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Eric: Bringing the Fucking Funny.

(From Penny Arcade! Click on the thumbnail for full sized warm and oozing with icing....)

I had a friend ask me if I still read Penny Arcade, a couple of days back.

"Well, yeah?" I said, finding the question a bit odd.

He wanted to know why. When I turned the question around ("why not?" said I, all innocent-like), he proceeded to detail a long laundry list of reasons, which I honestly don't feel like typing into here right now. It's worth noting, however, that none of them had to do with... well, the comic strip itself.

So. To that friend, I say... read today's strip.

There's bringing the Funny... and there's bringing the fucking Funny.

Gabe and Tycho get themselves a biscuit. A tasty... tasty... big as my head biscuit. It's so good. Soooo goooooood....

Posted by Eric Burns-White at March 23, 2005 11:47 AM


Comment from: John posted at March 23, 2005 12:02 PM

I actually laughed at loud at this. I don't often laugh at loud at comic strips.

PA can be unnecessarily crude sometimes... but there's no doubt those guys have wit to spare. And Gabe's art has just about become the gold standard for webcomics.

Comment from: TheNintenGenius posted at March 23, 2005 12:08 PM

Not being into gaming nearly as much as I used to, Penny Arcade has lost some of its allure for me, even though it can be funny at times. I'm still not sure if I'll ever start reading it again, especially since quite a few of the comics, like today, rely on somewhat-gratuitous vulgarities (then again, I read Jerkcity, so I'm probably not one to talk on that front.) If I do ever start reading it again, I'll make sure not to read Gabe's tinfoil-hat-crazy newsposts at the very least.

Comment from: Reave posted at March 23, 2005 12:41 PM

PA has always been with the crude. It's what they like to do. Unlike some comics, no one can accuse PA of 'jumping ship' to crudeness. They started there, they will end there. Sure, not every strip is about gaming - but honestly, if it was, what would you have? Knights of the Dinner Table - that's what! When's the last time you laughed at a KotDT strip? Not too long ago, is it? Now, imagine if it was about VIDEO GAMES instead of RPGS? See? Not bringing the funny. So G&T pan out. And hey, I can't recall a time when they've missed their 3-a-week schedule.

Also, Tycho is the writer - not Gabe. Gabe reminds me somewhat of a shock jock, except that he's the one who tends to be shocked. Sometimes he's right, sometimes he isn't. But at least he speaks his mind and doesn't hold back. Passion is a pretty important trait to have when you're a writer.

More importantly, if Gabe were a Skeletor villain, he would be...

ANGOR! Son of thousand hates!

Damn I'm good. I should start a comic.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at March 23, 2005 12:50 PM

The great thing about Penny Arcade -- to me, anyway -- is that they're a gamer comic that criticizes the gaming industry as much as it plays on the in-jokes and enthusiasm surrounding the gaming community. Some days reading the comic is like reading a political cartoon, only it's a political cartoon with a very, very narrow range of interest. Oh, and it's funny. That always helps.

Comment from: TheNintenGenius posted at March 23, 2005 12:53 PM

Well I know that 1) the strip has always been crude, and 2) Tycho does the writing (thank god). I was just saying that I'm not quite as enamored with the strip as I used to be. That's allowable, right?

Also, I've never even heard of Knights of the Dinner Table.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at March 23, 2005 1:03 PM

I confess I'm curious as to the reasons your friend gave for no longer reading the strip.

Comment from: Tangent posted at March 23, 2005 1:22 PM

Gah! Cinabons should be categorized as a Class A Addictive Substance!!!

mmm, Cinabons...

Comment from: Shadowydreamer posted at March 23, 2005 1:29 PM

And once again I tilt my head to one side, blink and go "Er, okay." I'm afraid I'm one of those who just don't find PA funny. I don't find it offensive (or bad or wrong or anything) it just doesn't tickle my funny bone.

I was once told you have to have a Y chromosome to truly appreciate PA.. but since I know women who DO enjoy it, I don't think that's it. Maybe it's just having grown up on "British" humour.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at March 23, 2005 2:14 PM

Ack, Penny Arcade. Shadowy, you aren't alone in disliking it. I'm male, American, and a diehard video gamer. And I, for the most part, can't stand the comic. And today's comic is indicative of why it isn't funny, to me.

It's not the cursing (again, I'm a gamer; I know people who use "fuck you" as a greeting for friends). It's the feeling that every strip is about brutality (psychological or physical) and expecting it to be funny on its own. And it feels to me that, more often than not, it fails miserably.

It also doesn't help that, if you cleaned up the language, this would be a fucking Garfield strip. Seriously, lazy being wants food, is taunted with it. Add one more unfunny panel, and you've got a Garfield script. And I'm not laughing at that, either.

I know of plenty of comics that pull off being brutal and funny at the same time (Something*Positive being the shining example). But PA fails in just about the worst way possible.

And just for a capper, you know what it's like being a gamer and not liking Penny Arcade at all? Saying "I hate Penny Arcade" is probably the second most likely sentence to getting a video gamer to lynch you. The first, of course, being "Jack Thompson is right."

Comment from: Wednesday posted at March 23, 2005 2:19 PM

Wait. He's not lazy; he's in the queue!

Comment from: Merus posted at March 23, 2005 2:55 PM

I don't often find PA funny - the fruit fucker gets on my nerves - but they do occasionally do good stuff. The parody of EA where they claim all rights to gaming comics tickled my funny bone. This one's okay, but it relies too much on context, which is probably why they try to avoid continuity.

