December was a month without entertainment. It was a lot of moving, straining, negotiating, visiting, visited-ing, drilling, mopping, hanging, and confusing. I wasn't doing shows, wasn't really giving myself time to write, and despite a really nice break from work, most of my free time was devoted to all things not-very-creatively-satisfying. (I did paint some door hooks green, though. Jealous?)
2006 is already shaping up pretty nicely, though. I've already had fun at a couple of shows, including the Ritalin Readings on Tuesday. (I only wish I could have seen all the other readers that night, but we were sort of corralled in the green room like ASPCA rescues, to make room for the legit audience.) On Tuesday I also found out I got into the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen this March, which was pretty cool news.
and if you already thought that was navel-gazing...
Finally, I had The Strip Show with Bob this week, and it might have been my favorite lineup of people we've ever hosted. The comic strip fans in the audience seemed really happy, as did the performers. More than a few people in attendance told me they weren't fans of comics and were a bit skeptical about a show like this, but were quickly won over.
I think there's a general impression that comic strip artists are angry shut-ins and misfits, and this is probably true to some extent; but many comedians suffer from the same problems in the 23 and 3/4 hours they aren't on stage. And we were lucky to have pretty charismatic presenters. I nearly lost my shit when Michael Kupperman did his loud, insane impression of Jesus' wicked half-brother, PAGUS. And Evan Dorkin, whether he realizes it or not, is really a stand-up comedian who happens to also be and incredibly gifted illustrator. He frets a ton before the show—a quality I really recognize in myself—and after his set he genuinely has trouble gauging whether the performance went well, but when he's up there on stage, in front of his work, he is just so completely in the moment. Really biting and funny.
I have always loved funny comics, and it's ridiculous to me that somehow along the way I've been allowed to be simultaneously a fan and peer of incredibly talented people like Kupperman, Lauren, Emily, and Evan.
The other (personal) bonus of doing The Strip Show was that it was an excuse for me to draw, something I rarely take the time to do anymore. When I was a kid, drawing was the only thing for which I had any patience. I hated reading, so much so that I was responsible for introducing an amendment in my fifth grade class' policy on book reports: thanks to my endeavors, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books were considered legitimate subjects for book reports, but it was required the student must read two CYOA books for every normal book. (My book reports usually went like this: "In The Adventure of Pirate's Cove, I came upon a pair of caverns. I chose the cavern on the right, which was filled with vipers. I won't give away the ending, but let's just say I wouldn't make the same choice again.") I hated practicing violin, so I never did. And at the year-end third grade student symphonies, I was relegated to the pizzicatto plucks on "Pop Goes The Weasel." I found this strangely satisfying because, let's face it: that's the best part of the song.
But I had endless stamina for sitting in my bedroom, drawing with the office supplies my dad stole from his job. (In a speech I wrote for my dad's retirement, I made a joke about all the office supplies he stole for me, including huge reams of paper and boxes Templar pencils and Bic flairs. When the speech was delivered in my absence, my mother edited that part out, fearing my dad's 25+ year employer would revoke his pension.) I think all that time spent drawing was how I developed a real affection for solitude, because it was an area I devoted myself to fully, in complete silence, for stretches at a time.
Even now, when I sat down to draw for the show, I instantly remembered how much I liked concentrating on the challenge of getting shapes and shadows correct, and making the finished piece match the way I'd pictured it in my head. As I write this, I realize it's all very obvious, but it kind of helps me to write it down, if only to remember that I can actually focus on a singular task for an extended period of time, without needing to check my email or add an item to my Amazon Wish List.
For The Strip Show, Bob and I did a piece at the top where we explained that we'd also gotten into drawing original comics, even with our limited talents. And we presented them to the audience, inviting them to critique them against the comics our guests would be presenting.
The first comic I presented was a two-character strip called KOO KOO & NUTTERSBY. The premise was that I was experimenting in creating likable characters but I quickly realized I didn't know how to draw, and didn't know how to find characters who had much to say to each other; all I had was a good name. Here is the strip:
(I also presented a very special political episode of KOO KOO & NUTTERSBY, which can be seen here. I expect this comic to become a huge web phenomenon.)
I then explained that, to get in the right head for creating original comics, I went back and read a bunch of comic strips I really love. Out of that came the inspiration for an incredible new comic about a dry, sardonic rabbit named FARFIELD. My Farfield strips—all hand-drawn! (brag)—are here:
(The two men in the strip are Me [bearded] and Bob [drdunk], Farfield's owners.)
They're also here, and, finally, here.