Licorice Pizza

OK, I’ll start positive today. Here’s something I like about today’s strip, Ayers uses bubble panel borders correctly, to denote a memory of dream sequence. Yeah, that doesn’t sound like much, but coming from TB’s pencil for decades it meant “present day in-strip setting change”, a maddening misinterpretation of longstanding comic art language.

And now, for everything else…

A pizza spinning on your turntable used to be a sort of shorthand for “cool”, in that it signified you were someone cool enough to have just a had a party wild and “crazy” enough that some nut tried to play a pizza and everyone was having too much “fun” to notice (see this well-known scene from Sixteen Candles, for example). However, a pizza spinning on your turntable when you are alone in your own room with your headphones on is not “cool”. Silly, whimsical, weird, crazy? Sure… but not cool. One could even describe Crazy’s memory as rather sad, given the contrast between him listening to his pizza alone in his room compared to the sight of a pizza on a turntable signifying a really good time shared by friends.

Furthermore, was the music produced by the pits of a pizza ever “cool”? Since every Youtube video of someone “playing” a pizza on a turntable is just a gag to dub in “That’s Amore”, I am forced to assume that it actually sounds like an EP for a British New Wave band. In that case, yes, it actually was cool.



Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

36 responses to “Licorice Pizza

  1. Epicus Doomus

    I saw this one the exact same way. Tripped-out Young Crazy, sitting there among stacks of record albums, declaring that “rock and roll is passe” then spinning a pizza could be “cool”. Young Crazy unironically ruining his turntable for no reason…not cool. Over the years he’s stripped away Crazy’s goofy stoner enthusiasm and replaced it with nothing, leaving the character as just another local dullard.

  2. Captain Gladys Stoatpamphlet

    This is confounding.
    Of all the pizzas? How many times would Harry “listen” to a pizza?
    What makes this this “favorite” pizza different from any other?
    What is Funky talking about? Was Harry’s pizza frozen?
    Is Funky reading Harry’s mind?

    • J.J. O'Malley

      I assume the difference in musical pizzas depends on the toppings; anchovies probably sound like Phish, peppers like RHCP, ham and pineapple like Don Ho…okay, I’ll stop now.

    • billytheskink

      I don’t think Harry’s pizza is frozen, it’s from Montoni’s. It contains such a high concentration of petroleum products that it practically plays like vinyl.

  3. Banana Jr. 6000

    Crazy Harry playing pizzas on his record player. Yup, that was definitely a thing that happened in Funky Winkerbean. The end.

    • J.J. O'Malley

      And that is the point in a nutshell. Everyone at school called him “Crazy” Harry, not “Cool” Harry. Nothing about his behavior in this or other ways suggests what ’70s’/’80s teens would consider “cool” or “hip,” and it makes no sense that this sixtysomething comic book store employee who hangs out in a pizza shop and buys his long-suffering wife salad dressing as an anniversary present would ever think he was “hip.”

  4. William Thompson

    Playing a pizza on a record player? Nobody would have called him Crazy for that. Dumbshit, maybe, but not Crazy.

  5. Hitorque

    Um… Yeah I’m probably going to sit this week out

  6. Sourbelly

    Sorry, Qwazy. In human history, playing pizzas on a turntable has never been considered cool. It’s always been considered stupid. Behind your back, everyone you have ever known has always called you Stupid Harry.

  7. Y. Knott

    Tom Batiuk remembers when he used to be able to write things that people responded to. It was easy then. He may not have been the coolest, but maybe he was … kind of … cool-adjacent? I mean, didn’t he work in a field people think is … well, kind of interesting? Didn’t he do just what wanted to do? That’s cool, isn’t it? Even if it was a long, long time ago….

    Tom Batiuk still does those things. But somehow, people don’t respond the same way. Have people changed? Is HE not cool anymore? That can’t be it … can it? Isn’t he as cool as … uh, what do kids like today? Frozen pizza? Kids still like pizza, right?

    The people, they responded when Harry played pizzas. Maybe reminding the people of that will bring those people back?

    Wait, it’s deadline time again. Tom realizes it’s time to write a strip. Is what he was thinking about an idea for a strip? Well, isn’t EVERYTHING an idea for a strip? And can every Funky Winkerbean character be Tom Batiuk?

    Tom Batiuk remembers when he used to be able to write things that people responded to. It was easy then…

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      You’re probably right. He’d never admit it, though. Batiuk would never admit he has any doubt about what he’s doing. Even though it’s normal for creative people to admit to going through unproductive eras sometimes. He’s too egotistical to ever let that slip. But he knows it, doesn’t know why, and it probably eats away at him. All he can do is keep throwing things at the wall and hope something sticks.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Back in the act 1 days, there was a lightness to the strip and so playing a pizza on a turntable was kind of cute. The characters were relatable and you wanted to be invited to one of Crazy’s parties.

      But then Batty decided he needed to win awards and so the strip was drained of all life and now resembles Crankshaft.

      • Gerard Plourde

        You’ve identified the real problem with today’s strip. Act 1 was fun because it wasn’t trying to be “real”. It had a sentient school computer that was a Trekkie and (if memory serves) required that the principal dress up in Original Series uniform when conversing with it.

        Trying to make those gags fit into the “one inch from reality” strip of today is as galling as the infamous final episode of St. Elsewhere in which loyal viewers were told that all of the drama, humor and complex storylines that had been presented were occurring in the mind of Tommy Westphal.