Comment from: quiller posted at March 23, 2005 2:55 PM

I find some of PA's stuff hilariously funny, most of it is just there. I think my favorite one is the one they had to take down, American McGee's Strawberry Shortcake was pure genius. For the most part, I actually read it more for the rants. I hope there's another Cardboard Tube Samurai soon, though.

Comment from: TheNintenGenius posted at March 23, 2005 3:00 PM

32_footsteps makes a really good point. I'm fortunate in that I hang out with a group that more or less dislike (or are mostly ambivalent toward, like myself) Penny Arcade, but it's become to the videogame community what Megatokyo has become to manga enthusiasts: a sacred cow. If you dare criticise Penny Arcade, you're just asking to get yourself shunned by the community at large.

To me, what's honestly worst about Penny Arcade is the slew of imitators it's spawned. (Such as that horrible VG Cats thing. Can SOMEONE explain what the appeal is? I mean, seriously here.)

Comment from: Robotech_Master posted at March 23, 2005 3:15 PM

Well, the thing is there's no accounting for taste. (Although some people in business school discover they have a taste for accounting. But I digress.) I have to confess I find VG Cats pretty funny more often than not—and usually when not, it's because I don't get the joke or reference they're doing.

I have to say I'm impressed by Eric's ability to snark the comic and ignore what they said about him in their most recent mention of Websnark, though. He's a better man than I am.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at March 23, 2005 3:54 PM

Wednesday, I'd buy that if, just maybe, they drew in other people near him "in line." Sure looks like he's just sitting on his butt alone to me.

I personally find VG Cats to be hit or miss. More misses than hits, but occasionally there's a brilliant one in there. Not that this inspires me to read it (except on the urging of a friend), but I'd still rate it above PA.

Comment from: Robotech_Master posted at March 23, 2005 3:58 PM

32, the fact that he's alone in line is, I think, part of the humor of it. He's so frantic about being first in line for the game that he doesn't want to risk moving lest someone take his spot—even though he's the only one there.

Comment from: David W Boyd posted at March 23, 2005 4:25 PM

Nice little attempt at throwing kerosene on the fire there, Robotech_Master! Heh.

I love Tycho's writing, and Gabe's art has everything good funny art needs -- and his increasing confidence and ability to get what he wants out of it really show. As for the humor, well, of course that's a matter of taste; I'm not really a gamer, but I find it (and VG Cats, especially lately) quite funny. Most of the criticism I hear from my friends who don't like PA consists of a negative reaction to the strip's fans, or to the opinions expressed about some games or systems. But, of course, what does that have to do with the strip, or newspost, and whether either is funny?

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at March 23, 2005 4:35 PM

R_M -- what they think about me shouldn't have bearing on what I think of their strip. That's true whether they think positive or negative things about me.

In other words, it's just not relevant to snarking. In my opinion, anyhow.

Comment from: Zaq posted at March 23, 2005 4:40 PM

I've been playing games heavily for the past... 13, 14 years? Something like that. And frankly, I can't stand Penny Arcade. I think their worst problem is the timing, though it's not the only one. They consistently display the absolute worst possible timing, if you want to appeal to my sense of humor. Occasionally I'll see something there that makes me think "Um, that would be kinda amusing if someone with any talent for telling jokes said it...", but overall, nada. Though this sentiment is backed up by the fact that when one of my friends tells me something that happened in Penny Arcade, I'll often find it very funny indeed. I laughed hysterically, I recall, when I was told of the "I hate Kingdom Hearts! I love Kingdom Hearts! ...Hair!" strip a couple years ago... but when I actually saw it, it warranted no more than the Raised Eyebrow of Mild Contempt... and this is not an isolated incident. This leads me to believe that their timing, more than anything else, is the problem... or if not their timing, simply something in their style and the WAY they tell the jokes more than the humor itself. But that doesn't change the fact that when I go and make an effort to read the strip and see what everyone else is going on about, I always end up disappointed at best.

And for the record, I absolutely adore VGCats. Mr. Ramsoomair understands dialogue/banter (it's not banter in the sense that Scary Go Round or Questionable Content has banter, but I think my point is understood), and you can always expect at least one if not many sight gags (usually in the form of facial expressions). Penny Arcade, on the other hand... pass.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at March 23, 2005 5:06 PM

R_M, that's the kind of thing that screams to me that they are just ripping off of Garfield. It screams of "let's mock the lazy and nasty," which is what Jim Davis and his employees have been trying to spoon-feed us for years.

However, this is on the Internet. Therefore, it must be funny.

Comment from: Grumblin posted at March 23, 2005 5:15 PM

It's not really fair to compare PA to Garfield.

Out of 50 random Garfield strips, Jim Davis at least manages to give my facial muscles some vertical excercise against gravity, however mildly. (I'll admit it might be a variation on the same joke though.)

PA however doesn't even manage this once, at all. total blank. wasted effort.

Comment from: Doug Dawson posted at March 23, 2005 5:23 PM

Another piece of anecdotal evidence.

I'm not a video gamer, not really. I've played the Final Fantasy series, but that's pretty close to it. No first-person shooters, no real-time strategy games, none of that.

I enjoy Penny Arcade. A lot.

My friends game a little more than me, but not too much.

They enjoy Penny Arcade. A lot.

I usually get a chuckle out of VG Cats, though I often have to read the PA newsposts to understand what the hell Ramsoomair's making fun of.

