselves, no pesky (((intellectual))) hard graft required.

  5. 5
    lurker23 says:

    i like your art but it was funny to have some nose-people and some no-nose-people in the same art so i mostly looked at noses.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    i like your art but it was funny to have some nose-people and some no-nose-people in the same art so i mostly looked at noses.


    I look forward to a more enlightened future when noses and nonoses peoples can live in peace and harmony.