Comic Strip _Momma_ Descending Into Madness


By everything I have ever heard on the topic, Mell Lazarus, the cartoonist for Miss Peach (which I have heard endlessly praised but never, ever seen, except in parodies of it) and Momma, is one of the sweetest persons to know. Having him in your set of acquaintances is reportedly a minor but noticeable blessing of life. I haven’t got any reason to disbelieve this. But whatever his greatness as a person is, there is the point that his comic strip is Momma, and like many comic strips that have been running since the era of the Petticoat Affair, it’s really not all that funny. You can make out the outlines where it was funny once upon a time, or should have been, but it seems to be around mostly because once a comic strip has been running for ten years nothing will ever stop its running.

On October 13, Mr Moon is a fan of Columbus. Someday he might grow up to be a planet. ... What?
Mell Lazarus’s comic strip Momma for the 19th of October, 2014. Good luck telling me what it means.

Lately, though, it’s taken a weird turn, to the point that I have to wonder if the comic really is descending into madness. The most recent baffling example of this comes from this past Sunday’s strip. I have nothing but love for the mock-factual comedic form; it’s always been one of my favorites. And I appreciate a comic strip delivering information with a light humorous tone; Tim Rickard’s Brewster Rockit, Space Guy! often does this for Sunday strips. But this … this just approaches the Dadaist weirdness of Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead, except for leaving me confused about “On Oct. 13th [Mr. Moon’s] a fan of Columbus” is even supposed to mean. At least Zippy I know is just stringing amusing syllables together.

Meanwhile, if that’s not enough for you, my mathematics blog has a couple of new comic strips up for discussion, although this time, none of them are actually pictured. You can just imagine what happend in them, or you’d rather, can follow the links. They’re in there somewhere.

Hans Richter: Ghosts Before Breakfast


If I speak of that German sense of whimsy it mostly sounds like I’m making a mild ethnic joke. But there is such a thing and for today’s movie I’d like to offer Hans Richter’s 1928 dadaist piece Ghosts Before Breakfast. He directed a series of pieces like this — they turn up on Turner Classic Movies now and then — and they’re just magnificent.

It’s vey easy to do dadaist comedy badly because superficially you’d think it’s just a matter of throwing a lot of nonsense together. This is funny the first time you encounter it and boring ever after. If you put together elements that suggest a narrative — even if they don’t deliver — if they tease the audience by being obviously carefully planned and selected to start sharing a story, though, you can get a great piece like this. It’s whimsical, it’s funny, it’s difficult to summarize without just describing the sequence of images presented. It has hats.