Once again I am baffled. I assume this is a social distancing-based gag (timely as ever) but the idea that he’s sharing this incredibly mundane anecdote at an AA meeting just boggles the mind. At least the other alcoholics appear bored and disgusted by Funky’s wordplay-based mutterings, which I gotta admit is pretty damn accurate.
The less said about the gag the better. That one had to have been rattling around in that delightfully sincere head of his for ages. In fact I’m stunned that he never used that one before. It just seems so obvious.
50 responses to “Social Disinteresting”
Taking out all of the barstools seems excessive. Funky, if you want Crazy to stop lollygagging at the lunch counter for hours on end just tell him.
Again, why is he physically hauling all this stuff out of the restaurant, when it would be far quicker and easier to rope it off?
Because if you give the bystanders enough rope, they’ll hang Funky. And hard as he tries, Funky isn’t a total idiot.
Again, it’s performative. If he simply put cards on the barstools to indicate which stools you can’t sit on in order to maintain social distancing, that doesn’t show everyone just how much he’s suffered.
This happens a lot more often in this strip than anyone might suspect.
There’s that thumb and index finger hand gesture in the first panel again. The same hand gesture Funky used in the middle panel Tuesday. Why? It has nothing to do with Funky’s speech balloons. There’s no mention of measurement.
Funky: “Let’s all compare the size of our brains. Mine is this big!”
He’s been watching a lot of Trump speeches, and is now doing that weird tiny butthole pinch Trump used to do for emphasis, like he was milking a small flying goat only he could see.
No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, love him or hate him, that was weird.
I always hated that too. So annoying. Then others started copying this.
Bill Clinton used to do the thumb touching index finger thing when thrusting his hand for emphasis all the time, but with more of a closed fist than T. A guy who knows about such things told me at the time that it was done to avoid pointing the index finger at the audience which many would find rude.
I hated that too.
Look at Funky’s audience. They all actively hate him.
The sign in the first panel is very telling.
“One Day At A Me.”
Every single person in Funkyverse is a self-absorbed asshole, treating every day like a personal holiday directed to themselves.
Either that one guy is really dedicated to eating donuts, or they are so bad they are distracting him from Funky.
Making a bad joke and then telling us how bad it was isn’t automatically funny. It can be funny, if executed properly; the meta-joke should be that your character is too lame/stupid/out-of-touch/delusional/uptight/socially awkward/etc. to understand what’s funny and what’s not. But this doesn’t hit the mark. First off, the strip is already asking us to empathize with Funky’s re-opening tribulations, so trying to mock him at the same time is an uphill battle. Second, the “bad joke” is not noticeably worse than the strip’s usual punchlines. I could go on.
Batiuk does that regularly. You just know if there’s a lame “joke” in panel two, panel three is going to be the joke teller berating his audience for not appreciating it.
The crazy thing is that the Act I strips never did that. They ended on the punchline, the way a joke should. The “half-assed setup — execrable punchline — stepping on/apologizing for said punchline” tic is something he picked up comparatively recently.
Most people learn more about their craft as they go along. Batiuk is a rare example of someone who’s been shedding competence every year.
You had to remove ALL the barstools for social distancing? OK.
Now (groan) to the artwork:
Panel 1: Nonsensical hand gesture. Did you only have to move them a tiny bit?
Panel 2: A horribly deformed Dinkle profile appears, sporting a bizarre four-fingered claw! With a shadowy apparition hovering in the background.
Panel 3: #47 is using a doughnut as an inhaler, the poor guy with the buzzcut is melting out of sheer boredom, and the chubby faced, bespectacled guy is screaming in horror. I can relate to all of these characters.
Dude in the last panel: “Just shut up old man and let me eat my bagel.”
As usual, this makes no sense. I didn’t go out a lot during the pandemic but the few places I did go to, simply roped off their seating. They couldn’t have seated anyone anyway and the seating would be needed when they opened up again.
“But the worst of it was when we had to cancel Les Moore’s Grammar Night! He sent over a special display on the alphabet, but after we set it up I had to remove five of the letters. And I had to do it all by myself! It was the biggest vowel movement I ever made!”
There. I can’t wait to see how Batiuk does worse than that.
“THANKS FOR SHARING!”
My theory is that all the AA attendees left hours ago, and replaced themselves with cardboard cutouts.
And Funky still hasn’t noticed.
These strips would make a whole lot more sense if Funky was imitating Jesse from Breaking Bad and infiltrating an addiction recovery meeting to sell product.
