Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Cart Before the Horse

Today's strip (Two Oscars) is an example of a joke for the sake of the joke.

Are we really supposed to believe that Cole and Brent are such an odd pairing that Neil Simon-esque antics are about to ensue? Is Brent known to be particularly neat? Is Cole known to be particularly slovenly? Not that I'm aware of, and I've been reading PVP for quite some time. As a reader, I don't buy Jade's theory for a second, ruining the strip from the start. These guys are best friends after all.

(Aside: the fact that Brent is a Mac guy and Cole presumably isn't is not sufficient motivation for Jade's statement. If we were talking Brent and Francis, maybe.)

(Second Aside: Commenters just reminded me of the storyline where Jade moved in with Brent and he acted like a total girl. [Looking for links.] I stand corrected on this point. It doesn't change the fact that the first panel totally set up a predictable joke.)

Aside from that, the joke itself is presented in a fairly weak manner. Yes, this is hyper-specific, but these are the things that get under my skin.

The joke is supposedly in panel three (panels two and three shown below), with panel four simply extending it:

First: There are only four panels to work with. Why throw away the last one with a second, weaker, punchline? Jokes require a setup and a release -- use the extra panel to extend the setup, making the reader anticipate the (unfortunately predictable) release longer.

Second: The order of events in panel three completely ruin the joke. The way the panel is laid out we (first) read Brent's line ("There, now the table's finally level...") then (second) "hear" a "KLUNK!"

Wouldn't the joke be funnier if the "KLUNK!" came first?

Yes it would. By introducing the sound effect first, you allow the reader time to wonder if, because Cole is Oscar and Brent is Felix after all, Brent has just hit Cole over the head with the ashtray he brought "in here for a reason."

But wait! He didn't! He's an Oscar too! Those rascals will get along just fine and they can finally.. build their.. beer can pyramid.

(Seriously -- that was the best option?)


Spork said...

How about this? Why talk about a beer can pyramid when Cole is drinking from a friggin' bottle?

Also, since when is Kurtz bound to the four-panel model? He could have made the third panel the punchline with the double-sized space offering a view of the slovenly paradise.

The joke would still be out of place with the characters, but at least the structure, delivery, and payoff would be better.

Scott said...

Hmm...Maybe the klunk would have been better first.

Anonymous said...

Actually, when Brent burned down Jade's apartment, she moved in with him briefly. During that period, Brent was quite the Felix Unger.

I would argue that this current behavior is atypical of Brent. I'm curious how someone who is very fastidious about his gear, is taking this carefree attitude.

Dan the Barbarian

Anonymous said...

Yes, Brent was a neat freak when Jade moved in. 'Would it kill her to use a coaster?'

I agree about the klunk sound.

Fake Scott McCloud said...

Breaking my own rule to reply to spork:

Yes. Three panels, the third extra wide to reveal the punchline.

Good one.

Scott said...

what makes you think Brent won't break down and return to his fastidious normal state?

J. Hazelip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Glad to see you're back on game.

And ... the current storyline gets lamer and lamer. Scott pleads with us in his blog posts (as he has done many, many times before) to bear with him while the genius of his setup reveals itself and justifies the seemingly endless misfires and delays of actual humor leading up to some supposedly wrenching "reveal." Anyone remember how he defended the Jade Mysteries storyline in advance, or for that matter Shecky? "Bear with me, folks, it's all gonna be worth it, I promise!" Scott's weirdly passive-aggressive, I-love-you-I-hate-you relationship with his readers is on full display here. Meanwhile, the Cole-Brent sitcom degenerates still further into jokes so old they've grown a layer of mildew.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought this one was pretty funny. Yeah KLUNK might have been better first, but that is minor.

Jai said...

I just wanna know when we're going to get any information at all about why Cole's marriage is in such a bad way. We don't know whose fault it is, or if it's a mutual thing. Cole got thrown out of his own house, so presumably, "It's not me, it's him." Except the office is totally taking Cole's side. But all of them "have seen it coming for years." Huh?! So what the hell is even going on? Instead of any information about that, or any information about his wife that we've not seen or effectively heard from in YEARS, we merely begin the tedious process of tip-toeing through some jokes that lend themselves to the situation that's arisen. I would rather find out what the situation even IS, at this point.

