Friday, April 20, 2007

Serious Hates Silly- rules vs fun

When I was a kid, everything had rules. Mowing the lawn had to be done according to the book. You had to read your comic books only at designated times. Hair couldn't ever be hanging over your ears. Tanning hides had its own special procedure at Chris Peterson's house. "Who taught you to hold a brain like that!?"

Rules made the world go around.

Especially at the dinner table.

You had to hold the fork in the right hand. You couldn't hold your knife facing the wrong way. I can't even remember all the rules, there were so many! There was a meat knife, a butter knife, a nose hair knife. The fork goes on the left side of your plate, the pickle fork goes in your ear...
What I do remember is how funny it is to break the rules. The more you did things wrong the more mad Dad would get. And even funnier than mad, sometimes is the frustration at how stupid and immature an 11 year old kid was to him.
"You're 11 years old now! GROW THE F***K UP!
It's time to put away your little comic books and starting thinking about the future!"

That line is burned in my brain forever!
Anyway, comedy is full of scenes where an authority figure is driven to violence by the immature and frustrating antics of the undisciplined silly character.

Remember how funny high school was? Did you have a history teacher who would get so mad at your talking and joking in class that he would break his pencils and throw them at you? Which would only make the situation funnier.How many times have you been told to stop laughing by a red faced authority figure?

This is how violations of sacred rules were resolved before political correctness ruined the world!

I've made this Stimpy face many times.

Look how satisfied Ren is that he has taught a valuable life's lesson.
Uh oh! another violation in table manners. You never balance a spoon on your head with the pea still in it!

My Dad used to shove his eyes into his brain all the time when lessons didn't sink in to my silly immature dumbass self.This didn't happen though. That's what cartoons are for.

Have any funny stories of you driving authority figures to frustration and rage?

I wonder why more cartoons don't get inspired by real life type situations and expressions? It's so fun to draw!
But you won't get any of the expressions off a model sheet. You'll have to observe the real world and find a way to interpret it.

BTW, The Animation world is full of arbitrary rules too (that change every few years), under the guise of "styles". You gotta get a lot of drawing skill so you can recognize what an arbitray stylistic rule or dogmatic routine action is, versus a solid principle. Then you can really start having fun. Of course the authority figures will hate you though.


glamaFez said...

The dinner table scene is the best scene in all of the Lost Episodes, in my opinion. Everything I love about Ren and Stimpy is encapsulated in that one scene.

Kali Fontecchio said...

You're such a troublemaker! I can't relate to that at all, I swear....

Driving in the car with my brother in the backseat with me, papa driving, and my mother in the passenger seat was our equivalent to the dinner table (we never all ate together except on holidays, maybe). I'd poke my brother until he exploded and punched me in the face, my mother without looking or turning around would smack him on the leg the backhand slap. I'd smirk at my brother's misfortune and then jab him again! My mom would then pick up on my shenanigans and quickly slap me twice as hard. Angry and bloodthirsty, I'd sock my brother as hard as an 8 year old girl could. He'd, of course, pound me in the face and arm, so my mom would smack us both in a lightning flash. Then a moment of reflection...before the storm of a sibling slapping, poking, name calling-fest! And of course, hell hath no fury like a mother menstruating!, "you little shits better act normal human beings before I.... Thomas, stop driving like a mad-man, you're making me ill! I should have driven, I'm surprised you haven't been in jail yada yada yada, etc. etc. ......

John S. said...

I had an art teacher in school that I used to delight in torturing. He was an old guy, and 60, 62, that fancied himself a fine artist, but was stuck teaching a commercial art class in a Magnet program. He looked like a cross between Captain Crunch and Colonel Sanders. One thing that would really make him angry is if you called him "Bud". He'd turn red and bellow DON'T CALL ME BUD!!!"
He was also a little hard of hearing, and for some reason had a hard time understanding you if you talked too fast. If you talked fast enough, you could drop little insults into normal conversation and he wouldn't notice. Like this: "Mr Witaschek, you dickhead, is it better to use hot press illustration board or cold press when using acrylics asshole and do I need to gesso before painting EVERY time?"
Ahhh memories!
This is one of my favorite Ren and Stimpy's , by the way.

Freckled Derelict said...

Angry Frustration = Funny.
My mom was the rigid athority in our house. Once when I was 9 and suck in the back seat of our car with my sister forced to listen to some sappy radio station. The song playing suddenly broke into a corny guitar solo, inspired my sister and I started playing air guitar on our seatbelts.
We got really into it and were cracking up which alerted my mother. She adjusted the rearview mirror so her eyes were peering down at us and went off on an endless saftey lecture "Knock it off and get your act together, Horse play in the car can cause some smart mouths to get in serious trouble....If I have to stop this car so help me god you are not going to be happy....
Bottom line we were told not to make another peep for the rest of the ride and of course while trying to be quiet we ended up making faces at each other, laughing hysterically and both were grounded.
Totally worth it....good times.

