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Funny Times December 2014 Issue

December 2014 Issue Cover

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Cartoons about:
Holidays . Relationships . Dentists . Obesity . and more

Cartoons by: Isabella Bannerman, Lynda Barry, Clay Bennett, Bizarro, Harry Bliss, Matt Bors, Martin Bucella, Jon Carter, Tom Cheney, Dave Coverly, J.C. Duffy, Bob Eckstein, Samuel Ferri, Randy Glasbergen, Martha Gradisher, Jeff Hobbs, Nicole Hollander, David Horsey, George Jartos, Ham Khan, Keith Knight, L.J. Kopf, Mary Lawton, Carol Lay, Heather McAdams, Chris Monroe, Carlos Montage, Steve Moore, P.S. Mueller, Mark Parisi, Joel Pett, Hilary Price, Ted Rall, Flash Rosenberg, Maria Scrivan, Andy Singer, David Sipress, Jen Sorensen, Mick Stevens, Mark Stivers, Tom Swick, Tom Toles, Tom Tomorrow, P.C. Vey, Kim Warp, Shannon Wheeler, Matt Wuerker, Zippy … and lots more!

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Cartoon of the Week for August 27, 2008

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Turning ’50s

By Ray Lesser

I’ve entered my second childhood this year. Turning 50 has been a great excuse for my half-century friends and I to have dazzling parties, exotic vacations, and any number of fantasies acted upon, before we become too old to remember what it was we always wanted to do. But one of the best entertainments of the year has been revisiting the almost ancient past, the late 1950s, when we first learned to crawl, walk, and talk back to our parents.

Growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland, in a neighborhood filled with other kids, I remember endless hours of cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, Nazis and Allies; basically any game that involved choosing up sides and then trying to capture or kill each other. We also had terrific free-for-all battles using water hoses to blast each other and throwing volleys of crabapples, acorns, buckeyes, and rotten pears at the enemies of the day.

The guy who owned the Good Humor franchise lived on our block, so not only would the Good Humor truck come around with great frequency, playing its twinkly music and dispensing ice-cream treats to all the screaming little kids, but the Good Humor man would let us ride in the truck with him around other neighborhoods and ring the bell. Lots of other guys used to drive trucks selling things, too, like the Milkman, the Produce man, and the Meat man. Nowadays I imagine how great it would be if we had a Good Handyman truck, or a Good Babysitter Bus prowling our neighborhood for business.

All my siblings were between 11 and 14 years older than me, and I got to tag along through parts of their ’50s teenage experiences (because my Mom insisted they take me with them, so she could have a few minutes of peace and quiet). We went places like the drive-in, where waitresses wearing roller skates would bring trays of hamburgers and malts that would attach to our partly rolled up car window, while we listened on the AM radio to the latest hit singles by Elvis (“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog”), Jerry Lee Lewis (“Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!”), and The Coasters (“Yakety Yak, Don’t Talk Back!”).

All the teenagers wanted to look cool and act cool, which for the boys meant greasing their hair with Brylcreem and wearing tight t-shirts with their cigarette packs stuck under the sleeve at their biceps, while snapping their fingers and singing four part harmonies. I have my brothers to thank for the fact that I’m not a smoker, because when I was about four years old they gave me puffs of their cigarettes until I got so sick I never wanted to smoke another cigarette again.

Without air-conditioning we spent much of the summer hanging out on various porches, where everybody in the neighborhood was given a nickname. The boy nicknamed “Sewer” because of his sewer mouth made up most of our nicknames. Sewer is now a talk-radio host in California. “Sig” (after Sigmund Freud) went on to undergo years of analysis. “Tsetse” (like the fly that causes malaria) became a doctor specializing in exotic diseases.

I was nicknamed “Ivan Skavinsky Skevar,” after a popular song, that was one of President Eisenhower’s favorites:

There are brave men in plenty, and well known to fame,
In the army that’s run by the Czar,
But the bravest of all was a man by the name
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skevar.

He could imitate Irving, tell fortunes by cards,
And play on the Spanish guitar.
In fact, quite the cream of the Muscovite team
Was Ivan Skavinsky Skevar.

I was given this nickname because my grandfather fled Russia to escape a 20-year induction into the Czar’s army, and, coincidentally, I was good at mimicking my father, whose name was Irving. My fortune-telling and Spanish guitar-playing abilities came later in life.

In my house, Grandpa lived in the sunroom, next to the living room, and used to smear Vick’s Vapor Rub all over his chest each night, and all over mine, too, if I complained of a sore throat, or started sniffling or sneezing. Grandpa used to make wine in five gallon clay jugs, out of elderberries or plums, and then store it in a little room under the basement steps where he could frequently be found, sampling to see if it was ready. Another room in the basement was the dark room, filled with chemicals and strange equipment, where my brother Alan sometimes printed black and white photographs, and sometimes snuck into with his girlfriend.