For reference, the rest of my taste in humor tends toward the British, though only the usual geekish suspects (Douglas Adams, Monty Python, Blackadder, etc.).

Comment from: Bc9b posted at March 23, 2005 5:57 PM

I hate pennyarcade.com

Serously, the website sucks.

Took me a few months to find out how to get around everything, geez.

Comment from: Chris Doucette posted at March 23, 2005 6:30 PM

Felt compelled to make an account to throw my cents in here.

I can easily see how Tycho's writing style is polarizing - either it clicks with you or it doesn't. For me, it really, really clicks. And I would say a big part of why it's so funny to me is precisely because of the timing. He doesn't write "jokes" or "gags" in the usual sense; he writes dialogues. There's no punchline. There's not even a set-up, necessarily. Just the middle bit, whatever you call that. If you want to use fancy words, he's a bit postmodern in the way that he ignores the usual structure of a comic strip.

And, as with all things postmodern, there's the risk that removing the familiar structure alienates the reader. I'm sure Tycho would inflict grievous harm on me for comparing him to Hideo Kojima (who directed/wrote Metal Gear Solid 2, the closest thing there is to a postmodern video game) but the similarity is there, especially in the range of reactions readers/players have had - i.e., "This is strange but brilliant" to "You hack bastard, I wanted a real game/joke."

This is one of my favorite strips ever. It's throwaway dialogue, the sort that fills empty space in a longer narrative. I'd like to see what Penny Arcade would be like in a longer animated format, because I think Tycho's writing lends itself well to longer scenes. Unfortunately it sounds like the oft-referenced cartoon pilot won't ever see daylight.

Comment from: Shadowydreamer posted at March 23, 2005 6:32 PM

I don't hate PA. I just don't "get" it. :) And while I may not always *agree* with Gabe and Tycho, I have a hell of a lot of respect for them.

Comment from: Hazelip posted at March 23, 2005 6:38 PM

This PA strip is crap. Just as their fond of criticizing strips who think that random = teh funny, pointless taunting and brutality do not = teh funny, either.

Comment from: EsotericWombat posted at March 23, 2005 6:46 PM

Comparing Tycho and Gabe to Jim fucking Davis, especially here, is a shot below the belt that I thought we were all above.

I don't really need to explain why PA is no more like Garfeild than it's like Doonesbury, but suffice to say, this is one fucking strip that involves someone who won't leave his chair for food. The rest of the reasons have been well catalogued here and can be found if you wish to look.

complaints about the need for context are the reason why you see the newspost first on PA. It said on the first line that it was continuity, so you press the back button, and everything's cool and froody.

All that being said, I can understand not liking this strip. I do, but it's far from their best work. This strip, for one, is a good example of A-list PA

Comment from: Kristofer Straub posted at March 23, 2005 6:53 PM

I like Penny Arcade for the same reason I like Calvin and Hobbes, and it's because you can build a strip around a throwaway concept just to see how the characters interact. That's it. You don't need a goddamn pun or cute wordplay in the last panel to have a comic strip.

This is also what I dislike about most newspaper comics. You can work backwards from the last panel to the first, and almost hear the cartoonist's reptilian brain squirming: "how can I summarize a given situation as a cute three or four words?" Beat, beat, beat, pun. That's boring. PA doesn't do that.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at March 23, 2005 7:08 PM

EsotericWombat, that's one of my favorites as well. That's the kind of strip that makes me happy and jealous at the same time...

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at March 23, 2005 7:45 PM

It just amazes me how polarized people get over PA. Calm down. It's just a comic strip.

Now, I thought they were kind of falling into a rut maybe a year ago... but then in the last, say, 4 months, they've kind of pulled out of it. They're often funny, often EXCEEDINGLY funny. Sometimes, they do something that just doesn't work in my opinion. I'm not a huge Twisp and Catsby fan, to be honest. I can take or leave the Fruit Fucker - it was funny at first, but it kind of waned the more they used it. But that aside, they have an idea of what is funny, and they pull it off very often. I see no reason to get so upset with them. If you don't like it, don't read it. It's not like they punched your mom in the gut or something.

Comment from: the_iron_troll posted at March 23, 2005 7:50 PM

Thought I'd put in my few units of coinage as well.

I am a large PA fan. While I have come to appreciate Gabe's art more and more ever since it got good about 4 years ago, it's really all about Tycho. I simply adore Tycho's writing style. For me, the greatest pull is the manner in which he drops the oddest-sounding sentences all over the place, making it just work by some fitful magic that I would dearly like to possess. I think that I have come to imitate his writing more than a little.

Postmodern? That's a good working term, I suppose.

And while I don't have that specific strip noted as a favourite, EsotericWombat, it is quite good.

Kristofer - Yes! Exactly! Most comics feel so contrived, so pedestrian. Fucking puns. PA never does that, even when it doesn't tickle my funny-bone. I am not a fan of the brutality comics, for example. And yet, PA is still one of my favourite strips.

And I just have to say that I'm shocked that no-one has mentioned the absolute FUNNIEST THING about today's PA - the title! It's a Twisp & Catsby-ism! Somehow, reading the strip followed by the title, and imagining Twisp going 'Substantial!' causes me to stoop with the laughing.

Comment from: the_iron_troll posted at March 23, 2005 7:53 PM

Oh, and just so it's perfectly clear? The newsposts. It's all about the newsposts.