JohnK said...

all these stories are rife for cartoons!

I wonder why you don't see that sort of stuff in the so-called "realistic" cartoon sitcoms?

Maybe because it would take funny drawings to pull it off?

Jordan said...

OH John, I have a great one for you.

I had a horrible witch of an art teacher in Junior High. She was extremely thin, pale, had beady black eyes and frizzled red hair. She screamed at everyone, didn't let people talk while they drew (talking to friends while drawing can inspire creativity), and she was pretty much anti-creative.

She would give us assignments like we HAD TO DRAW DISNEY CHARACTERS. For a (at the time) rebellious kid like me, drawing Disney characters was like against my beliefs.

For Halloween we had to draw monsters. But we weren't allowed to make up our own. I made up my own. It was just a weird character with a wavy bumpy head and big teeth. I handed it to her and she hated it -- "I don't know who I'm looking at here, freddy kreuger or what?" I explained to her "I made it up" and she looked like I just said I was the pope.

There were several times in that class when she'd go crazy and scream at us, and force us not to laugh or talk. It was then we'd all be sitting at our desks trying not to laugh. Once a kid threw something at her, I think a marker or something. Several kids would be thrown out during these times and sent to the principles office.

We WANTED to get sent to the principle, because we didn't even DO anything, and the principle seemed like a normal rational person.

Anyway that's an idea of junior high "art" class.


Jordan said...

Actually I'm reminded of one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, where they're at a piano recital and Jerry puts a Tweety Bird pez dispenser on Elaine, and she bursts out laughing. That always kills me. Especially because of how amused and dumbfounded Jerry looks. He doesn't understand why she's laughing but he loves it.


Vanoni! said...

There was a meat knife, a butter knife, a nose hair knife. The fork goes on the left side of your plate, the pickle fork goes in your ear...


My parents had very little money growing up so I used my imagination a lot. But when I got tired of pretending boogers and rocks were cowboys and indians, I'd pop over to see my best friend who had every toy imagineable. His dad also had a woodshop. Every unsupervised act we started calmly enough but ended in disaster.
We'd start by gathering a bunch of tools and whatever wood we could scavenge, and build an impromtu fort in the backyard. One story wouldn't be good enough so we'd start a second. Then gun turrets! Trapdoors! BOOBYTRAPS! An incredible feat of architecture!
It wouldn't end until his dad found us and all his ruined wood and tools, not to mention a gigantic hunk of fort that would make M.C. Escher proud - held fast with no fewer than 834 wood screws. He'd scream so loud the neighbors would peek over the fence, and we'd move on to another portion of the house. Like the front yard - where we'd take all the above ground sprinklers and bury them. That wasn't good enough so we'd bring a couple hoses out, dig a trench and bury them with the tips ending beneath a huge dirt pile volcano. Then we'd take whatever action figures, cars, and small housepets we could find and stage an incredibly detailed battle scene. All that was left was to turn the water on full blast and sing Flight of the Valkeryies. BOOM!
His dad would come out, more flabbergasted than before, and shout something about paying for water and fixing the lawn.
This crescendo went on like this all day long until it was time for me to go home. And not because it was curfew - because we'd broken his dad's stress threshold. Usually around 6 o'clock he'd say, "I think it's time for Corbett to go home, now."
I'd start walking home, carefully sidestepping the debris in the front yard, and listen to his dad's screaming fade into the distance as I got further away.
Man, we had fun - but what assholes we were. :)

Jim Rockford said...

I had a stepfather with absolutely NO sense of humor who was provoked very easily,I dont recall ever seeing him laugh at anything ever,he thought cartoons were childish and lowbrow and was the only man I ever knew who couldnt stand the Three Stooges, so naturally being a kid I would delight in "speaking stooge" around him and acting out stooge antics at the dinner table.."what a funny thing,it doesnt know if its coming or going!" .only to get wacked across the face for my qoute Norton,Sheesh,what a grouch!
to this day I dont trust any man who doesnt like the Three Stooges.
Thank God some of us retain our offbeat sense of humor into adulthood...can you imagine a world grumpy stodgy sourpusses! Yikes! but I guess there is a place for those with no sense of humor too,they wind up as censors or network execs.

max said...

In detention today everyone was talking and ignoring an extremely frustrated proctor. She started screaming at the top of her lungs, "NO TALKING IN THIS ROOM! NEVER!" for a brief moment everyone was silent, and then some kid said to the other kid next to him "...So what were you saying?" causing everyone to laugh and start talking all over again.