        • Gerard Plourde

          And if anyone is unfamiliar with the rabbit hole that is known as the Tommy Westphal Universe Theory, here’s a link to a very quick description.

        • Banana Jr. 6000

          And the worst thing about it is… it was a choice Batiuk never had to make. “I’m a serious strip now” was always a false dichotomy. Bill Watterson, Charles Schulz, Berkeley Breathed, Walt Kelly, Al Capp and others didn’t feel forced to sacrifice what was fun about their comic strips to take on heavier subject matter. And their stories will resonate a lot longer than anything Mr. Quarter Inch From Reality has done in the last 50 years.

          But you can see how desperately he wants to be part of that class. He’s old, going to die soon, and thinking about his legacy now. This week’s arc is just begging the reader, “Crazy Harry played pizzas on his record player! That was fun, right? Huh? Please?”

          I’ve said it before: the Pulitzer nomination was the worst thing that ever happened to Tom Batiuk. It made his ego write checks that his talent couldn’t cash.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      Cool people wear dark glasses, according to Calvin.

  8. ComicBookHarriet

    A someone who recently read through the first few years of FW, Crazy playing pizzas (so far) is just an occasional joke interspersed with recurring gags of Crazy Harry just listening to music.



    • Epicus Doomus

      Sorry bout that CBH, sometimes comments containing links get held for moderation.

    • The Duck of Death

      Every one of those is at least mildly amusing, and a couple of the ideas are imaginatively surreal — like the thought that “playing” a pizza would cause mozzarella to go through your speaker, or the idea of a band recording its light show on an LP by yelling colors.

      Contrast that with today’s opus: “Hey, remember when I played pizzas?” “Yes.”

    • Jeff M

      Even this writing is lazy. He’s testing out his new speakers and amp…by using his headphones.

  9. batgirl

    Harry wasn’t cool, he was crazy. Roland was cool – I think that was in the first FW strip. And the black guy, whose name escapes me.
    Also, you know how people stay cool, Harry? By damn well keeping up with bands etc and being OPEN TO NEW EXPERIENCES instead of bitching about the algorithm showing them an artist outside their very narrow parameters.

  10. be ware of eve hill

    Hey gang, isn’t middle-aged neurotica fun? 🙄

    I don’t know about you folks, but I stopped worrying about being “cool” when I grew up.

  11. The Duck of Death

    Tom Batiuk is Ned Ryerson.

    Always accosting you aggressively with supposed great memories of happy times in the distant past, which you barely recall. If you remember them at all, it’s as vaguely amusing blips, but apparently in TB’s mind they were towering achievements of great importance that loom large in everyone’s history.

  12. G Prince

    From “test your amplifiers and speakers” with headphones and a single box, to a restaurant owner saying frozen pizza is cool; whether it’s cognitive dissonance or “neither show nor tell,” Funky Winkerbean never fails to disappoint.

    • batgirl

      I think there’s a second speaker behind the chair – you can just see the top diamond-pattern behind the head-rest part. I also think TB forgot to draw it and just re-drew the back of the chair into a speaker, since the geometry of the chair doesn’t make any sense – in every other strip it’s a fully upholstered chair, but in that one it’s got a back like a plastic stacking chair.

  13. billytheskink

    You know what was cool? That gazpacho pizza Tony, Funky, and Crazy (who for some reason was there to toss pizza dough) entered in “Food Network’s Pizza Challenge” back in 2006.

    It was so cool… in that it was literally uncooked.

  14. newagepalimpsest

    Times are tough when even the guy whose last vacation was time travel is feeling the ennui.

  15. The Duck of Death

    Apart from the ridiculous notion that a pizzeria owner would think frozen pizza is cool…

    Frozen pizza has never been cool. It’s what you get when you’re too cheap, or too broke, to get pizza delivered. It’s the poor man’s pizza.

    And saying someone is “frozen pizza cool” sounds like a slogan an exhausted, drunk middle-aged copywriter would come up with at 2 AM when the ad agency has to make a 9 AM creative presentation to the Tombstone Pizza clients.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      As someone who’s diet consists 30% of frozen pizza, I am OFFENDED.

      (All joking aside, there are some really yummy frozen pizzas if you’re not afraid to pay for more than a Tostino’s party pack. But I’m talking Cali Pizza Kitchen or Bellatoria.)

      • The Duck of Death

        Oh, I never said frozen pizza was bad! I’m especially partial to some of the Trader Joe’s pizzas, and Costco has a great cauliflower-crust line. But it’s not the kind of thing people would brag about as cool. It may be surprisingly good, but it’s still frozen food, a pretty utilitarian item, and usually far cheaper than having fresh pizza delivered.

  16. ComicBookHarriet

    The biggest problem with today’s strip is the stupid asterisk explaining the joke. There would have been a better way of incorporating that ‘punchline’ maybe by smooshing panel 1 and 2 together, and having a second character in a new panel 2. (For irony it would be best if it was younger Funky being baffled, and showing that Crazy Harry wasn’t thought of as ‘cool’)

    Otherwise I will tepidly defend the sentiments and humor of today’s strip. Crazy Harry was NEVER cool…but he THOUGHT he was. With the class clown outsider weirdo confidence that all the weird stuff he did or liked was cool and so HE was. And old Funky now appreciates what his friend used to be.

    Both of these tired sad old sacks are looking back fondly at a time when Crazy Harry was so much MORE….and if I’d gone from tunneling my way from a locker into the principal’s office to THIS mopey old coffee swiller, I’d be wistful for the past too.