“And then Holly said we couldn’t have sex until we were both fully vaccinated, because we had to stay six feet apart! What’s that, time’s up? Oh, hey, in case anyone needs a drink, here are “buy two beers, get one free” coupons for Montoni’s!”
Wow. This is just…sad. I almost feel bad for Battyuk, but he is the one passing this off as comedy.
After a week of Funky detailing to his AA group how he got the pizzeria ready, there will be a month or so of Dinkle and Atomik Comix shenanigans before we come back to this same room to get the details on the various types of disinfectants and cleansers used on the building.
Oh, and that IS a hieroglyphic on the wall of a man eating a donut in panel three, isn’t it? The eye makeup gives it away, plus no live human has ever held a donut vertically, at that angle, and in that grasp while trying to shove one bitten end in their gob.
I know it’s been pointed out before, but when exactly was all of this supposed to have happened? There wasn’t an iota about the pandemic during all of last year. Given the ten year time jump he created after Lisa’s death, he could easily have ignored it (although it’s clear that he never accounts for that in his strips in any case).
Here we have a quintessential example of TomBa’s slapdash style. About a year ago with the onset of summer, the initial wave of infections was waning and some of the restrictions were being relaxed. The winter resurgence was still ahead of us and the number of deaths was likely still less than 1/10 of the 600,000 where it stands today. TomBa wrote this last June thinking we had weathered the storm. And once again he miscalculated.
I think Butt-head has the appropriate response to Funky.
Boy I tell you what Dusty, I feel like a one-legged cat trying to bury turds on a frozen pond.
Mister stand-up comedian, ladies and gentlemen… Please tip your waitress!
Even Funkmeister wouldn’t be so crass as to float this lamest of one-liners to his friends, his wife, or his employees… So why do these Al-Anon folks have to suffer? How about giving someone else a chance to talk, you pudgy attention whore?
Confusingly, Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous are two separate organizations. Al-Anon caters to the families of alcoholics, rather than alcoholics themselves.
🌠 The More You Know 🌠
Thanks, I thought they were one and the same my entire life until today…
“I’ve been using my time to speak at AA meetings to workshop my comedy routine.”
Never mind the mood whiplash, this group should just rise up and tell Funky to shut the hell up because it’s obvious from this stupid line that he knows he’s wasting their time and he doesn’t give a shit.
What would make this better is if Funky ended the week wondering why business was better despite the ambience going bye-bye. Neither he not Batiuk can live in a world where making Montoni’s look like a cheerless hole in the wall improves the setting.
Yeah, Funky’s announcement that he didn’t lose any businesses is a serious plot hole to his current announcements of how much Montoni’s suffered. But it makes sense in Funky Winkerbean, because this strip is not allowed to have any conflict, tension, or drama whatsoever. All character deaths are announced months in advance. Even when Funky is lamenting his horriible misfortune (which, again, never actually happened), the story will go out of its way to tell you there was no actual suffering. Tom Batiuk is his own “relax-o-vision” gag.
Once again, as he did yesterday, Batiuk comes up with a terrible, boring piece of supposed wordplay, then finds some kind of plot point to drape over it.
And his rules are: The plot point must involve bitching about minor inconveniences, which somehow he and his characters both believe are gut-wrenching tragedies.
“Behold!” thinks Tom. “The Lord of Language strikes again! Brilliant wordplay AND pathos! And topical and up-to-the-minute!”
Bitching about minor inconveniences THAT NEVER HAPPENED. It cannot be stressed enough that 2020 and 2021 were full of Montoni’s stories, with absolutely zero acknowledgement of COVID. That stupid plot about Adeela, going on deliveries could have tied it in easily. The store changing to deliveries only, and needing more people to do it, would have been the perfect catalyst for Adeela having to become a driver. Instead we got a stupid “overheard romantic misunderstanding” plot, which we’ve already gotten a whole other time since then, and some condescending bullshit about Adeela needing Wally’s help to get a driver’s license. That’s how lazy this strip is.
Batiuk sets up every little event in this world to maintain a constant flow of money, praise, awards, and comfort to his preferred characters. And then he has them tell you how much they’ve suffered. If he doesn’t like the strip name Funky Winkerbean, he should change it to Crying With A Loaf Of Bread. That would be a perfect title for Act III.
