What is the use of Kartoon Kops? I mean, why do we possibly need cartoon policemen with rubber whack-bats, squirting ink guns, and face pies? Why, to control cartoon misbehavior, of course.
If I work on the roof of the house because the shingles are weather-damaged, and then I walk off the end of the roof, and I just stand there in the air because I know better than to look down, I am breaking the law of gravity. I deserve a strawberry pie to the face for that crime. (Not blueberry pie, though. I’m allergic to blueberries.)
If I run in place and my legs go faster and faster until they look like blurred leg-colored circles, and then I take off, faster than a speeding bullet, leaving only poofy clouds behind, I am breaking the law of acceleration and inertia. I deserve a blast of black ink in my face for that.
And if I put an extremely hot towel on my face, and Bugs Bunny is my barber, my face will come off in the towel and leave the space on the front of my head blank. I will be breaking the law of… of… well, keeping my face on in public. Rubber whack-bat bruises are in my future for that.
“But, Mickey!” you say to me, “The real world doesn’t work that way!”
“Well, duh! Didn’t I tell you this was about cartoons from the start?”
I admit it. Even though I collect pictures of sunrises to glory in the fact that I still have another day of life in this world, I rarely snap a picture of the cloudless sunrise. It is very possible that this has something to do with what ultimately gives life value and makes it worthwhile to live one more day.
If there is no pattern, no color-changes, no contrast, no variation… then why bother? And this doesn’t only apply to living your life. It applies to taking pictures of the sky too. Solid blue or solid yellow are about as interesting as a minimalist painting. (Have you ever seen the big beige squares and red squares that fill entire walls of the Dallas Art Museum? Like a picture of a polar bear in a fierce blizzard or an extreme close-up of the side of a tomato.)
Yes, sunshine and happiness are all well and good… but you don’t get a satisfactory skyscape without some clouds in it. In fact, rain clouds provide the most fascinating patterns and colors. What would the picture be without a little drama splashed here and there to make a center of interest or a counterpoint to the happy ending? They say that variety is the spice of life. And when they say that they probably mean cayenne pepper rather parsley or oregano. If that’s not what they mean, then why the hell did we bring food into the discussion?
So, I am thinking, there have to be clouds. (Notice, I said “clouds”, not “clowns”, because… according to the song, there “oughtto be clowns”, not “have to be clowns”.)
It is true that clouds can mean sadness… that the rain is coming, that your vision is obscured, that something has come between you and God’s eye. But without clouds, the sky would be plain and boring. Better to burn bright and explode in a short amount of time than to linger over a plain pale blue.
I have always loved using weird, wild, and goofy words to describe things when I am trying to be funny. But recently I was saddened to learn that a word I have liked using in the past, “dingleberry”, is actually a poo-poo word. I am very much on the Red Skelton side of the question of using bad words. I mean, I don’t find direct use of obscene language and harsh Anglo-Saxon swear words to be very funny. Shock humor and gross-out humor do not appeal to me the way more whimsical word-play does.
Betelgeuse is a funny word because it is the name of an actual red-giant Star in the Milky Way Galaxy, while at the same time sounding like juice made from beetles. And, of course, there is the little matter of a hilarious Tim Burton movie about a gross-out ghost with an evil agenda. The parts of a word can make or break the comic gravity of the word. As much as I previously liked “dingleberry” as a goofy insult word, the “dingle” part is giving me pause. I have discovered that a “dingle” is not only the v-cleft in a valley between two mountains, it is also derived from “dung”. A “dingleberry” describes a dangling “berry” of poop like the ones sometimes found on the fur of my dog’s behind. Yetch! I can’t even use a label like that on a detestable buffoon like Donald Trump. It bothers me that it suggests the color brown rather than the proper orange. Trump requires a word that translates to something more like “flaming orange Kool-aid man”.