Comment from: alpaca2500 posted at March 23, 2005 8:16 PM

i'm surprised at how many people came in here to say they didn't like penny arcade. at all. i personally love it. i think it's one of the funniest things ever. i, like others, can understand why someone wouldnt love the comic, er even like it, but to say that you don't find any of it funny, at all, really baffles me. if you don't like penny arcade at all, what sort of things do you like? i'm just curious to know if you have, um, a sense of humor...

Comment from: Alexis Christoforides posted at March 23, 2005 8:21 PM

Wow. I knew some people hated Penny Arcade, but I thought those were just the ones who were insulted by Tycho or Gabe shitting on a game they really like. That reason, I can understand. But such hate for a non-story-based comic strip? And it's not like the complaints are about PA jumping the shark or anything like that. Just... hate. Fascinating!

I enjoy Penny Arcade for exactly the same reasons Mr.Straub does (and the same reasons I adore his Checkerboard Nightmare). Most times there's no obvious punchline, it's just characters talking, completely based on "character + situation". Tycho brings the funny. Kristofer does too.

And there's also the fact that me and my brother share the same video game taste with Tycho. That helps.

Comment from: lark posted at March 23, 2005 9:11 PM

I read today's Penny Arcade and promptly IM'd my coworker and said:

"Just FYI? Penny Arcade today: I would totally do that to you if you were waiting in line for something."

Jerry's writing sounds like me and my friends when we're joking around, and that's why Penny Arcade is funny to me. The post about carrot cake soup remains one of the funniest pieces I've ever read.

No, me and my friends don't go around stabbing each other in the eye to steal the other person's watch, nor do any of us own a FruitFucker 2000 (to my knowledge), but we do tend to take jabs at one another in a friendly, evil sort of way. Penny Arcade is like that, except it does the work for me.

Comment from: Gisele Lagace posted at March 23, 2005 10:17 PM

Penny Arcade doesn't do it for me, but I can't put a fair judgement on it as I've only read an occasional strip... like when Websnark snarks it or whatever. So, I'll leave it at that. Garfield on the other hand is a different story. I grew up on Garfield. I remember this one time when I was in the hospital as a kid and I had to stay there for 3 weeks, my mother bought me book 1 to 4 of the Garfield series. It really made my day. And I probably wouldn't be drawing today if it wasn't for those 4 books... which are still in my collection today. I'll admit, Jim Davis has been milking the cow and for that reason I read it on the rare occasion, but he's been at this for 27 years!!... and that's Garfield alone (he was working on other stuff before that). So... before we start bashing Jim Davis, let's see how we or PA do in 20 or so years. We also have to keep in mind that Garfield is a business now and employs a whole bunch of people... who don't want Davis to stop as Garfield brings food to the table. Jim Davis is the Ozzy Osbourne of comics. He could stop... but probably feels he needs to continue for his staff.

Comment from: Forsaken_One posted at March 23, 2005 11:29 PM

Eric Burns said: "R_M -- what they think about me shouldn't have bearing on what I think of their strip. That's true whether they think positive or negative things about me.

In other words, it's just not relevant to snarking. In my opinion, anyhow."

Not to beat a dead horse, but how does this jive with your comment that you'd drop whatever comic took down their keenspot newspost, even if it was a comic you currently liked? It seems like in both cases you're dealing with how information outside of the comic strip itself influences whether or not you read the comic. But in one case you say you'll continue reading regardless of this information and on another you say you'll specifically avoid them because of this information.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at March 23, 2005 11:32 PM

Not to beat a dead horse, but how does this jive with your comment that you'd drop whatever comic took down their keenspot newspost, even if it was a comic you currently liked?

Yup. Pretty dead horse.

Apples and oranges. I reserve the right to decide the way a given comic does business with its fellows means simply not discussing it. I also reserve the right to not equate someone having an opinion about me to that.

And that is all I'm going to say on this topic.

Comment from: William_G posted at March 23, 2005 11:45 PM

"complaints about the need for context are the reason why you see the newspost first on PA."

There is a comedy theory that states: "If you need to explain a joke, then it's not funny."

But I find it cool that I was planning on doing a side by side look at Penny Arcade and PvP critique this weekend and then I see this little debate.

It's all so holistic.

Comment from: Shadowydreamer posted at March 24, 2005 12:04 AM

Actually - the PA joke made a lot more sense after it was explained. ^_^

Comment from: tynic posted at March 24, 2005 12:11 AM

I find there is generally a sufficiency of PA comics that do not require explanation to increase my tolerance astronomically for those that do. Plus I play no (computer/whatever) games at all, so I always assume that the ones I don't 'get' until after the newspost are the ones that probably make immediate sense to gamers. IE, they're not for me.

I've never seen the sense in railing about comics which aren't to your personal taste being popular. It's such an all-encompassing medium. I've even met people who don't like Achewood (horror!) - and so I'm willing to accept that those strips that have enormous popularity deserve it in some manner, even if I can't see it myself.

William_G: as I recall, you've never been much of a fan of either of those comics. This should be interesting ;-)

Comment from: EsotericWombat posted at March 24, 2005 12:53 AM

WIlliam, any joke is indeed ruined if you tell it, then explain it. but if you edify the reader first, as in, "before you read this strip read the one before it" the joke can still be funny. Still, there have been PA strips that I didn't fully get until about a week later that I still laughed at at the time.

and Gisele, Garfeild was always a buisness. It was never intended to be anything else. I used to like it too, but there are ways to entertain kids without patronizing them. For the same reason, I don't forgive Disney their bullshit because Walt created Mickey Mouse. And compared to Mickey Mouse, Garfeild is a pile of furry orange puke.

