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Before The Title, Past
A Nonfiction Column
By Jeff Shelby


A Laughy New Year

     Cartoons kill me. Perhaps a thirty three year old husband and father should take things a little more seriously, but I can’t help giggling at the funnies every morning when I pick up the paper. And then I giggle at them on the internet during the day when I’m supposed to be doing something productive. And then when I could be reading some important piece of historical non-fiction or a biography that weighs as much as my car, I giggle at the cartoons some more as I page through the collections in my library. Here are a couple of my recent favorites that will keep you laughing through the year:

The Complete Far Side by Gary Larson
     1266 pages???? What kind of kook puts together a book with 1266 pages of cartoons and then expects the public to pay over $100 for it? Gary Larson, maybe the funniest guy ever, that’s who. This gorgeous coffee table book contains every Far Side cartoon Larson’s ever done and also a great Foreword by Steve Martin. Some don’t make sense, some will make you smile and some will make you laugh out loud. Dropping $100 for arguably the funniest and most popular strip of the last twenty years is a deal. (My favorite is the one where the kid is pushing on the door that says “School For The Gifted” when he should be pulling. Cracks me up every time.)

Who's Up for Some Bonding? A FoxTrot Collection by Bill Amend
     If you aren’t familiar with the Fox family, you are missing out. Middle class life has never been portrayed more truthfully or as hilarious as in Amend’s strips. Goofy parents, three distinctive kids and one creepy little iguana make this one of the most successful strips of the past few years. Amend’s take on the role of pop culture in the modern family is dead on and he makes it funnier than most.

Pearls Before Swine: BLTs Taste So Darn Good by Stephan Pastis
     Rat and Pig. Two living things most of us hope never to find in our house, but when they arrive in the funny section every day in the newspaper, I couldn’t be happier. This is one of the newer strips out there, but also one of the funniest. If they aren’t in your local paper, get the book and catch up.

Blueprint for Disaster: A Get Fuzzy Collection by Darby Conley
     I’ve saved the best for last. Rob, Satchel and Bucky are like part of my family. The ever frustrated bachelor, the oh so sweet dog and the pain in the rear end cat are never not funny. Simple as that. My day isn’t complete until I’ve read the day’s strip. The offbeat references, Bucky’s infatuation with monkeys and the life these three lead in a small apartment are the best thing going in today’s comic strip world. Pick up any of the collections to say you started reading this series before it got huge. It’s almost there.

Wishing you many guffaws and chuckles in 2004!

2004 Past Columns

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