"What's it all about, Zippy?"

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Rex Bachmann, Apr 29, 2004.

  1. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    Zippy the Pinhead; What's it all about?


    For a long time now I've found this to be a frustrating, off-putting, and incomprehensible cartoon. I wish to come to understand what it is intended to be and to find out what is its intended audience: "pointy-headed academics"? "smartassed fanboys"? "gentleladies of the tea-and-crumpet circuit"? "murderous overweight bikers"? Who?????

    Here are the reproduced dialogs from three recent examples of this strip, with Weblinks.

    (a) "Cheeky Tiki" (April 20th, 2004) is the first one I've read that I ever "got". It consists of dialog between Zippy and a Kon-Tiki head statue.

    Frame 1:

    Tiki: "Hey! I've got a good one for you---Does God have free will?"
    Zippy: ". . . Maybe . . . but has he seen 'Free Willy'?"

    Frame 2:

    Tiki: "No, really . . . think about it . . . If God is all-knowing, then he knows what his choices will be in advance, so he has no free will."
    Zippy: "I'm getting Excedrin headache number 666 . . ." [Hardy har-har]

    Frame 3:

    Tiki: "If God knows the future, he can't change it. If God created time and space, he's separate from both, so he's morally neutral---it blows my mind!"
    Zippy: "Has Mel Gibson been notified?" [more yucks]

    Well, shucks! "God has no free will." Yeah, so?


    (b) "Ollie, Ollie Oxen Free" (February 18, 2004). Two statues on pedestals outdoors converse.

    Frame 1:

    robed animal-headed (lamb?) statue: "Nice juxtapositioning."
    Olmec-man head: "Very global. Very mixed message."

    [A reference, I suppose, to the statues' originating in different parts of the world and presenting different styles of representational art.]

    Frame 2:

    robed animal-headed (hamster? bear cub?) statue: "Still no drop-in . . ."
    Olmec-man head: "Why do we bust our chops?"

    Frame 3: Zippy approches in the distance.

    Olmec-man head: "Finally. Here he comes. What should we do?"
    robed animal-headed (rabbit? deer?) statue: "Play statue."

    Okay, so what? Is there a significance to the changing animal heads in each panel? Is that part of the "joke"?


    (c) "Quoth the Pinhead, Baltimore" (March 26, 2004). Zippy and a statue of the seated Edgar Allen Poe figure trade lines, seemingly cross-talking one another.

    Frame 1:

    Poe statue: "While I nodded nearly napping | suddenly, there came a tapping . . ."
    Zippy: "Uh, Mister Poe, don't you think Justin Timberlake is, like, so six minutes ago?"

    Frame 2:

    Poe statue: "Much I marvelled this ungainly | fool to hear discourse so plainly, | though his answer little meaning |---little relevancy bore. . . ."
    Zippy: ". . . And, like, reality tv, what's up with that?"

    Frame 3:

    Poe statue: "Be that word our sign in parting, | fool or friend, I shrieked upstarting | Get thee back into the tempest | & the night's Plutonian shore!"
    Zippy: "Thanks, Mr. Poe! I hope you get your HBO special soon."

    Okay, I get the pun of the title "Baltimore" on the refrain "never more" from the famous "Raven" poem, and that the Poe statue is doing a take-off of lines from the poem throughout the strip. What else am I missing?


    Those of you who think they know and understand this cartoon, please join in. Please point to examples of what you're talking about. You can probably find them at the Zippy the Pinhead Website.

    What the hell is Zippy the Pinhead supposed to be about?

    What planet are these events supposed to be taking place on?

    What's the background story here? Who is this clown?

    Does anyone find this funny? Is it supposed be funny? If not, what is it supposed to be?

    The strip seems to consist of a sort of observational existentialism informed by the "cutesy cleverness" of a creator who thinks everything he says and does is "cool". Furthermore, the art of the strip is ugly and cluttered-looking. So, just what is the appeal here, both (or either) esthetically speaking or intellectually speaking??? I don't "get" it.
     
  2. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    Somehow, I don't think "getting it" is the purpose of reading Zippy. Maybe the artist does it for the $$$?
     
  3. Ike

    Ike Screenwriter

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    It's randomness. A mixing of high and low art and a stupid character's inability to distinguish between the two.

    I've never read it, but why bother if you don't like it?
     
  4. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    It's impossible to miss; in The Boston Globe, this thing is twice the size of most of the other comic strips (so is "Doonebury"; I think they have a minimum reproduction size written into their contracts). For me, at least, it takes a certain effort of will to skip over a single strip on the page, especially when it's got good strips (or the crossword) on either side.
     
