Odd Job Man

Link To Today’s Strip

How long did these kids have to prepare for this prank? This amount of coordinated music, mouthpiece, and instrument switching could only have taken place if Becky’s absence was expected days in advance, and if this is either the first class period of the day, or the first class period after a lunch.

I want to thank TF Hackett for reminding me of the ‘knowing smirks’ tag in the comments yesterday. I’m going to need it so much to finish off my shift. Today we have an entire peanut gallery of unbearable knowing smirks being exchanged in panel 3. Some may think that these people are smiling mischievously at each other because all their clever pranks are being preempted by a witty old man. But obviously the real reason is that their ultimate prank has yet to be spotted: all of these so called ‘kids’ are obviously middle-aged adults involved in some kind of elaborate LARP.

The janitor in panel 2 is the real star of today’s strip. In all my decades of public schooling, I can’t remember a janitor sweeping the halls in the middle of the day, unless there had been some kind of unfortunate thumbtack crate explosion. But this janitor has staked out the 20 foot stretch of tile outside the band room as his turf. Nearly a year ago, it took him a full five days to carefully and methodically make his way past the classroom.

This strip made of random panels is funnier than any individual strip from that week.

So many fun ways to interpret this! Is he:

A.) A ghost who died in a horrific sign taping accident, forced to haunt this wing of the school, forever sweeping a floor that will never be clean of the stain of his blood?

B.) A man so polluted mentally and emotionally by the Westview climate of somatic decay, greasy pizza, trashy comics, smug nihilism, and puns, that he has become a mindless shell of a man who sweeps automatically and unceasingly, like an organic roomba?

C.) A security guard from the school, in disguise, ordered to tail Dinkle whenever he is on the premises to prevent another lawsuit from parents?

D.) Secretly in love with Dinkle or/and Becky?

Remember that sign-up ends Monday at midnight for Tuesday’s 7:00 pm live online revealing of Tom’s poster for the Ohioana Book Festival.

If you register on Eventbrite, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 10!

See TF Hackett’s comments on yesterday’s post for more details! Link Here for sign up,


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

22 responses to “Odd Job Man

  1. Banana Jr. 6000

    They swapped mouthpieces? EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

    • Trying to wrap my head around that one as well. How does that work as a prank on Dinkle?

      • William Thompson

        I dunno. In theory you can explain why any weird situation is funny. After Richard Pryor burned his face in a freebasing accident, he turned it into a great comedy sketch. Of course Pryor was a comic genius, and Batiuk is neither the one thing nor the other.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          Richard Pryor’s genius was his ability to find laughs in terrible things like drug abuse, poverty, and racism. And he never cheapened their impact, or whined about what he went through.

          Funky Winkerbean just spent a week talking about the horrors of putting in eye drops after routine outpatient surgery.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        What even happened here? How do they now have the right instruments but the wrong mouthpieces? They can’t just keep the wrong mouthpieces when they get their correct instruments back, because Dinkle would have seen the swap. I can only guess at an elaborate setup where the students traded instruments and mouthpieces with different people beforehand, so when Dinkle figures out the instruments are swapped and orders them swapped back, he doesn’t solve the entire problem. Which again runs into the question you asked. And also: how do the non-wind instruments participate in this prank? Did the drummers swap sticks or something?

        What this arc needed was some Monday dialog between students, so the audience can know what the hell they’re trying to pull on Dinkle and why. “Where’s Mrs. Howard?” “We have a substitute today.” “You know what that means…” “…the ol’ switcheroo!” But Batiuk assumes that substitute band teacher pranks are a universal theme, and doesn’t explain anything. It’s like somedays he thinks he’s writing Shylock Fox. He omits necessary details because he thinks it’s being subtle. Subtlety means saying important things in small ways, not omitting important things entirely.

        • Your second paragraph points out the flaws perfectly. It’s as if Batiuk walks up to his readers and says, “To keep his pants up!” and then guffaws uncontrollably. The only possible response is bafflement.

  2. J.J. O'Malley

    Even for a hilarious gut-buster of a prank, what high school students would swap mouthpieces in the middle of a raging pandem…oh, yeah, written a year ago. I forgot.

    Still, this week will make for an amusing anecdote these joke-pulling pupils can share at their summer music camps: “And then this one time, at band class, we decided to swap instruments, mouthpieces, and music sheets because our one-armed regular teacher was out that day and her replacement was some old retired teacher who was supposed to be deaf, so we figured he’d never know the difference, and we all smirked about it so much!”

    By the by, there’s no litter on the hall floor. The janitor is mopping up sawdust that was put down to absorb the gastric debris left by people who busted a gut at this elaborate band ruse. Tomorrow: Dinkleberg tells the class now they can switch back to their original music stands, followed by Thursday’s request for them to move back to their original chairs, followed by Friday, when the bell rings before they can start playing.