Of course, some of the jokes have been good. It's PVP. There's always some good jokes, even if it all seems fairly intuitive and predictable.

Jai said...

I forgot to mention that I like the hand-drawn speech bubbles.

But I don't like the one in the first panel here. It's split almost into two separate bubbles, and that coincidentally happens to mesh badly with the wafting cigar smoke. At first blush, someone could think that Cole was asking for the ashtray.

I say "someone", but I mean "me, I'm the one, I totally thought that and got confused for five seconds". What can I say? I wear glasses for a reason.

Bryant said...

It's incredibly unfunny, and it left me a bit confused. Did he need the ashtray because of Cole smoking a cigar, or to make the table level? It's just poorly written and confusing, and at best elicits a groan instead of the barest chuckle.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Jai in that the first glance through this, on the second panel I thought that Cole was asking for the ashtray.

I actually like the placement of the "klunk" in the third panel. The reason for this, over listing it "first" is that this is not (in my mind) meant to be read as a linear chain of events, but rather as the "klunk" is coming from the table (or under the table as the leg is propped and the table leveled). The "klunk" needs to be next to the action, to the item making the noise. The could occur relatively simultaneously. Placing the "klunk" first (and, incidentally, higher in the panel) removes the noise to another part of the room, and hides the action from the viewer, leaving more of a discontinuity of action and effect.

As for the slovenly/tidiness of Cole/Brent - I see this as a continuation of the drunken binge - or at least the same feelings and such that led to that. Brent is trying to help bring back a "Frat boys" feeling - old college times together, "who cares about the women" type attitude. He is there for Cole, and tidiness/cleanliness has little or nothing to do with it; strictly one friend trying to help another get his mind off his problems, or at least reduce their impact, for a while.

And seeing this coming? The first time the existence of Donna was introduced I expected this, due to the manner of wording and such. I thought that it was an upcoming storyline at that point. Even when it did not happen then, I actually thought we would see it a LOT earlier (several years ago, at least). Cole has always talked like spending time with Donna and his kid(s?) was a chore, or that it seemed to take a lot of his time and attention when he would rather do something else. Like any couple, it's been off and on, up and down, but more negative than positive. That attitude rubs off at home, and would cause friction eventually in any marriage.

Kro said...

Hey, good to see you back at work. I definitely agree that the clunk could have been placed better. Actually, the whole ashtray discussion is extremely it supposed to be some joke about how Cole is smoking a cigar, and we are faked into thinking Brent wants the ash-tray for that...but he actually needs it to level the table? (HA...HA...) I dunno, this storyline is utter weaksauce.

The fact is that two things generally made PvP good in my opinion: The interactions between Brent and Francis, and the shenanigans that happen at the 'PvP offices'

Whenever Kurtz tries to go outside of those areas, to interject a Shecky, or Jade's old college friend, or Cole's marriage, or the freaking cat or dog, et. al...the strip instantly becomes less funny.

These are not characters crying out for this much depth, they were created as stereotypes, and they are actually funnier when Kurtz plays them as such.

A combination of poor/lazy storytelling, and an insistence on adding too much depth too these characters is killing the strip.

Kro said...

Oh, yeah, the beer can thing was odd too...since beer cans was just about the one thing NOT on the table where all the junk was.

Anonymous said...

Hey,'s a COMIC. You can like or hate whatever, but devoting a blog to it....c'mon, do you really have nothing better to do? Is this how you spend your day, thinking about how you're gonna explain the joke of a comic and how you can make it better just so you can have some semblance of an audience on the internet? Maybe you need to get out more, I don't know, something just seems a little neurotic about all this.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that we're expecting too much from someone who writes what is usuall just a lowbrow, predictable, gag-oriented strip. It's Scott's fault, though, because he keeps trying to straddle the line between his "Garfield" strip, and a strip that has deeper storytelling, and so we end up with inconsistencies all over the place. I read PVP every day, but it's not because I'm hoping it will be funny. It's because I'm hoping it will be so bad it will be funny, not unlike old 1950s Sci-Fi films.