Mr. Semaj said...

My brother and I still regularly tease our mom when we talk about SpongeBob, or any other cartoon of our liking.

"When are you two gonna stop watching them dumb-butt cartoons??"

Bazarov said...

I had a tendency to laugh harder the angrier my mom got. She finally realized I couldn't help when she would threaten me with two weeks grounding and I'd just laugh harder. I'm a huge fan and keep up the good work!

Barx said...

Those stories hit way too close to home-hilarious.
I once had a teacher pick up an empty desk and throw it at me. When he missed, he proceeded to break his metre stick over my head!

peldma3 said...

Yeah, I am drawing really awkward now,... because I am learning to draw and going through it is difficult.There is just no substitute for good drawing , and there's no faking it, now that I can see it." I have to actually re-learn how to draw." I got by for so long on alot of little tricks and formulas, But I now notice the dimensionality and structure in the old cartoons I love so much it and it made me realize I really coudn't draw , I just had this FLAT LITTLE FORMULA. Besides drawing from life and the Ppreston Blair book do you have any additional drawing advice John? I am sure I would not be the only one to benefit from it!
Thank you

peldma3 said...

On car trips My old man used to turn every song that came on the radio into something inappropriate for my young ears, I loved it , and it drove my mom nuts ! He still still does it.

Jennifer said...

These stories are FUNNY! Freckled derelict is right - angry frustration = funny. When my father would get angry, he would start yelling and cursing at my brother and me in German (he was from Germany and raised in England). My brother and I thought it was the funniest thing in the world. Even though we'd get in more trouble for laughing, we still laugh our a$$e$ off.

John, I can't believe that someone said to you, "you're 11 years need to think about the future".

I.D.R.C. said...

He looked like a cross between Captain Crunch and Colonel Sanders.

Which hat did he wear?

That spitton scene has so many great drawings in it. It's amazing. I want more new ones. Who do I have to blow at Viacomm?

Tom said...

Oh man, I had a band teacher in middle school who would get extremely pissed off. So, of course, we did everything we could to make him mad. We also complained to the school about him.

Once, after the school had talked to him I'm sure, he gave us red cards that we could hold up if he ever lost his temper. That way he would stop and calm down. Of course, the first time someone got to hold up a red card (probably a few minutes later) all he did was scream "I AM NOT LOSING MY TEMPER PUT THAT DOWN!" The next day, when he started getting angry, a group of kids held up a giant red crad made by taping about 50 of the red cards together. Then he really lost it. We made his life miserable but man, was it funny.

Anonymous said...

>"You're 11 years old now! GROW THE F***K UP!
It's time to put away your little comic books and starting thinking about the future!"

Wow. My dad said that to me almost verbatim the other day. Replace 11 with 17 and comic books with cartoons. I want to be a cartoonist, he's forcing me to be an accountant. Life is beautiful.

I'm racking my mind for authority figure stories, but the only ones I ever was in conflict with were my parents.

My mom and dad used to beat me and my sister (not my spoiled rotten Canadian raised little brother) all the time for talking and laughing too hard at the table, or talking to each other when he's talking, or for bothering our baby brother. At school I was the perfect student, and at home I was the hellraiser in the family. I really didn't change behaviour that much between the two places. My mom and dad would tell me that real brothers NEVER fight or disagree, and would make us feel guilty for our acrimony. They'd tell us stories from thier childhoods in Guatemala, saying how they NEVER fought with their siblings.

I think I've been grounded twice in my entire life (once for walking up the stairs too loudly), the rest of the times: BELT.

Here's a related idea for a cartoon:

What's the scariest thing in the world to little kids? Obviously, the answer is: your parents fighting. So Ren & Stimpy's parents could be fighting in another room (we never see them) and Ren tries to cheer up Stimpy in different ways throughout the cartoon, but he doesn't know how, as he doesn't know how to cure pain, only cause it. Stimpy is really scared and crying, Ren is trying hard to stay manly and not have any emotions (for his little brother's sake). Stimpy even goes so far as to say the "D" word, which makes Ren mad enough to slap Stimpy. "Don't you EVER use that awful word again about Mom and Dad! You hear me? That is not for this household!"

Ren could wear that Jughead hat with those Sniffles patched overalls with one suspender, and Stimpy could wear diapers and a po' boy hat. It could be a blackout cartoon.

lastangelman said...

From Lost Episodes:
opening scene of Ren Seeks Help, with Stimpy crying hysterically on bed, THAT is my mother pitching one of her Academy Award winning performances. Seeing that the first time was both funny and traumatic. Who was the real life model for that scene or who inspired that level of over the top theatrics?

ray said...

