November 10, 2011

"A kid would say ‘pizgetti’ instead of spaghetti, and Jeffy would say, ‘Can I wear my short-sleeve pants?'"

The wholesome humor of "The Family Circus" — love it or loathe it — was a changeless fixture of the comics pages for so many years, drawn by Bil Keane, who died on Tuesday at the age of 89.

It was a favorite target for the great comics blogger The Comics Curmudgeon, and here's his tribute to Keane:
We owe him a debt of thanks for providing such a tempting target for mockery over the years — mockery that he was by all accounts incredibly good-natured about (he even collected Family Circus spoofs). His own sense of humor was reportedly a lot edgier than what the strip became best known for, as some of the early panels (like the one from 1960 above) demonstrate. RIP, Big Daddy Keane.

Meanwhile, little Jeffy (age 53) has been writing and drawing the strip for years now, so expect exactly zero changes on that front, and our mockery to continue unabated.
Well, that's nice, but let's click on the "Family Circus" tag and read some of that old mockery:

48 comments:

Ron said...

There's also the Nietzsche Family Circus

http://www.losanjealous.com/nfc/

Henry said...

Don't forget this:

So what do you have against the Family Circus?

Chip Ahoy said...

My all time favorite is "You come straight home," "OK!" showing the dotted path the kid took making loops through the playground.

Psychedelic George said...

There's a Cthulhu version of Family Circus where Mom has tentacles for a face....

Remember that big controversy over the Mom's new hairdo?

PatCA said...

I just figured out why I like Family Circus: it's not "edgy" at all.

The last remaining edge-free zone in our culture.

BJM said...

While this is more in the vein of Steven Pastis than The Family Circus...Stingo's cocksucker suit in "Sophie's Choice" is forever embedded in my auto-recall process.

I've inadvertently blurted it out at an inappropriate time.

madAsHell said...

I used to like the comics with the dotted paths as well!!

Harsh Pencil said...

http://scottmeetsfamilycircus.tumblr.com/

Carol_Herman said...

HANGERBER.

We don't forget how our kids mispronounce things.

And, I didn't buy McDonald's stock because my kid didn't like them. An adult mistake.

edutcher said...

Remember when it came out.

And, yeah, I still catch it.

Along with Dennis the Menace, Hi and Lois, Beetle Bailey, Grin and Bear It, and, of course, Blondie.

I do miss Jimmy Hatlo, however.

Seven Machos said...

Garfield Minus Garfield remains the best comic ever.

http://garfieldminusgarfield.net/

Chip Ahoy said...

Anecdote.

I never once found one single thing funny about the comic Nancy but a deaf friend of mine would go straight to the Nancy comic and burst out laughing. Other deaf people agreed Nancy is the most hilarious comic out there. Most frustrating. He'd point to the comic and describe why the panels are hilarious but to me they still lacked a trace of funny. This happened several times.

I thought that by understanding why Nancy was funny to them I would then gain some insight into language, expression in general, syntax, puns, thought process and so on, but that insight never happened through Nancy. So from my POV even in precise ASL the comic Nancy fails at funny.

EDH said...

The Family Circus mother always had a smokin' hot body.

Dan in Philly said...

The last modernist in a genre gone completely post-modern. RIP

d-day said...

Family Circus was too much a part of my childhood to hate, even though I fully understand the critics. I first started reading the newspaper so I could read Family Circus. It seemed amazing to me that the comic all over the local ice-cream shop came to our house - in color on Sundays! I guess I'll need to hit The Sugar Bowl this weekend in tribute.

Triangle Man said...

@Seven

Very funny. I had first seen that done as Realfield.

Old RPM Daddy said...

Like a lot of folks, Family Circus was one of my favorites growing up. I was happy to let other strips have an edge to them. Family Circus was nice and sweet as it was.

And you know, sometimes Edgy and Ironic are absolutely the last things I want to hear or see. It's a lot easier to fall flat trying for Edge and Irony than in just playing it straight, Family Circus-style, but the practitioner may not even be aware of it.

DADvocate said...

RIP

Comimg from a large family, I almost always got a chuckle out of Family Circle as it often hit close to home.

Chip A - I remember that one, definitely hit close to home. I think that was my exact route.

Kurt said...