Comment from: Alun Clewe posted at March 24, 2005 1:05 AM

Not that anyone is likely to care, and not that enough people haven't expressed their opinions on the matter already, but personally, I generally like Penny Arcade. Not every strip works for me, but they probably do more often than not, and many strips (often the ones that just involve Gabe and Tycho talking about some random thing and have nothing to do with gaming) I find completely hilarious. On the other hand, there are some PA strips that just do nothing for me at all.

The latest strip falls into the latter category. A bakery worker is taunting Gabe with a cinnamon roll. Uh...okay. Doesn't strike me as particularly funny, sorry. The way Gabe is drawn in the last panel is kind of funny, but not enough to make the strip. The strip that EsotericWombat posted as "a good example of A-list PA"? Also does nothing for me.

My point here isn't to bash PA; as I said, I do find their strips funny more often than not. I only wanted to get at the fact that even people who like Penny Arcade in general may disagree on which specific strips they like. Senses of humor vary.

Which isn't much of a point, really, I suppose, when you get right down to it. So maybe the real point is, I just like rambling. Or something.

Comment from: Doc posted at March 24, 2005 2:28 AM

I just wrote this insanely long rant that started off wondering why some people who don't like PA need to ram it down everyone's throat at every opportunity and went way downhill from here. But then I read over previous comments and realised that the ratio of fans and reasonable detractors : mindless asshats was high enough that such a thing was not necessary.

I would just like to say though, if you don't like PA we don't really need to hear about it, I doubt many people are just going to turn around and go 'oh yeah I guess they *are* worthless hacks after all'.

It may indeed just not be *for* you.

I'm not talking to people who want to reasonably say they don't like the strip or certain strips, more the people who seem to rail against it continously whenever the subject is brought up. Often not criticising the strip itself, but its creators instead. As Eric has already pointed out this is a poor reason to criticise a comic (see S*P recent mike-centric strip for more along this theme)

Oh and yeah, Gabe and Tycho can be dicks, I'm not even going to start to say I agree or can even defend everything they say, but come on, its their site. I think the newsbox debacle last week kind of resolved itself with the view that people can say what they want on their own damn site.

Oh and as for todays strip, yeah, it didn't really work for me at first, even since I went off ren and stimpy overly graphic close ups have kind of put me off, on re-reading though the line 'its so good' is going to stay with me for a while.

Ok this is long enough. Pathetic attempt at contribution over.

Comment from: Zaltys posted at March 24, 2005 4:21 AM

I love PA. It's not always funny, but it also makes me laugh-out-loud more often than pretty much any other webcomic. Here's a selection of the best (imo)





and possibly my all time favourite...


Comment from: William_G posted at March 24, 2005 6:54 AM

Doc, quite honestly, people are afraid to voice their criticisims about Penny Arcade and when they get a chance to so in the warm, safe environment that Eric seems to be providing, it comes flooding out.

Now, it's been mentioned before, but it is their fanbase that created the situation where people tend to walk on eggshells over them. Sure not all of the PA fanbase are drooling psychopaths, but there are more than enough of them to make everyone shy to speak up. Especially since either of the lads can (And have been more than willing to) wang servers of people who've drawn their ire.

This is why people tend to over look the comic and focus on the negative aspects of the creators and their fanbase.

To put it another way: Michael Jackson has made some damned good songs, but he's also a frigging pedophile. So no matter how much I may love to do "Thriller" at the karaoke, I still keep coming back to that whole child molestation thing.

Now, I'm going to sit back and see who thinks I'm calling Mikey and Jerry pedos...

Comment from: inkbrush posted at March 24, 2005 7:38 AM

I like Penny Arcade. But I'm not what you could call an ardent reader. If I miss them for a few months, I don't go back and read everything I've missed. I'm more likely to do that with PVP.

So why do I like Penny Arcade?

It's true, a lot of their humor revolves around putting the characters through a great deal of anguish and torture, but to a great extent that's all humor is. Most humor has to do with imparting an experience of torment or anguish upon the audience. I'm not kidding. To be glib, comedy is tragedy, only worse.

Here's a great example of anguish and torment in a cinematic comedy: Inspector Clouseau.

The anguish in the Pink Panther movies is shared by Clouseau's superior with the audience. Clouseau's total incompetence at anything he tries to do, compounded with the completely unfair amount of praise he receives is maddening. His captain is the only sane person in the movie that has to deal with Clouseau on a professional level, and he goes stark raving bonko.

The jewel thieves don't have to deal with Clouseau as anything other than an annoyance or a confused child, he's so little threat to them that he's not considered a professional distraction.

Anyway, it basically comes through this way: laughing is good for you because it allows you to express and release emotions that would otherwise be psychically crippling. It releases stress. The best comedic actors all realize that acting funny is boring, and not very funny. Jack Lemmon said of his famous part as Felix Unger, "There is not a damned thing that is funny about a middle aged man going through a divorce."

Anyway, what the guys at PA do is in this vein, in a fairly self-deprecating fashion. Their entire strip is focused on the emotional, physical, and mental destruction of iconic representations of themselves as teenagers. It's pretty masochistic in a way, especially considering the size of the audience they have.

