By Jeremy Meltingtallow

(Click freely upon the images herein and experience embiggenation therefrom.)

Bizarro is brought to you today by Evolution Hiccup.

I was discussing cartoon cliches last night with someone I met at a friend’s house and he mentioned that Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor at The New Yorker, recently put together a list of them. Without reading the list, the ones that come to my mind most readily are “crawling through a desert,” “stranded on a tiny one-tree island,” “two people in a bar,” “a psychiatrist’s couch,” and the famous “ascent of man” line of evolving mammals, like the one above. There are dozens more, of course.

Two reasons cartoonists love to use these cliches are 1) they are setups that lend themselves well to saying something about the human experience, and 2) they are a fun way in which cartoonists can engage in a sort of friendly competition. For us, it’s less about who has sold the most books or gotten the most cartoons published, it’s about putting your best psychiatrist’s couch joke out there and seeing how it stands up against your cartoonist heroes.

I’ve done quite a few “ascent of man” cartoons like the one above. The most famous (of mine) and the one I’m most proud of can be found under these blue words. As you can see if you clicked that link, it isn’t funny, but it’s poignant and true and I think it will stand the test of time. If there are people around in a couple hundred years and they come across that cartoon, they’ll still get it.

The one today is a little more opaque, I think. It’s a product of my belief that all humans have a sense of arrogant pride about how much we’ve created as a species––complex language, writing, philosophy, the innumerable discoveries of science, modern technology and medicine––yet most of us never achieve anything of note at all. A very tiny fraction of us have created the amazing world we live in, the rest of us have just learned how to use it. In short, the overwhelming majority of us have evolved to where we are now, then do nothing more than turn around and try to dress up the chimp for a cheap laugh.

I’m no different, of course. I’ve not contributed anything life-changing to the planet. I just draw silly pictures for money in an effort to stay out of an office cubicle. So far, dressing up the chimp has worked okay for me.

This cartoon about punctuation was born out of my childhood memories. Like many families in the 1960s, a vacation to us meant piling into the station wagon and driving somewhere with a cheap motel (with cheap diner attached) and some kind of inexpensive attraction. We also moved across country twice in that station wagon, so we got plenty of family road time. Something our dad used to do to amuse us was to point out the signs that said “Stop Ahead” and get all of us kids to help him watch for the head so he didn’t run over it. It made us laugh.

This cartoon about the Dark Ages got some good play on the Interwebs this week. As you can imagine, people argued over whether it is stupider to believe the “official” story behind various historic events, or the conspiratorial versions. The latter are far more entertaining, of course. A few of my more philosophical friends and readers, however, posed questions about the nature of reality in the first place.

On a side note, several people complained that this cartoon disparages mechanics and they wished I’d have picked a different scenario. I have nothing against mechanics, by the way, it was an arbitrary choice.

And also, yes, there are isolated regions of America where there are people who pronounce “oil” to sound like “erl”.

Murder isn’t funny but the real subject of this cartoon is karaoke, and it most certainly is. Under the proper conditions, I have on occasion had one hell of a lot of fun with karaoke. My biggest dilemma with it is trying to decide whether to pretend to be a rock star and sing the song well, which is a blast, or go for the humor by pretending to be a melodramatic diva.

Come to think of it, that’s the same dilemma I have in almost everything I do: go for the humor, or play it serious. I’ve gotten in trouble many times by going for the humor but playing it serious can be so boring. Sometimes you just need to dress up the chimp.

One reader wrote to me this week to say it was unfortunate that this cartoon about the bloodthirsty king published the same day the U.S. bombing of Syria was in the headlines. He was concerned I would get a lot of hate mail accusing me of being insensitive, so I see his point, but the truth is it could not have been better timing. My cartoon is about the mental illness of power-hungry leaders who care nothing about human lives outside of their own tiny circle. I’d say this cartoon accurately describes both of the main actors in the Syrian story this week. (Yes, Assad has been more violent than Trump, I get that. Let’s not start shouting about who is worse. Neither of these assholes care about anyone outside of their tiny circles and we’ve yet to see how many innocent people will suffer/die under Trump. If he ignites a nuclear incident, he wins hands down.)

I used to have two children but now I have two adults. We’re close and always have been but raising them was equal parts rewarding and difficult. I tell my younger friends who are considering having kids to be sure they fully understand that it is not a hobby, it’s a career that will eat every other part of your life until there is nothing left of you other than being Mommy or Daddy. When they finally move out, you have to reinvent yourself. That suits some people very well, others not so much.

Another thing to consider is the exploding population vs. limited natural resources, and the large number of children in orphanages and foster care. Adoption is a far kinder, greener way to go than producing your own crotch fruit. I’m not preaching because I didn’t adopt, I’m just putting it out there. Both of my daughters––thus far, anyway––have decided against having kids. To be honest, I’m fine with that. I don’t want to attach myself emotionally to small children then watch them suffer at the hands of Trump’s policies, environmental and otherwise, the disastrous effects of which will last far beyond his 4-to-8 year reign. I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect the world is at something of a tipping point. I may not live to see the collapse, but babies born now certainly have an excellent chance of doing so.

Olive Oyl and I have one cat, Boo, and one dog, Jemima. Our dog is extremely emotional and has a lot of anxiety issues. Among the things that scare her are wind, people speaking passionately about any topic, cuss words (even when only muttered under the breath), loud trucks, parades, and fireworks. Mexico was not her first choice for relocation because they shoot fireworks and have parades here almost daily. Some weeks are quieter than others, but never do more than a couple of days go by that we don’t hear “bombas” going off somewhere nearby, often right over our house. We’ve already gotten Jemima something called a “Thunder Jacket” and that helps a bit, but we’ve decided to also get her a therapy dog. We hope that she’ll be comforted by having another dog around while we’re gone. This week, an opportunity presented itself to rescue an adorable puppy from the streets of our ‘hood, so look forward to some pics of our new family member soon. I will, however, NOT be posting pictures of food.

Thanks for your attention, Jazz Pickles. I always enjoy our time together. If you want to help support my cartoons and commentary, please have a big ole gander at the suggested ways of doing so below. The four of us at Rancho Bizarro will be most appreciative!