Who Loves The Family Circus? “Not Me.”
Wow. The angry emails are pouring in following my post this week, Inopportune Yuks’ Disorder. In it, I had written that The Family Circus wouldn’t even qualify as funny in remote villages in Eastern Europe. I’ve since heard from irate Family Circusians (though, surprisingly, not from irate Eastern Europeans) who are offended by my implication that their favorite comic strip is not funny.
Here is one of those emails. I apologize for its offensive language.
Dear Sh*t For Brains,
Who are you calling not funny? You’re the one who is not funny. I’ll have you know that The Family Circus is why the comics are called “The Funnies.” Because it’s funny. I bet your (sic) one of those dumbasses who likes Dilbert and Sally Forth.
P.S. I also happen to own that hat you referenced. I will be sure to send it to you. I think it would suit you. And, by the way, that hat is also funny.
Geesh, who knew people were so touchy about The Family Circus? Well, I think I deserve a chance to defend myself now. First off, I once loved The Family Circus! LOVED it. Honest. When I was six. Yes, it was the only comic strip besides Garfield that I actually understood. It was as if it was written right at my level. It was as if it was written by a young child. More on that in a moment.
Here’s my beef with The Family Circus. Where is the creativity, Bil Keane? Despite that I don’t enjoy it, I find myself drawn to looking at it every Sunday. And I can tell you, it has not varied one bit in the 30 years since I learned how to read. Basically, each day boils down to five main themes that are continuously rerun in slightly different circumstances. Those being:
1.) “Not Me” Ghosts. Which completely freaked me out as a kid. Thanks for the nightmares, Bil Keane. How was literal-me supposed to know these were meant as a joke? Eventually I learned to just go with it. Not Me ghosts run amok in my house? So be it. Ate all the gumdrops off our gingerbread house contest entry? Not Me. Left chewing gum stuck to the coffee table? Not Me. Put a rubberband around the dog’s ankle that caused him injury, leading to a plastic cone on his neck for five weeks? A very sorry Not Me who was only trying to make Bandit a bracelet.
I found this expanded version of Not Me to be doubly disturbing as a kid. Suddenly we learn that Not Me has invited over his equally degenerate kinfolk, Ida Know and Nobody. And in this one, they’re acting out with violence!
3.) Follow Billy’s/Jeffy’s/Barfy’s path to see how far out of his route he went. I’d like follow the path Bil Keane took to writing this one and see how far out of his normal comic strip route he went. I’d bet my Easy Bake Oven that this path would be one continuous straight line. That started back at 1960.
4.) Billy takes over the cartoon while Bil Keane is on vacation. Perhaps Bil Keane has been on vacation since his comic’s launch in 1960. After making it into the paper, he said, “Here Billy. You can take it from here. This thing is practically on autopilot now. Just keep up with the Not Me, deceased grandpa, and so forth.” Actually, I believe this theme confirms what I’ve suspected all along. Billy is really Bil Keane’s developmentally-stunted alter ego.
5.) Kids say the darndest things. I’ve heard better “darndest things” from my veteran mommy friends who can mass-produce darndest things stories like they just casually picked them up off the floors of their minivans and were on their way to the dumpster to toss them out. Oh, this might be funny. I was just going to throw it out with the string cheese wrappers. I can’t keep up with ’em all. You want it? I’m talking stories that would cause you to double-over into a fetal position of uproarious laughter and piddle in your pantaloons. Bil Keane, do you even know children? You should meet one sometime. They’re funny.
Now, I’d like to have an open mind about this. I’ll admit I could be completely wrong in thinking The Family Circus is useless junk. When I was a kid, I believed The Far Side was so obscure and cryptic that it must’ve been written by aliens as a way to report back to their counterparts through code-embedded comic strips. Later, much later in fact, I realized “the alien” was the brilliantly funny Gary Larson (who I still believe is an alien). It is quite possible that Bil Keane’s brilliance has escaped me in the same manner. Perhaps my simple mind cannot comprehend this depth of comedy. If so, please explain this one to me, Family Circusians. Because I don’t get it. Oh, wait. Is that the joke?