However, focused masochism for a reason is acceptable, otherwise Jerry Lewis, Charlie Chaplin, George and Gracie Burns, and Will Ferrell are all outlaws of conscience.

Comment from: Doc posted at March 24, 2005 9:45 AM

Its weird that you say that Will, and obviously several people in this thread agree with you but I feel the opposite way: that when I see a thread of people tearing shit out of PA, even when its for fairly dumb reasons, I feel too intimidated to say anything (Eric's loving embrace being, as you pointed out, a welcome exception :-p). Kind of like admitting to liking U2 around a bunch of people chatting about Cat Empire. Sorry if I've just insulted someone, or proven how out of date I am, I chose a band I know nothing about off the top of my head

Admittedly PA fans can be disturbingly rabid and act like they have the IQ of a 14 year old (which for some of them, or should I say us, is actually ahead in years) but for me it is fear of being tarred with the same brush as these more rabid fans that makes me reluctant to say I am a Penny Arcade fan. And thats a real drag.

As for the Michael Jackson argument, what can I say? I still like Thriller, I might feel a bit guilty liking it at times but I still listen to it. Its the voice over at the end, gets me every time.

I'd also like to re-iterate that I, and I think most PA fans in this thread, don't care about people not liking PA. Its more the way they seem to get torn down for anything they do, like when people gave them shit for running a charity. It was only a few people sure, but its the kind of thing that just wouldn't happen to....

I was going to name some other popular webcomic authors here then I realised I was wrong, shit like that does happen to everyone who puts their stuff out there (I can think of Randy Millhollands relating of regular 'I donated HOW DARE the comic be late' emails). It is just that when something is said against PA it tends to be more accepted by the non-fan community, like PA are fair game for any criticism you'd care to level at them. Thats the extremely biased fan view anyway.

Anyway this has all been said before and I've gone on long enough. I think it would be fair to say that as usual it is the extremists of both groups that make the rest of us look bad?

Oh and Inkbrush nailed it pretty well, at least one kind of their humour. Personally I enjoy the infrequent bouts of word play quite a bit "Oh you mean an inspirational speech given by a preist!".

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at March 24, 2005 10:10 AM

Now, to be fair, I do reserve my disdain strictly for the comic. I judge each news post (when I bother to read them) on their own merits, ignore their opinions on games, and I've publically given them full credit for their work outside of the comic (I've given my kudos to PAX, and my only complaint about Child's Play is that it needs to be expanded). And, finally, this is not the first time, nor the first forum, in which I've voiced my dissatisfaction.

Now, what I find funny is Straub's description of how most newspaper comic strips run. To some extent, he's right (except for some of the "serious issue" stips, he just scripted every For Better Or For Worse comic ever). However, I think it actually supports my argument that Garfield, like Penny Arcade, avoids puns. Trust me, I force myself through it every day (I'm too lazy to jump around the newspaper comic page, so I read them all with my morning paper). Whatever flaws you want to attribute to Garfield, being pun-happy is not one of them.

I spoke up about this because I couldn't believe that Eric thought this strip was funny enough to be worthy of a biscuit, when I thought it was a language filter away from starring everyone's favorite feline punching bag. I know it's "not for me." But I'm used to having to defend what I like every day. I can tell you what, exactly, I find funny in every piece of humor I like. It's a bit much for people to say "it loses the humor to explain it." That only happens if you don't explain it right.

Comment from: Sage posted at March 24, 2005 11:08 AM

Music humor columnist David Thorpe once wrote:

Critics of the Beatles generally fall into two categories: either theyĖre fifteen years old and trying to rise above their peers on the coolness ladder by iconoclastically bashing what they consider untouchable by criticism (the same kids who will later impress their friends by talking about what a hack Shakespeare was), or theyĖre humorless aficionados of jazz or classical who think of The Beatles as the four mop-topped horsemen of the apocalypse.

I think the same principle applies to Penny Arcade. They came first, and they're the biggest, so they make the shiniest target. Makes the kids feel good to think they've stuck it to the big guy. Similar to a lot of the flack that Microsoft takes in the software industry.

It's not that they're above criticism (Thorpe goes on to say that "just because both of those types of people are retards, however, doesnĖt mean that the Beatles aren't shit."), but rather that much of the criticism they receive is disingenuous.

Comment from: TheNintenGenius posted at March 24, 2005 11:44 AM

Given Doc's comments, I might as well qualify my position a bit more.

I never said that I outright hated Penny Arcade. My position is mostly ambivalent. Occasionally it makes me laugh, but usually it doesn't. I do dislike Gabe, but that doesn't mean I dislike the comic (and I realize that would be a completely asinine, stupid reason to hate it.)

I do realize that quite a bit of the criticism of Penny Arcade is raging-against-the-machine, it's-popular-so-we-hate-it bullshit, but what about those of us that genuinely don't find the strip very funny? Are we to be put in with them? Similarly, are those that scream bloody murder at even the slightest mention that Penny Arcade, you know, might not be that good to be lumped in with the average, normal fans? It's really hard to say.

Comment from: baf posted at March 24, 2005 1:00 PM

If you ask me, the thing that makes this particular strip funny isn't just that Gabe is being tormented. It's that the torment is absurdly avoidable by anyone with a grain of sanity. It wouldn't be worth a biscuit if Gabe's predicament were caused by him being handcuffed to a railing or something. But the only reason he doesn't get up and buy a cinnabon is his refusal to even contemplate the option of "losing his place" on a queue consisting solely of himself.