Hey John, are you in anyway involved with this book about every "Nicktoon"?

Trevour said...

My grandma has a NASTY temper. I mean, scarier than my own dad's (who he gets it from), but Grandma tops 'em all. My grandpa (who dearly passed 8 years ago) was just passive to my grandma's fuming tirades. My brothers and I would have to stay with them when my parents went out of town. One time when I was 5, my grandma got upset about something, and starting clearing out the kitchen cupboards and threw pots, pans, plates, etc. all over the house. What did my grandpa do? He took us down to the basement and we rolled a basketball around playing catch. I still remember his grinning face as we passed the ball around, while still hearing my grandma's screams and crashes just on the other side of the door at the top of the stairs.

Another time while we were staying with them, he accidentally backed his pickup into their car, and made a scratch on the car's bumper. Grandma went red once again - and I remember she took a bicycle out of the garage and actually THREW it into the driveway, bending up as it hit the pavement. She suddenly became the Incredible Hulk. What did Grandpa suggest? He took me and my brothers to Dairy Queen! I know it's not a laughing matter to upset grandma, but I admit it IS funny when she goes on her rampages.

Jack Ruttan said...

Something that's cool that I'm working on is drawing a couple of characters together in a picture, and then figuring out a story about them.

I like your guys, but they should be more expressive. :)

Joel Bryan said...

Oh man, I've spent my whole life enraging authority figures! But the best time was back when my best friends and I were in Cub Scouts.

Our scoutmaster thought it'd be a good idea to take us on a field trip to the local airport to see how hardworking air traffic controllers prevent midair catastrophes.

Since there was nothing we couldn't turn into a crude and idiotic comedy routine, we spent the entire time wandering off, making smart-ass comments, slapping each other in the faces and generally disrupting things.

As if the air traffic controllers weren't already rapidly approaching the breaking point and displaying shirts with darkened armpits and rivers of sweat running down the backs, they had to contend with a group of blue-uniformed chimpanzees that some well-meaning adult had unleashed in their fragile high-tech environment... with dozens of lives on the line.

In the car on the way back home, we kept it up, until the scoutmaster couldn't take it anymore and pulled us over to the side of the road then slammed on his brakes, smashing our little faces into the back of the front seat.

Redfaced, he launched into this amazing profanity-laced tirade, delivered at the top of his lungs. I'd never seen an adult come unglued before. Always when we'd crossed the line before, authority figures put us in our places with dignity and generally made us feel ashamed of having been jackasses.

Not this guy. He was pouring sweat even more than the air traffic controllers had been, just totally lashing into us for embarrassing him after he'd taken all this time and interest in making us good citizens.

We were shocked. I'm sure our eyes were huge. We sat there silently until he put the car back on the road again.

"I'm NEVER taking you little assholes ANYWHERE AGAIN! EVER!" was the last thing he screamed at us, over his shoulder as we narrowly avoided sideswiping a truck. And he kept his promise. We never went anywhere after that, just to meetings at his house and to local pack gatherings.

Poor guy. It wasn't his fault he happened to volunteer to master the worst scouts ever to disgrace the sacred blue uniform of maximum dorkosity. It just worked out that way. He did manage to help us get every single badge and award possible in Cub Scouts... even if we secretly cheated on most of them without his being aware of it.

I'll never forget being called an asshole by a full-grown adult. I mean for the first time. I've been called that many times since by both full-grown adults and tiny children.

Stephen said...

John, you are the best. Maybe sometime you can give us a history lesson on these "arbitray stylistic rules"...


Calyx Arts said...

I go to a private high school. We never get anything done. My PHYSICS teacher throws pens and pencils at us for talking, only to digress by telling us more about something funny he read. My HISTORY teacher will attack the offenders with a ruler, ending the scuttle with a big sloppy kiss on their cheek. I SWEAR. I live in a God damn cartoon.

Sara (Perry) said...

Read this while in a public place; now thanks to YOU, I probably got some weird looks just from trying to not bust out laughing. YOU SEE WHAT YOU DO TO ME, JOHN?

But anyway. I'm too big of a goody two shoes to actually do something to anger authority figures. ESPECIALLY my dad. He's like a freaking time bomb; one slip up, and he's yelling the house down. Terrifying to me still after all these years. Now at school though, I might get snapped at to be quiet when the entire class is silenced by a very irritated teacher, and the class retard is making faces and talking in a stupid, yet hilarious, way. We laugh, we get yelled at. I CAN'T DO FUNNY THINGS BECAUSE I'M TOO 'RULE ABIDING'.