So, I guess I need to focus on other weird, wild, and goofy words as I continue to try to be funny. The dinglebunnies of my comic fantasies need to be “kerpoppled”… the act of “poppling”, to move in a tumbling, irregular manner, as in boiling water. Do away with poo-poo humor, Mickey, old lad! You need some new goofy words.
The criminal was led into the courtroom in chains and forced to sit in a box made of metal bars so his influence would not reach out and harm anyone by drawing their sympathy in.
“Mr. Prosecutor,” said the learned judge, “what terrible crime has the perpetrator been charged with?”
“The alleged perpetrator!” objected the defense attorney, a mousy old man who looked like a cross between Santa Clause and Robert E.Lee because of his white beard, stern face, and a twinkle in his eye.
“Shut up please, Mr. Badweather. You will have your turn to speak.” The judge banged his gavel smartly to emphasize the shut-up-ness of his overruling.
“Your honor,” said the prosecutor, “Mister Pennysnatcher Goodlaughs stands accused of being a clown.”
“The people of the State of Texas, home of the free, land of the brave, and place where cowboys can hang their hat on the antlers of a moose they shot in Canada, will prove that Mr. Goodlaughs did willfully, and with malice of forethought, commit acts of supposed humor in order to make people laugh. And we will further prove that in a time of very serious things, he intentionally made light of very serious matters and the very serious men who try to turn those serious things to their exclusive… err, sorry, I mean… everyone’s benefit.”
“Your honor,” said the defense attorney, looking like a cross between Mark Twain and Colonel Sanders, “I would like to request a new venue for this trial. My client will not get a fair trial here.”
“Sir, your stupid request is rejected on the grounds that Mr. Goodlaughs cannot get a fair trial anywhere. We are all conservatives, and are therefore incapable of having a sense of humor. Continue, Mr. Prosecutor.”
“We will show numerous instances of Mr. Goodlaughs putting paint on his face to hide his true features or assume the identity of a character not his own. He has repeatedly used false noses, large shoes, and floppy hats to exaggerate his flaws and scare young children. He repeatedly wears polka-dotted clothing to simulate terrible taste and ridiculous lack of fashion-sense. He employs pratfalls and slapstick humor in his performances, things that, if any school-age child would imitate the behavior, might lead to serious injury or even death. And he has even dared to make fun of our glorious leaders, implying that they make mistakes and may even have hurt people. That they act without thinking about anything but their own pocketbooks. In other words, this clown has knowingly made jokes in order to get people to not take things seriously.”
“Your honor, I object to this jury. I object to the fact that it is made up of fifty percent rednecks and fifty percent kangaroos! My client demands a new, more impartial jury!” cried the defense attorney, looking like a cross between Captain Kangaroo and Ronald Reagan.
“Has anybody noticed?” asked the judge, “that this attorney looks like he could influence this jury unfairly? He looks like two people who could lead the two halves of this jury to the wrong conclusion. Bailiff! Take the defense attorney out back and execute him by firing squad.”
After the entire courtroom heard the gunshots go off, the judge then turned to the prisoner.
“It seems, Mr. Goodlaughs, that the defense’s opening statement is now entirely up to you. Do you have anything to say in your own defense?
“I do, your honor. Ladies and gentlemen, kangaroos and Reagan Republicans of the jury, I submit to you that I have never actually been a circus clown, or wore face paint. Not that I wouldn’t if the opportunity presented itself. I merely claim the right to laugh at anything I think is funny… or can be made funny. Whether I am being what you call a clown, a humorist, a cartoonist, a comedian, a fool, a village idiot, or a witty fellow, I believe I have the right to make light of anything. Life is always better when you can laugh. Especially if you can laugh at yourself.”
“I’ve heard enough,” said the judge. “What say you, jury?”
“Yes. And I preemptively waive the prisoner’s right to appeal. Sir, you are guilty, and you shall be executed immediately.”
Everyone in the courtroom breathed a long-awaited sigh of relief.