The suggestion above to make the premise clearer by drawing some more people in the queue would thus defeat humor of the situation, as his fear of losing his place would then be at least a little bit rational.

Comment from: Merus posted at March 24, 2005 1:23 PM

Completely off topic, but I've always considered the 'comedy is tragedy' approach to be the hallmark of American humour, as opposed to British humour.

Take Monty Python's dead parrot sketch. The humour in this situation comes from the shopkeeper being absolutely ridiculous, not from the returns procedure. If it wasn't played for laughs, the sketch would go 'this is a dead parrot, I'd like a new one, thank you, goodbye'. To say that's what funny about the sketch is that a customer got screwed is a bit facetious - it's that the shopkeeper is being ludicrous in expecting the customer to believe that the parrot is still alive when the parrot is clearly dead.

I've seen this explained in a useful video starring Rowan Atkinson - who once did a sketch as a schoolmaster doing a roll call that had 'naughty' names on it, and made the regular names much funnier than the naughty ones thanks to delivery - that the crux of humour, or at least British humour, is the unexpected, the juxtaposition of two concepts that don't go together. In a list of naughty names, an ordinary name becomes unexpected. Humans are perennially nasty, though, so often it's easier to make the joke about someone. But the existance of absurdist humour should flag that there may be moke to jokes than merely laughing at subtle misfortunes.

I've been wanting to say that for a while.

Comment from: Shadowydreamer posted at March 24, 2005 2:36 PM

I think Doc was reading different comments than the last of us since the majority of us who dislike PA just said "We don't get the humour" or similar comments. We never bashed it or it's authors (in fact I said I respected Gabe and Tycho a great deal) .. some people just like to make mountains out of molehills.

Besides, one live show the conversation did go..

"Hello, I'd like to return this parrot. He's dead."

"Alright, here's your money back."

"Er, right, thank you then."

Wouldn't have been funny without context. Just like that comic wasn't funny to us non-PA readers until we knew the context. (And even then I didn't find it FUNNY per say, just kind of .. ironic?)

Comment from: Shadowydreamer posted at March 24, 2005 2:38 PM

Gah.. it irritates me that anything with a triangle bracket gets the whole line removed.. it irritates me more I keep forgetting it does that!

Comment from: Flavvz posted at March 24, 2005 3:07 PM

The tone of some posts in here, is clearly indicative of how polarizing Penny Arcade can be. And I think that at least part of the fault for this should befall on its authors, their cooler-than-you attitude and sometimes inflaming newsposts, encourage this.

Personally I count myself as one of the people that don't like very much PA. I don't hate, I don't think it's crap, and I've even chuckled more than a few times with it, but most of the time, it just doesn't manage more than a raised eyebrow or at best a slight smile.

And yet I keep coming back to it, even though most of the times I click on the link I usually think Why? However I always follow it, and ocasionally I end up enjoying the strip.

It's not a matter of bringing it down, I simply don't enjoy it as much as others do, which is different from saying that I don't enjoy it at all, there are a lot of other comic strips out there that I prefer over PA, in my personal scale of what's funny I feel that PVP and strips like Help Desk, CAD, or Count Your Sheep just to name a few are much more funnier than PA. That doesn't give me any right to affirm that it is devoid of humor, since I would even be liying to myself if i did so, but at the same time, the opposite is true, and when I say that I'm very surprised and even baffled by the huge success that PA has achieved, I shouldn't be dismissed as not having any sense of humor.

I honestly think that almost none of the posts in here from people who dislike PA have been about them venting out their hate for PA, in fact they've all been fairly well reasoned and correctly argued. In the same way, even the more passionate posts defending the quality of the strip have been intelligently exposed and supported with actual arguments. I'm in fact very surprised at the quality and overall politeness of the posters here, since I know how fast and easy it is for an open forum to turn into a shitfest.

And relative to Meru's comment, PA doesn't only deal with the tragic it has also done a few strips which premise what simply the ludicrous, like the duck's cock strip that Chris linked, and i should mention that that is one of the PA strips that have made me laugh.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at March 24, 2005 3:08 PM

Oh, let's not be too hasty - British humor is quite willing to run to the Mel Brooks school as well. I believe that contributes a great deal to the "defend against a banana" Monty Python sketch. I remember flipping channels and seeing BBC America air some comedy (one I hadn't seen before or since, so I don't know the name) in which this pretentious British woman tried to have a riverside picnic, and the end result was her being unceremoniously dumped in the river. This was followed by a minister thanking heaven for "the riparian entertainments."

Putting aside whether or not that was funny, it was much in the same vein as the comedy school Brooks described. Of course, there's quite a bit of irony that Mel Brooks said that, as much of his humor doesn't fit that school at all (like the airport scene in High Anxiety). Irony... now that's a great ingredient for humor.

Comment from: Psylence posted at March 24, 2005 3:41 PM

Regarding the newsposts and how they affect the understanding of the comic, I have found that what is likely best is to first visit the main page and read the post until the text link to the comic. Then read the comic. Anything context that you might not already have for the comic is provided. Maybe you should read the previous comic, maybe there is a merger pending or they have just played a new game. Pretty much anything after the paragraph containing the link is optional.

My personal favorites though are the ones that are standalone absurdity that require no prelude. Radioactive Scorpians and Claw Shrimp are so golden.

As with any comic, there are some strips that simply do not do it for me, and I would link to some, but I of course do not recall which ones they are.