  5. Ike

    Ike Screenwriter

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    Weird, Jason. I've never even heard of it before he mentioned it.
     
  6. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    That's not weird, although I'm not sure how Bill Griffith rates that sort of treatment when Scott Adams or Lynn Johnston doesn't (I don't particularly like "For Better Or Worse", but it's almost impossible to read at the size they print it). Weird, in Boston Globe comics terms, is John Updike writing in to protest when the Globe dropped the daily "Spider-Man" strip.
     
  7. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    Zippy has a lot of fine linework that if printed at the sizes Dilbert can go down to would just smear into a black mess. The continuing diminution of newspaper comics is not a good thing--back in the day things like Prince Valiant ran FULL PAGE and there were many pages of comics. It's hardly art any more, just a series of word balloons and stick figures.

    Kudos to Griffith for sticking to his guns. And if you have to have Zippy explained to you, well, then that's a pretty clear sign it's not meant for you. Read something else.
     
  8. andrew markworthy

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    Well, I 'get' the jokes, and to be honest, I don't find them all that funny. I imagine a lot of folks with intellectual pretensions will love them because they can pat themselves on the back for spotting the references (I can just see Frasier and Niles loving Zippy).

    It's part of a genre of intellectual humour that assumes a common background of knowledge gained through reasonably advanced reading. You are either in on the joke, or you're not.

    A couple of further examples to illustrate the point:

    Picture of a man in 1920s dress driving along in a 1920s Bentley. You can see a thought bubble coming out of his head, and the thought bubble says - 'I know, I'll buy Isadora a scarf for her birthday'.

    Or another:

    The scene is a World War I trench. The officer is obviously briefing his men prior to an attack (which given that it's WWI, it likely to be utterly pointless and involve large loss of life). He is showing them a picture of a church clock with the time at ten to three. And what is he telling his men? 'Okay, chaps, synchronise your watches'.

    Now both these are funnier than the Zippy examples if you know all the references, but if not, they are utterly baffling.
     
  9. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    Andrew, would the guy driving the 1920's Bentley be driving at break-neck speed?
     
  10. andrew markworthy

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    Oh, very good, sir.
     
  11. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    Ike wrote (post #3):


    I don't find them funny either, even when I "get" the joke. I understood the basics of the free-will cartoon mentioned above, I just don't know what's it's doing on the "funny pages", as they used to be called. That's why I'm constantly wondering whether I've missed something. Hence, this thread.


    Anybody else care to explain the background of the character and his world?
     
  12. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    I got the Isadora Duncan reference, but what's the deal with this one? Something significant about that particular time of day?
     
  13. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    My take of "Ollie, Ollie, Oxen Free"

    The statue doesn't change heads. As you can see from the central Olmec-Head, the other statues are arranged around it.

    Then , from what we hear of their conversation, they are capable of intelligent multi-sided deabtes, but when "He" shows up, they just "play statue" and be quiet.

    Its only mildly funny from the idea of talking statues.

    But then from the three seperate comics...maybe Zippy spends all his time talking to statues and the joke is somewhat differant.?


    These are the only three "Zippy" comics I've ever seen.
     
  14. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    Garrett Lundy wrote (post #13):


    The problem for me is, it's not really funny at all, so what's the point?
     
  15. andrew markworthy

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    Okay, the joke explained:

    (1) Amongst the World War I poets was a guy called Rupert Brook, who wrote a poem about a place in England called Granchester (more accurately, 'The Old Vicarage, Granchester').

    (2) At Granchester is an old church, and on its tower is a clock face. The clock face is totally painted, so the time on it (ten to three) is permanently fixed. [The painting in the cartoon is a painting of this clock face - i.e. a painting of a painting].

    (3) In the poem, Brooke is looking nostalgically at quintessential English country life (or at least, how it was if you were from a moneyed background like Brooke). The famous couplet from the poem is:

    Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
    And is there honey still for tea?

    (4) Brooke was very handsome, and his death in 1915 came to symbolise the doomed youth of Britain (we'll ignore the fact that he died of disease rather than in battle and his homosexuality was hushed up) and the line about the clock at ten to three became a mantra about what was being fought for in the war (the fact that Germany had no serious intention of invading Britain was conveniently ignored).

    (5) In later years, after the jingoism had died down and a correct perspective on WWI poetry had been reached (i.e. most of it hystrionic or sentimental drivel written by rich kids) the Brooke couplet became associated with everything that was farcical about British ideals in WWI,

    (6) So the joke in the poem is that the men in the cartoon are about to die for an inane sentimental ideal. The idea that they should synchronise their watches to a painting further enhances the lunacy of the situation.
     
  16. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    I see, levels within levels. Thanks for the explanation, andrew. [​IMG]
     

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