In the Republican primaries in 1980 it was Republican candidate George HW Bush who gave the old Gipper’s economic policy the accurate nickname of “Voodoo Economics.” Then when the Gipper defeated the last American President to have an administration without a war in it, that Voodoo became the things we do.
Banks became predatory, using credit card ploys to turn us into a nation of debtors where wealth defies gravity and trickles upward instead of down. To help that along, Republicans deregulated things, killed off the Savings-and-Loan industry through scandal to reduce competition. Wall Street learned to make greed good by building bubbles that allow profits to inflate them and eventually explode them. When the business moguls at the top of economic food chain went through the Great Depression (the ones who didn’t jump out of windows) they learned there are ways to turn recessions into profitable ventures for the wealthy elite. Income inequality grew fat on the raw meat of recession after recession.
And wars became a popular pastime again. Every president from Reagan onward had to manage a war they either started or inherited from their predecessor.
Gorbachev became the Premiere of the USSR. He attempted to modify Russia with Glasnost, opening up about the Russian past and the contemporary state of Russia’s economy. By opening up the ban on criticism, he caused the USSR to fall and the Cold War basically ended when they fell. Still, Republicans managed to always increase military spending, and use any excuse (in fact, making up some excuses) to declare war on somebody, especially little guys who were easy to beat up and bully. The Gipper did his happy dance and declared that Republicans had defeated evil. And stupid people gave him so much credit that two of the next three Republican Presidents got there with fewer popular votes than their opponents. And this was all okay because some voters count bigger than the rest of us.
And so the era of elections being decided by angry people and stupid people who want to punish the rest of us began.
Somehow a rodeo clown from Texas who dodged serving in combat during the Vietnam War became a war President, starting two wars, one against the wrong country. The Republicans deregulated more. Corporations cut down trees in National Forests more. They burned more coal. They fracked up the place and got more oil. And they looted and polluted more and more during the time when we could’ve done something to reverse the worst of climate change. They crashed the economy again. They made more money. They left a mess in the economy for Obama to clean up. And when he cleaned it up, they blamed him for not doing it right, and even for causing it all somehow before he took the oath of office.
And when Obama was done, and we were hoping we could return to breathing safely in the atmosphere that was quickly overheating and being filled with doodoo smells, the angry and stupid people elected an orange guy (seen above with the green guy he tried to help destroy the world.)
And now I cannot watch the news without getting steamed, or crying over pictures of dead children in Ukraine. And all of this Voodoo doodoo is deep-rooted in the Republican poopoo, growing in horrific power and doodoo smells since the time of Ronny Ray-gun. (Why can’t Star Wars Anti-Missile Systems take out Russian missiles over Ukraine? Did we not pay enough for them?)
If you are wondering why I do less and less political humor anymore, well… It really stopped being funny.
No, I am not saying goodbye to anyone that is leaving the Trump administration. Frank Avruch has passed away.
Who is that, you may ask?
Well, from 1959 to 1970, he was Bozo the Clown. The first Bozo. The best Bozo.
And we will miss him, those of us who knew him from childhood, watching a colorful clown on black and white TV.
He did charity work for UNICEF. We collected dimes in covered coffee cans for Bozo because Bozo needed them for UNICEF. What the heck is UNICEF, you ask? Don’t you know how to use Google and Wikipedia?
So, this is a clown who inspired poetry. What? He didn’t inspire poetry in you? Well he did with me. Let me show you.
The fact that Shakespeare was a master of the art of creating and mocking fools does not really help decide the question of who Shakespeare really was. A stage actor who owned a theater in Elizabethan times and apparently focused on being the bit player, the butler, the second man on the castle wall in the great plays, would certainly know enough of flim-flam, being a con man, or artfully throwing turds at kings and queens in ways that get rewarded rather than beheaded. But a nobleman who has unpopular and unwelcome-but-probably-wise insights into the back-stabbing-goings-on of the royal court of England would equally be capable of putting the most memorable of critiques of humanity into the mouth of the fool or the clown in the great stage-play of life. Even the most depressing and violent of the Shakespearean tragedies is enhanced and made pointed by the presence of the fool and the comic relief. In some ways everything that Shakespeare wrote was a comedy.