It seems clear to me that Batiuk is incapable of looking at his own writing critically. Hence, his stubborn refusal to alter any of his “year ahead of time” strips to accommodate COVID. Because his writing is already perfect, and should therefor not be altered in the slightest. He’ll shoehorn COVID in later, he thinks, using the most convoluted and ham-handed manner possible.
Your suggestions for last Fall’s Adeela plot would make the “story” much better, but it would involve editing, the ability to judge between good and bad writing. Thus, ain’t gonna happen.
It is 100% apparent that Batiuk goes by the rule, “First Thought, Best Thought.” We know that once upon a time he had an editor; perhaps syndication budgets have been cut to the point where editors no longer exist, or are spread too thin to bother with legacy strips. Maybe he is free from oversight and at last able to (in his view) spread his wings and let his imagination run free, with no “beady-eyed nitpickers” to tamper with the greatness.
It’s honestly amazing that there is a single professional creator of anything, anywhere, who never looks at his work more than once, never sleeps on it, never reconsiders it, never compares it to earlier work, just has a “one-and-done” attitude. The only other people I know who are this un-self-critical are little babies, scribbling with crayons and proudly babbling “dog-gie” when asked what their drawing represents.
There are a number of entries on his blog where he talks about trying to gain ownership of his characters. I have to assume that at one point he succeeded, at which point the syndicate basically washed their hands of trying to supervise him. If he’s not going to make money for them, why bother trying even basic editorial supervision. Let him do what he likes, it’s his brand.
Lately, Batiuk has been talking on his blog about former editors Jay Kennedy and Ted Hannah, and how they supported his ambition to do stories about suicide, and the other difficult topics he wanted to take on. But these men died in 2007 and 2002, respectively, back when the strip was still trying.
But what happened after that? Clearly these men’s authority over Batiuk was never assigned to anyone else. Awhile back, someone announced on Twitter that they were the Funky Winkerbean editor. If they are, they clearly have no power to edit anything. Kennedy and Hannah were both high-ranking executives, not people with time to waste on Twitter.
I speculate that comic strips in general aren’t managed at such a high level anymore. Newspaper comics have become so culturally irrelevant that the syndicate doesn’t care what Batiuk does with Funky Winkerbean, as long as it’s still spinning income and not causing any major problems. Even a bad rape joke in Crankshaft didn’t cause much of a fuss. And the shifting demographics of newspaper readership – old people who want familiar things – makes it unlikely anyone will complain.
Yeah, I’ve definitely felt that Batiuk goes with the first thing he thinks of and never refines it, no matter how much more better it could be if he did so.
But I also think that the only type of humor he really knows is absurdist humor (ie. Dinkle in Act 1) and when he decided to get serious in Act 2, it ruined his ability to tell jokes. If his world is absurd, where the humor comes in how over the top something is, it hinders your ability to tell stories whose effectiveness comes from how real they are. A woman dying from cancer doesn’t have any emotional impact if people don’t actually permanently die in your universe. Having humor stem from realistic issues with your computer can’t be funny in a world where computers are sentient.
But since he can’t do any other humor than absurdist humor, and his desire for relevance as an artist forecloses absurdist humor, he blands down his absurdist humor to a point where it’s no longer absurd, it’s just dumb. Or he maintains his absurdist humor and his serious stories become ridiculous.
In an absurdist world, you can send the mascot into the football game to play and there’s nothing wrong with that. Objecting to that would be silly because the world’s already been defined as absurd and unlike our own. It only becomes totally stupid when later you’re taking the coach’s CTE seriously and trying to tell stories about how it’s tragically tearing his family apart.
how much more better
Apparently Batiuk’s not the only one who needs to take a second look at what he produces.
Anyway, he could do absurdity here: “We were going to do social distancing RIGHT! So I bought up all the real estate surrounding Montoni’s! Every customer gets their own restaurant!” But then if he has literally anyone in the cast complaining of financial difficulties, no reader’s going to give a shit because managing your finances responsibly just isn’t a thing in this universe. Funky can’t complain about his mother-in-law moving in with him. He can’t complain about the cost of kitchen renovations or the hospital running a wallet biopsy on him. He can’t have “real” problems when his universe is absurd and unreal.
You can’t feel bad about Bull beating up Les when Les is fine five minutes later. You can’t tell a story about gun violence in school when you show the hall monitor sitting in a machine gun nest. You can’t tell a story about a woman dying of breast cancer when all the doctors in the world are incompetent, jokester clowns.
@Charles you’re spot on here. The strip’s humor style really doesn’t work with the idea that we’re supposed to take it seriously now.
