October 10, 2010

Take life too seriously, and it ceases to be fun(ny)

As a child, I became so engaged in the funny pages that I would forget the progression of the world around me. Bill Watterson’s brainchildren Calvin & Hobbes kept me entertained for hours on end as I leafed through page after cutout page of collected newspaper comics. I didn’t understand Watterson’s deeply social and existential morals, but Calvin and Hobbes’ perpetually disastrous shenanigans were enough to keep me howling. When finished, the print stains on my hands became trophies of a day well spent in somebody else’s moment.

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Recently, I flipped through my son’s spine-bent, and therefore well-loved, copy of a Calvin & Hobbes anthology, and realized how strongly that comic series shaped my outlook on life. First, the missed social messages became concrete beliefs in system failure as an adult. Second, the existential musings led to a belief that while universal truth can never be found, it should still be sought. Third, a kid and his stuffed tiger fighting to rid the world of slimy girls will always be funny.

What’s the point of all this?

The point of all this is that while we sometimes believe that we must live in a system of unjust social policies, unfair marketing practices, unknowable truths, and unlivable working conditions, if we can’t take a moment to laugh at life’s little absurdities, then we’re going to have a stroke. So this week, among all the “serious” business of deadlines and due dates, fueled by our favourite caffeinated accelerant, we are going to sketch some seriously creative comics.

The types of comics that you create are entirely up to you. Perhaps story-driven, graphic novel-style frames are your forte. Maybe single-panel Family Circus-like scenes set your story. Take a look at today’s comic page in the local newspaper; you’ll find that simple, three-panel storyboards continue to be a go-to.

The mood of your comic is your choice as well. Humorous has always played well in the comical arena (and is, you know, kind of the point of this week’s exercise), but you may also choose to create a comic that is sad, cynical, serious, or sensually inspiring. Draw your panels detailed, colourful, lightly sketched, or childlike. The approach you take will be limited only by your imagination*.

*Note: The imagination may atrophy after prolonged periods of disuse. Please exercise your imagination frequently.

Since you’re trying to liven moments of “serious” business, find a point within the day during which you are at your peak of frustration, and consciously notice your anxiety. Immediately stop, and breathe. Step away from the situation for a few minutes. These are the minutes during which you will create your comical Moments.

Think about this: why are you so worked up? What are the real, universal consequences of not attaining your wants/needs at this moment? You need to realize that whatever the problem is, it’s probably not going to kill you. An aneurysm will.

Photo by T Hart under Creative Commons License
Now, find the absurdity in the anxiety. If you continue down this path, will you physically burst like a balloon? Is a giraffe licking your boss’s shiny, bald head while he (the boss, or the giraffe) continues berating you for a job well done? What if you actually are delegating your authority to a bunch of rhesus monkeys? Answer these questions through your comic, then return, a little more composed and at peace, to your job. Let this creative creature be a relaxation tool, a vent; it’s the artistic equivalent of counting to ten before unwittingly punching someone that you shouldn’t.

When you are finished, post your comic somewhere prominent. The announcement board at the office or warehouse is a great place. Whatever you are struggling with, I assure you, others are struggling with as well. Let your Moment give them a laugh, too. They need it; they deserve it; they are entitled to it, because this Moment does not belong to you, but to the world of rational beings trying to survive in an irrational universe.

If we take life too seriously, it ceases to be fun. Otherwise, if we take life too seriously, it ceases, to be fun. Like that seemingly innocuous comma, an avoidable, work-related heart attack can disrupt the entire sentence of your life, because life is funny like that.

Now to be fair, here’s mine:

Acrylic and ink on a 3x5" index card


  1. This is great! Love this week's blog... If you put your venting moment art on the billboard at work, however, you may get in trouble... just sayin'! :)

  2. True enough, Suzette! Let me add a note:

    * Use discretion when posting your comics at work. Sonny Rae Tempest will not be responsible for further berating, demotion, or sudden obtainment of unemployment benefits *


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