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      “Written a year ago” is no longer an excuse. The COVID-related stock market crash was March 16, 2020 – exactly 11 months ago today. Full mask/social distancing requirements went into effect in the United States (the only place where Funky Winkerbean has any readership) about a week later.

      If COVID doesn’t exist in the fictional world of Westview, fine. But fiction still has to be sensitive to real-world events. TV shows and movies are often delayed because something happens that makes them uncomfortable to watch. After the 9/11 attacks, there was a whole list of songs that couldn’t be played on the radio anymore.

      I have a conflict with that Zoom meeting tonight, but the question I really want to ask Tom Batiuk is: “in light of COVID, why wasn’t today’s joke about sharing mouthpieces reworded, dropped, or the whole arc delayed?”

  3. Gerard Plourde

    So we’re gong to have a week rehashing variations of the same gag?

    • erdmann

      God help us all, I wouldn’t be surprised.

      I’m so tempted to sign up for that session with Batty, primarily because I’d love to hear some of the folks here hit him with some tough questions (I’d prefer they hit him with rotten tomatoes and cabbages, but that’s hard to do on Zoom). Unfortunately, I have another meeting I have to attend.
      Although it may be just as well. With my luck I’d probably win that wretched book.

  4. Epicus Doomus

    Har, har, har! That wizened old Dinkle, he knows every substitute band teacher prank in the book. Why, back in HIS day and so forth.

    I took band. B-flat cornet. I wasn’t “good” per se, but I could more than hold my own. I enjoyed it for the most part, learned how to read music and etc. but then they tried to push everyone into marching band, which I wanted no part of, mainly because of how stupid it is. So I quit. I ended up using the mouthpiece to make a homemade bong.

    If I know anything about FW and BatYam at all, that custodian was once the best-looking, most popular and all-around coolest kid in Les’ class. In fact I’d bet that Les got him the job and told him about it in the most sneering condescending way possible, too. What a jerk.

  5. William Thompson

    All I can guess is, the kids are smirking because they’ve managed to waste time. Which makes them the biggest assemblage of author-avatars in history.

  6. none

    First, and my main reason for chiming in today, thanks to whoever added the preview of yesterday’s panel to my comment. Panel 2 today isn’t as bad with perspective, for comparison.

    Second, it’s a different janitor every time. So, either WHS has a massive budget for several janitors, or the position has a large turnover rate. Maybe both. Meanwhile, with the subject being the teacher and the students and the things that the students are doing, it’s a good thing we have a panel where we don’t get to see any of that and have a focus on irrelevant things like janitors instead. Great use of the medium there.

    Third, swapped mouthpieces among similar instruments within a group of high school student players would be undetectable by a substitute director. He’s just there to hear noise for an hour and call it a day. It also would have been unfathomable for my fellow students to have done something like this when I was in school band. We had no interest in literally swapping spit amongst each other, at least through the means of an instrument.

    Fourth, this Ohioana conference thing might be the place where we can get answers to a question that has been frequently posed here – who are the people who actually, and unironically, like this strip? Meanwhile, if past predicts present, I’m sure he’ll get very softball questions and give humble responses in a tone which doesn’t match this strip’s content and his sanctimonious blog posts. Perhaps some transcript excerpts will be in order.

  7. Aurora Snorealis

    Is Batiuk going to take this all the way to underwear and tampons?

  8. Mr. A

    What is with these kids? Given that Dinkle is effortlessly thwarting a very elaborate prank, I’d expect an annoyed reaction (“Ugh, can’t get anything past this guy”) or a surprised/slightly frightened reaction (“Oh no, he knows all our tricks!”). Maybe a rueful, “Ah, you caught us” kind of smile, if the students were already fond of him…which they have no reason to be, given that he retired long before they entered high school. But this gang looks gleeful, not rueful. It’s as if Dinkle said, “I’m giving everyone an A and a bag of free band candy!” Very strange.

  9. The Dreamer

    Since Dinkle was the band director back nearly fifty years ago when Funky and Les were in high school, he has to be in his 80’s or 90’s. Almost as old as Crankshaft. Too old to be a substitute teacher

    • ComicBookHarriet

      When I was in middle school, I had an English teacher who was in her 80’s. She’d never been good at saving money, and so hadn’t got enough for retirement yet. My parents had both had her as a teacher as well.

      I’m not saying it’s common, it’s just not outside the horrifying realm of possibility.

  10. Maxine of Arc

    How is this supposed to be a prank on Dinkle, exactly? All the kids have done by switching their stuff around is make things difficult for themselves, not him.