Whoever Shakespeare was, he shared Mark Twain’s overall assessment of “That damned human race” and often declared all men fools in the eyes of the playwright. Puck’s observation on humanity is delivered about not only Bottom and the other poor players who carry on their vain attempts at performing Pyramus and Thisbe while Bottom magically wears the head of an ass, but also the easily fooled lovers who mistake their true loves for one another, and even the clueless mortal King Theseus of Athens.
In the play within a play, Nick Bottom wants to be not only his own role, Pyramus the romantic lead, but argues that he should be Thisbe, the lion, and Pyramus all at once, making a satire of human nature and its overreaching ways that we could only pray Donald Trump will one day watch and magically understand. In fact, Shakespeare’s entire body of work is an extended investigation of foolishness versus wisdom, and with Shakespeare, the verdict always goes to the fool.
The plays of William Shakespeare are filled with fools doing foolish things… and fools being accidentally wise. (Think Jacques in As You Like It giving his famous “All the world’s a stage” soliloquy in which he elucidates the seven ages of man.) There are fools too who prove to be wise. (Think of the ironic advice given by the jester Touchstone in As You Like It, or the pithy commentary of King Lear’s fool). The fools in Shakespeare’s work are not merely the comedy relief, but the main point that Shakespeare makes about humanity.
Whoever the man was who wrote the plays of Shakespeare, he was someone who had a deep understanding of the basic irony underlying all of human life. And someone with that vital sense of the bittersweet, a philosophy of life that encompasses the highest heights and lowest depths that a soul can reach, is someone who has suffered as well as known great joy, someone who has experienced loss as often as profit, and has known real love as well as real hatred. It is the fool that Shakespeare shakes us by the neck with to make us recognize the fool in all of us which makes the plays resonate so deeply within us. It is watching the path of the fool unfolding that makes us shake our head and say to ourselves, “Yes, that is what life is really like.”
Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Walt Disney, and Edgar Allen Poe (the four clowns depicted above) all probably had times in their writing life when they didn’t really have anything to write about. Charles Dickens couldn’t think of anything but his time in the boot-black factory and the misery he felt as a child raised in poverty. So, what did he do? He created Wilkins Micawber as a stand-in for his ne’er-do-well father who always believed, “Something will presently turn up.” And he wrote the semi-autobiographical novel David Copperfield.
William Shakespeare didn’t actually write anything with his grade-school education and limited knowledge of the world. But when the Earl of Oxford who used his name as a nom de plume could think of nothing, he thought of ending it all, and the “To-be-or-not-to-be…” play, Hamlet, poured out of his quill pen onto paper.
And when Walt Disney rode the train in defeat, having lost his best comic character for cartoons, Oswald the Rabbit, to his old boss, he doodled a mouse and named him Mickey, even providing Mickey’s falsetto voice for decades on the silver screen. Oh, and claiming the rights to any further characters his studios produced… to this day.
Poe looked at the bust over his chamber door… and saw a raven. Instantly, NEVERMORE.
Now it’s Mickey’s turn to write about nothing, and try to live up to the nothing-masters’ artistic masterpieces of yore. For instance, the boy in the picture. I drew him from a nude model in a black-and-white photo. Nobody in class, not even the one who brought the picture, ever told me his name. And the class was forty-four years ago now. So, assuming the picture wasn’t old back then, the boy is now older than fifty-four, and possibly significantly older than that now. So it is a picture of a nude nobody in front of an abandoned house in the snow however-many years ago in a place that is probably nowhere now. And I won’t even mention the imaginary puzzle pieces floating through the air for nobody to put together. What’s that? I just mentioned them? What did I mention? They are really just nothing.
So, there is a time and a place for writing about everything. Even if that everything includes nothing… and that nothing is nowhere… and is about nobody.