Anonymous said...

Scott is fat.

fake vince noir said...

Continuity doesn't seem to be the main focus of this strip, depsite that previous storty lines indicate that Cole's and Brent's personalities might clash. Also it seems that Cole's current slovenly behavior is a result of him distracting himself from his issues and cope, suggesting if he was in his usual emotional state there would be and odd couple situation.

Did that make sense? I'm really tranced on psilocybin and sativa right now.

Anonymous said...

I think Scott needs to decide which way he's taking the strip, give us the funny, with little continuity and story-telling. Otherwise work a little harder to develop the story and characters and don't worry about having a joke in every comic. This whole half-ass in between bit isn't working for him, it's neither funny enough to keep me reading for much longer, nor interesting enough to keep me reading much longer. Pick one, because both is obviously not working out that well...

Anonymous said...

There are a bunch of sad motherfuckers here spending way too much time overanalyzing a fucking comic strip. Just a thought, but getting the fuck out of the house once in a while wouldn't kill you.

fake vince noir said...

But it's so cold outside, and there are wolves waiting out there... I can hear them growling through the trees.
Please don't make me go out, I swear I'll be good.

Anonymous said...

Yo, haters:

Every time you criticise the person rather than the message, you have failed.

Whether it's 'just a comic strip' or not is irrelevant. Whether the critics need to 'get a life' is irrelevant. As soon as you engage in ad hominem attacks, you have lost the argument.

Thanks for playing. Now take a fuckin' hike.

Kro said...

Is it sadder to analyze a comic strip...or is it sadder to try analyzing the people who are analyzing the comic strip. EH?

Also, it can't be that sad, the creator of the comic strip himself linked to the site after all. He must have thought it was worth his precious time.

Anonymous said...

As these comments disintegrate into us attacking one another, one thing remains constant: the current PvP storyline continues to suuuuuuuck.

TFSM, get off your ass and post more intelligent critique. We're treading water here.

Spork said...

If people think this is a sad exercise, they should read a few food blogs once in a while. I'll bet they have no concept at all of the purpose or intent of any and all critique.

fake vince noir said...

Curry Chicken

Bonesless chicken breasts or thighs
diced tomatoes
curry paste or powder

Chop onions and mushrooms then lightly saute in ghee. Set aside
Cut chicken into strips or cubes and brown in ghee. Add curry paste or powder to the chicken and cook on low heat for 2-3 min. Return vegetables to pan and add diced tomatoes and simmer for 10 min. Add about a 1/3 cup of cream (more or less for different consitencies) simmer for 10 min.
Add fresh cilantro and a squeeze orf lemon to taste.

Keep in mind that curry is not actually a spice but a combination of several spices. So each kind of curry has a different taste and that will heavily affect your dish. Experiment and find the curry that appeals to you most. In my oppinion the Patak brand is usually enjoyed by most people.

Try is and tell me what you think!n

fake vince noir said...

P.S. Ghee can be substituted for vegetable oil, I have used olive oil in the past but the flavor is a little too strong and the consitency doesn't work as well as canola oil.

John S. said...

you remind me of a guy who used to hassle me about my web comic. i used to wonder why he was so obsessed with critiqueing a scribbly little online comic with a readership of about 300 when i finally just said 'eh, at least he's reading it.

Spork said...

Hey John. Your strip bites off John Kricfalusi's style big time.

fake vince noir said...

I almost forgot: as with most curry dishes serve this with bazmati rice, garlic naan bread, and mango chutney.

Anonymous said...

** sound of crickets **

** tumbleweed goes rolling by **

This site is such a disappointment. Why'd you start it up if you weren't going to follow through?

Jai said...

Maybe he likes the recent strips.

JK said...

Maybe the taunting took it's toll. Poor fella.

Spork said...

Yeah, c'mon! You can't be happy with the recent strips. He's all but abandoned his soap opera marriage breakup snoozer for a that lame 70s cop show schtick, a gross-out strip with Francis, and an opportunity to bitch, yet again, about established mainstream comics creators.

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