That is fascinating about your friends who think the comic strip "Nancy" is funny, Chip Ahoy. I wonder what they saw in it.

As a kid, I remember never liking "The Family Circus" because it was always too cutesy for my taste, plus even in the 70s, the styles everyone wore in the comic strip seemed hopelessly dated. I usually never read it. "Nancy," on the other hand, I read regularly for a while as a kid until one day, I realized the strip was neither funny nor very interesting, and I stopped bothering with it.

kwood said...

The entire medium of newspaper comics, sadly, is dead.

Aside from Dilbert, of course!

Ralph L said...

Someone took over the Nancy strip for a while in the 80's and made it tolerably funny, but the original sure wasn't.

Blondie is much better now than 30 years ago.

Kurt said...

More about "Nancy": I just came across this rather bizarre article by someone with a highly unusual appreciation for "Nancy." I can't figure out if he's trying to mock the whole enterprise of literary criticism or if he is trying to be serious in applying its methods and language to the comic strip. For instance: "Bushmiller's Nancy possessed a transcendentally formalist quality and an almost unfathomable precision. There is timelessness in its anachronisms, minimalism in its blankness and a seductive rhythm in its endlessly reiterated theme of stupid amazement." If you keep reading you'll see that he even invokes T.S. Eliot's "objective correlative" in a subsequent paragraph.

MadisonMan said...

Not me! Ida Know!

kwood said...

I just figured out why I like Family Circus: it's not "edgy" at all.

The word is 'innocence'.

Nothing freeks out the bleeding-edge, pierced head crowd more than a simple, up-beat portrayal of innocence.

Bob Ellison said...

I always had a thing for Thel.

kwood said...

I used to enjoy Nancy simply for the way it was drawn. Loved the little dotted lines from her eyes to show what she was looking at, and that hair! What's not to love? I was too young then to get much out of punch-lines anyways.

Remember when Peanuts was edgy? It really was, for it's time! Those old paperback collections are still pretty priceless.

That was back when 'edgy' had lots of craft and polish, and was fun for kids too.

Tibore said...

"Kurt said...
I can't figure out if he's trying to mock the whole enterprise of literary criticism or if he is trying to be serious in applying its methods and language to the comic strip..."


Yeah. Poe's Law seems to apply to more than just religion, pseudoscience or conspiracy theory. There are just some times that you genuinely can't tell a parody from the real thing.

gbarto said...

In the large Dilbert treasury, Scott Adams talks about meeting Bil Keane. He says Keane told him if he wanted to get anywhere, he had to stop drawing the kind of cartoons that cartoonists liked and find an audience to please. So Adams focused on the workplace since it was the workplace cartoons that were drawing the most e-mail. Said Adams, you can say what you want about The Family Circus, but Keane knew the business of cartooning.

rcommal said...

It's a sad world where's no place for nice or sweet. Edgy is one thing, but a world full of edges gets awfully sharp sometimes. RIP, Keane.

Roger J. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roger J. said...

RIP Mr Keane--always enjoyed his
work

The Far Side was fabulous as well--As was the original Bloom County.

I still enjoy Dilbert and understand that a lot of Scott Adams work comes from comments people in the workplace send him. I even used Dilbert in one of my public admin courses.

PatCA said...

Chip, I have always disliked Nancy. That hair! Creeps me out.

ricpic said...

I like For Better Or For Worse by Lynn Johnston. She's a Canadian and the strip is full of Canadian niceness which should be wearing but is actually nice to be exposed to for a short visit daily. Also, in an unspectacular way her drawing is quite supple.

Roger J. said...

ricpic--I weas remiss in not recognizing for better or for worse as a good cartoon--the characters aged appropriate to the time--has a real life feel to it, although I think Ms J is back to posting old series.

Roger J. said...

and IIRC, Ms Johnston was close to Charles Shultz whom she referred to as Sparky--she did a nice remembrance of Mr Shultz when he died.

Kensington said...

I always loathed Family Circus, not because it was innocent, but because it seemed treacly, with one exception.

I vividly remember one from about twenty years ago. Dolly is coming out of the house, and she's crying. She says to Billy (or Jeffy) "Don't let Mommy brush your hair when she's mad at Daddy."