Dinkle’s over-the-top abuse was funny in Act I, because of Act I’s more humorous, exaggerated tone, and because his victims were powerless high schoolers. But now it’s just… problematic. Adults, much less senior citizens, wouldn’t put up with his ridiculous demands. But Batiuk’s intended humor doesn’t work any other way, so Batiuk has to make his old lady choir as powerless as his Act I high schoolers. Even though such women would be capable of speaking out, defying him, or simply walking out. No, they have to stay until 2 AM because that’s what Dinkle wants.
Ditto for Funky’s captive audience. Especially in today strip, where he admits he’s just workshopping comedy material. Somebody in an AA meeting would ask him to get to the point, let someone else have the floor, or just leave.
But the strip doesn’t make a joke out of powerlessness or social awkwardness either, like happens in Dilbert. The title character is trapped in some presentation, and he lacks the social wherewithal to say “we’re done. Let’s leave.” and laments missed opportunities when the speaker reiterating things. But that’s not happening here either. These people are presented as simply having to accept whatever Dinkle or Funky wants, as if they were Fidel Castro, who could have them hanged if they leave early. That’s not how “a quarter inch from reality” works, at least not in the United States.
Absurdist humor and trenchant, timely observation can go together in the comics. A couple examples that spring to mind: Pogo and Bloom County. But an artist like Walt Kelly clearly cared very much about what he did, loved his work, was capable of self-editing and improving, and would never have dashed off some half-assed crap, sent it to the syndicate, and settled in to his hot cocoa with a smirk of self-satisfaction. People like Kelly and Breathed took pride in their work and never rested on their laurels. Batiuk doesn’t even have any laurels to rest on, but he sure is resting. As we’ve been saying, he doesn’t put himself out over the quality of these strips.
“Okay, tough room. Are you the assholes from Son of Stuck Funky?”
“Yeah, we are. We were lured here under false pretenses, and we’re sick and tired of listening to you complain about nothing. Let someone else have a turn!”
The irony is if Batiuk was speaking to all of us and dropped that “joke”, I’d still give him a courtesy smirk
Jeebus, his face in that last panel. I thought he looked miserable yesterday. With that mug, his AA friends are going to 5150 him if he doesn’t watch out.
“Barstools”? I think he means “counter stools.” You know, stools at a counter? Montoni’s has never had a bar. And most restaurant counter stools are bolted to the floor.
You know, in the 45 seconds it took me to think of, and type, the above sentence, I’ve already spent more time and effort on this strip than Batiuk did.
Sorry to reply to myself, but a look at some strips set in Montoni’s confirms that they use the type of counter stools that are flared and bolted at the bottom, and topped with a swiveling red vinyl top. Photos of the interior of Luigi’s in Akron confirm that — Montoni’s, of course, is modeled on Luigi’s.
Unbolting those suckers had to be a monumental job.
Come to think of it, moving a jukebox is a monumental job too. Those things are heavy. And delicate.
Whoever is keeping the master list, please add these two points as #48,654 and #48,655 in the list of Things Batiuk Is Proud to Be Totally Ignorant About.
This is the problem with writing your comics a year in advance and then trying to adjust them in real time. TB guessed wrong on how most competent businesses would handle and survive the phased quarantine period. In an effort to make his year old comic relevant, he is demonstrating why Funky’s old New York restaurant closed the way it did. I would offer that no restaurant that survived into 2021 dismantled its physical infrastructure to stay in business except Montoni’s.
The elephant in the living room with that “NYC Montoni’s Outpost” was: The style of pizza served in Ohio/at Luigi’s/Montoni’s is not the style that New Yorkers eat, period. If you opened a place that called itself a pizzeria and served the Luigi’s stuff, you’d have a lot of people walking in, getting puzzled/pissed off, and walking out. The only way a pizzeria serving that thick-crust style could survive in NYC is if they made it a gimmick: “Come try the strange thick-crust, super-cheesy pizza from the midwest!” And even then, we now have crappy chains like Domino’s and Papa John’s, so it’s not much of a novelty.
For someone who claims to love NYC as much as Les/Tom does, wow, does he manage to get the most obvious things wrong. I mean, “Pizza Styles Sure Are Different in Different Parts of the Country, LOL” is a meme so old it probably goes back to the 50s.
Tom Batiuk gets the most obvious things wrong about comic books and writing – the two things he pretends to be an expert in the most. So yeah, it’s not at all surprising that he doesn’t understand New York tastes. Or even knows they exist.