Hard Copy



I hate Family Circus

Please allow me to describe the accompanying picture. It is an image of a Family Circus cartoon in which the cartoon's creator, Bil Keane, has, by design, scribbled all over the cartoon (it's part of the gag).

The whole family is hanging out in the family room; the mom is holding P.J. and looking out the bay window, the other three kids (Billy, Dolly, and Jeffy, along with Barfy the Dog and some other disreputable canine who I am unable to identify) are just kinda standing around, and the Dad is saying "Who scribbled all over this cartoon?". Of course the three older kids, in turn, say "Not me." "Not me." "Not me!". The joke, and this'll kill ya, is that there's a little "invisible" specter scooting out the side of the frame with a pencil in his hand. The specter's name, if you haven't already noticed, is Not Me. Boy, that Bil Keane's done it again! What a hoot!

The Family Circus is one of the lamest cartoons of all time (along with Prince Valiant). It isn't funny, it was never funny, and it's been pissing me off for years. What annoys me most is that Bil Keane uses the same jokes over and over and over again. I wish I had a dime for every time he whipped out with the "Not Me" punchline. Sure, he changes up the scenario but the final joke is always the same:

"Who left the toys all over the floor?"
"Not Me."
"Who spilled milk on the kitchen table?"
"Not Me."
"Who slammed Jeffy's hand in the car door?"
"Not Me."

The other wildly overused gag is the one where the mom leans out the front door and calls Billy home for dinner. The cartoon shows the path Billy takes home as he meanders his way all over the neighborhood, hopping fences, talking to neighbors, peeking in bathroom windows, etc. How many times can he use this joke and get away with it? What you never see is the next frame where the father is whipping Billy's late-for-supper ass all over the family room with a bamboo stalk while having flashbacks from Da Nang.

My grandmother (Gramma Belle) thinks the Family Circus is great. She thinks it's cute. She cuts out the comic strips and modifies them by changing the names of the characters to match those of her great-grandchildren and so on. This leads me to think that the Family Circus is a big hit with the octogenarian crowd. Most of them probably can't remember any further back than a few weeks, so it's ALWAYS cute and ALWAYS funny, and it doesn't matter how often the "Not Me" joke comes up.

What else? Look at the mom in this cartoon. She's staring longingly out the window thinking of the days when she was single, living in the East Village, and playing bass for the all-girl band The Hotties. Now she's married to this loser who is not attractive and hasn't changed his style for the past 30 years. She's awesome: tall, thin, really great mod hair, cute nose. Nothing beats her classic tight, red sweater/jeans outfit. She's held up pretty well over the years and I don't blame her for being pissed. I also don't blame her for popping Valiums.

Two of the greatest cartoons of all time: The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes, neither of which are being produced any longer. Why? Because their creators (Gary Larson and Bill Watterson, respectively) didn't want to compromise the integrity of their work and knew when to call it quits. Bil Keane should follow suit.

So, who scribbled all over this cartoon? It WASN'T me, but I wish it was.

--Bill Sakran has hated Family Circus since 1975.

By Bill Sakran

LARGEREGO: Fighting the power since 1972.
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