Ha ha, get it! Mommy was so mad at Daddy that she brushed Dolly's hair hard enough to make her cry.

I found it horrifying. I was more disturbed that a cartoonist would think that was funny than I was by those Jimmy Kimmel videos that had everyone up in arms earlier this week.

ironrailsironweights said...

The Family Circus mother always had a smokin' hot body.

And I'll bet she also had ... oh, never mind.

Peter

Kirk Parker said...

Kurt,

Was that post on Nancy written by Alan Sokal perhaps?

Fr Martin Fox said...

I cannot stand Family Circus, and haven't for many years. I so dislike it that I actually cover it with my hand lest I accidentally read it.

I have no problem with innocent or sweet. But I have a problem with stale and lame.

Too many comics are doing the same thing over and over. (Inner voice: Maybe they always were and you were too slow to notice it? Shaddap!)

Lynne Johnston who does "For Better or for Worse" actually re-booted the entire strip! She's doing it all over again. It's not bad, but...Ida Know...

Kurt said...

Kirk Parker wrote: Was that post on Nancy written by Alan Sokal perhaps?

It sure seems like it might have been, doesn't it? But the more I look around that website, the more I think that it is not intended as a joke. This post, for instance, describes how the writer adorned his college dorm door with Nancy comics to be different from his peers who were posting Doonesbury comics on their doors: "And each panel was more authentically profound in its muteness than any Doonesbury." He even links to a quote from Tom Smucker in the Village Voice in 1982 about Bushmiller: "a friend once described him as 'a moron on an acid trip.'"

William said...

I don't read Gasoline Alley anymore, but at one time it was the only cartoon that allowed its characters to age in real time. My goodness, most of them must be centenarians and more by now. What's the fun of being a cartoon character if you have to grow old? It's kind of ghoulish. They cannot die. They can only keep getting older and older.....Edgy cartoonists, like romantic poets, flare early but burn out young. Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, Bloom County. Where are they now? Their creators went to the dark side one time too many and could not come back. The Family Circus and Blondie keep going on generation after generation like some old bakery shop that people keep going to because they went there when they were kids.

William said...

I don't read Gasoline Alley anymore, but at one time it was the only cartoon that allowed its characters to age in real time. My goodness, most of them must be centenarians and more by now. What's the fun of being a cartoon character if you have to grow old? It's kind of ghoulish. They cannot die. They can only keep getting older and older.....Edgy cartoonists, like romantic poets, flare early but burn out young. Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, Bloom County. Where are they now? Their creators went to the dark side one time too many and could not come back. The Family Circus and Blondie keep going on generation after generation like some old bakery shop that people keep going to because they went there when they were kids.

Alan said...

I recall one strip where one of the boys tells Mommy not to put a stamp on the envelope she's about to mail - he'll deliver it to the neighbor for a quarter. Felonious competition with the US Postal Service - what's not to love?

John said...

Edutcher says he misses Jimmy Hatlo. I agree. Of course, since I never buy a newspaper anymore I never read the comics other than Day by Day and Dilbert which I read online.

Jimmy Hatlo lives on, though in blogs. How frequently do we see bloggers says "a tip of the hat to..." or "hat tip to..." whoever they are linking to.

That comes from Jimmy Hatlo's habit of incorporating other people's ideas in his comics and crediting them with "A tip of the Hatlo hat to..."

He will live on forever, even if people don't recognize it.

John Henry

rcommal said...

I so dislike it that I actually cover it with my hand lest I accidentally read it.

Are there really people who so dislike a newspaper comic that they'd put a hand over it to prevent accidentally reading it?

!! An epiphany.

jeff said...

"My all time favorite is "You come straight home," "OK!" showing the dotted path the kid took making loops through the playground."

Which of the 458 variations of that joke did you like the best?

andinista said...

Went to school with Jeffy, so FC was big in our town, home-town pride.

My early memories of FC are getting a book of them, and ROFL until my sides ached and my eyes went dry.

Later on, it was just good times, one of the comfortable constants of life.

Was it truly edgier then, or did I just identify with the humor in a way that is lost to grown-ups?

andinista said...

There were a few comics (whose names now thankfully escape me) that I would refuse to read or glance at. Just one of those idiosyncratic things.

The modern equivalent is regular commenters at your favorite blogs.