As for those who wish to critisize Twisp & Catsby, remember, it's not for you

Comment from: Darth Paradox posted at March 24, 2005 6:10 PM

Not to derail the thread or anything, but Cinnabon is one of the main reasons I enjoy airplane trips.

Make of that what you will.

Comment from: vark posted at March 24, 2005 11:39 PM

It took me a few tries to 'get' penny arcade, and then i did, and love it. I'm coming from a slightly different place. I'm a fan of http://www.stripcreator.com/comics/AccentuateNegative

which is the alterego of http://www.stripcreator.com/comics/choadwarrior

I have a deliberately-not-funny imitation webcomic

http://www.stripcreator.com/comics/arbi, just a little art therapy, and at some point i thought i'd check out the original comics the stock characters were based on.

The current cinnabon strip works at several levels i just don't get from garfield.

it makes fun of the mall. it continues the making fun of gamers waiting in line joke. it makes fun of gabe. there are several other reasons people could find it entertaining, even without a cameo by the fruit fucker. so there's usually something to enjoy even if you don't get the punchline.

Comment from: Doc posted at March 25, 2005 4:23 AM

I just wanted to apologise for my previous posts being a bit over agressive, my beef for the most part wasn't with the types of people who have posted in this thread, who have all been even tempered and thoughtful in their criticism.

I guess I just wanted it pointed out that while it can sometimes be considered sacrelige (spelling, sorry not with it right now) to admit to not liking PA, the situation can often be reversed for just as absurd reasons.

As for the style of humour I think PA has alwas alternated between the absurd and the brutal slapstick style of humour, and if anything that is probably why a lot of people don't like it, because they like one style but feel totally alientated by another.

Comment from: morguerat posted at March 25, 2005 11:24 AM

Penny Arcade was the second comic on my You had me and you lost me list, the first was Kevin and Kell, which read like the Family Circus, too cute situations, always seeming to be too clever for some reason, and never funny. I started reading PA after PVP's controversial criticism of it, wherein brent simply says "that's too much work for a comic strip" I agree, I'm a gamer, I enjoy the ones I play, but since I don't spend every moment of my free time checking out video game industry buzz I don't get most of their humor, some of the non-gaming stuff makes me laugh, and some of the gaming stuff occasionally makes me laugh, but by and large, it doesn't work for me, so I stopped reading it. It works for other people, so more power too them, I just don't care enough to try and make the comics funny.

Comment from: William_G posted at March 25, 2005 11:18 PM

After reading someone mentioning PA as being polarizing, I cant help but think of it as being the George W. Bush of the webcomics world now.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at March 26, 2005 12:28 AM

Heh... except for one thing: even most detractors of PA are willing to cut them some slack (seriously, I can't believe people slammed them for starting a charity). Very few Bush detractors are willing to give him anything positive (my friend Jimmy is a great example... he describes Bush, part 2, as "too stupid to be prejudiced").

Comment from: Amanda W posted at March 26, 2005 2:57 AM

I've laughed at one PA strip ever. Not that I've followed it all the years it's gone one, but I haven't been completely ignorant of it either.

I "get" it, it just doesn't elicit any laughs from me. Yeah, I get that he's the only one in line. I get that the Cinnabon worker is taunting him, and going to extra lengths to taunt him at that. And... um, OK, sure. It's there, but it's not particularly funny.

Someone mentioned strips that don't have a "setup, punchline" structure, just take an idea and let the characters work it out -- that's a great idea, but it's an idea that needs as much work and/or luck in execution as any other. It's not funny in and of itself, or emotionally poignant in and of itself or anything else. It takes either talent, hard work, dumb luck, or some combination of any two or all three for it to work... just like with everything else in life :)

Comment from: AngelHedgie posted at March 26, 2005 1:44 PM

Hrm...is it wrong that my first thought on reading that particular cominc was "hey, is that a Tom Goes to the Mayor reference in the second panel?"

Comment from: AngelHedgie posted at March 26, 2005 1:45 PM

Hrm...is it wrong that my first thought on reading that particular comic was "hey, is that a Tom Goes to the Mayor reference in the second panel?"

Comment from: manoffeeling posted at March 29, 2005 11:26 AM

I signed up just to answer this post, too. But I guess nobody's ever gonna read it.

"They came first, and they're the biggest, so they make the shiniest target. Makes the kids feel good to think they've stuck it to the big guy."

Being "big" doesn't make you beyond reproach. If you're interested in webcomics at all, you sort of have to have an opinion on Penny Arcade BECAUSE they're so big. If you think webcomics are trash, why would you care that one webcomic is trashier than another? but I think the people commenting here consider webcomics to be a legitimate medium, maybe. Except for the artist himself, art is nothing if it's not something for people to talk about. But the only thing worth saying about PA right now, as I say see it, and at least a few others, is what a suffocatingly uncreative force they are in webcomics. Right now, today, Penny Arcade is influential, but I think even that is mostly a result of being at the right place (the internet) with the right idea ("humorous" commentary on videogames), and being there first, more or less. Will they be influential a couple of years after they stop publishing (if not sooner)? I doubt it, for these reasons: cuz PA is painfully formulaic, Tycho's writing style is tortuous and self-indulgent, Gabe's art is boring and derivative in a very general way, and if they once in a while make a funny comic, well, THE SUN SHINES ON A DOG'S ASS once in a while, as they say. You can argue the "theory" of humor all day, but it's the execution that makes things funny.

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