The technology of the ’50s was amazing. We shared a party phone line with the neighbors, so I could often pick up the receiver and listen in to one of their daughters telling the latest gossip about the seniors at her school. Or maybe that was my own sister. No matter, it was still fun to secretly listen in. I think George Bush never outgrew this stage of childhood. The phone we used back then was a black rotary dial model, which my mom continued to rent from the phone company for over 50 years, until she finally moved. The amazing thing was, even though the dial was incredibly slow, and the ring was anemic by the end, it still worked, and had much better sound than most of the phones I use nowadays.

Then there was the fun of going down to the shoe store to watch the bones wiggling inside your feet. Here’s a radio commercial from back then:

“Every parent will want to hear this important news! Now, at last, you can be certain that your children’s foot health is not being jeopardized by improperly fitting shoes. Miller Shoes is now featuring the new Adrian Fluoroscopic X-Ray Shoe Fitting machine that gives you visual proof in a second that your children’s shoes fit. The Adrian Special Shoe Fitting Machine has been awarded the famous Parent’s Magazine Seal of Commendation

New Holidays

By Ray Lesser

Holiday season is upon us, but they’re the same old holidays we’ve always been stuck with. Turkey and football. Tinsel and standing in line for an hour to see a fat, sweaty temp worker dressed in a red flannel suit. Noisemakers, champagne, and the year’s first hangover. Isn’t it about time to add some new celebrations to our repertoire? Here are a few ideas:

Relative Trading Day (Monday after Thanksgiving). Everyone has someone weird in the family who makes trouble at every conceivable opportunity, and you’re stuck dealing with their problems for the rest of your life. Why not have a holiday once a year when you can permanently trade in your brother, who talks about his bowel movements every time you invite him to dinner, for someone else’s unwanted relative — say an uncle who comes over drunk and tries to borrow your camera to take to the pawnshop? Maybe you’d even get lucky and wind up with a sister whose worst fault is a fanatical cleaning fetish that causes her to come to your house once a week and scrub the floors.

Make-up Birthday Festival (May 2). For everyone who missed having a birthday party because they were sick, or no one remembered. Anyone celebrating their make-up birthday gets the day off. Everyone else gift wraps the birthday presents they never wanted, and brings them to designated party centers to be opened, and properly oohed and ahhed over. All citizens receive pointy party hats, a helium balloon, and a bag of party favors including glow-in-the-dark, rub-on tattoos, and pellets that turn into little animals when you drop them in water. At 1 p.m. the whole country sings “Happy Birthday,” led by the First Lady on piano and the President on kazoo, then has cake and ice cream.

Art Project Day (1st Friday in September). Remember in elementary school when the art teacher would come in every week for an hour? It didn’t make a difference if you hated art, or were color blind: Everybody had to cut out little bunnies and paste them onto green or red construction paper and sign their name in the corner, like Picasso, except with a crayon. It may have seemed stupid at the time, but it did get you out of taking another math quiz, or practicing how to spell Mississippi for the 97th time. Nowadays very few of us ever gets to take an art class, and express ourselves by gluing pieces of yarn onto each others’ rear ends. On Art Project Day, real live artists could come into businesses throughout America and lead employees in modern art exercises, such as spray painting graffiti on cubicle walls, or stringing rope in random patterns and decorating it with colorful monthly sales reports and bits of shredded confidential memos.

National Nap Day (1st Monday in February). Another holiday inspired by overly fond memories of elementary school. At 2 p.m. everybody stops working, and takes a nap. If you’re in your car you can simply pull over and lean the seat all the way back. At work, bring your sleeping bag and teddy bear and spread out on the floor next to the copy machine, instead of dozing off at your computer, like you normally do. Radio stations are required to play lullaby music for thirty minutes. No talking allowed or the monitor will have to separate you. After nap time everyone can have a snack of juice and crackers before resuming their regular routine.

Free Parking Day (April 15). Turn tax-deadline day into something to look forward to; the one day a year that you can park anywhere you want without fear of tickets or tow trucks. Pull into the fanciest $5-an-hour, high-rise garage, or the sleaziest “NO PARKING FROM HERE TO CORNER” downtown alley. Load in a NO LOADING zone. Park in a CUSTOMERS ONLY lot; even zoom into the IRS auditor’s RESERVED space. This holiday may be combined with Open Toilet Day, when all public and business bathrooms are unlocked and you can go anywhere in the city, any time you need to go, without asking some 17-year-old cashier’s permission first, or having to make a minimum purchase of a 32 oz. drink.

Alien Abduction Day (March 15). A free-for-all holiday open to varied interpretation. People who’ve been abducted by aliens could get together to talk about their experiences, including forums with Larry King or Geraldo. Groups of unfulfilled single people who would like to be abducted could gather in various well-advertised pick-up spots, like Iowa cornfields, or Area 51 in Roswell, New Mexico, to see if they can get a little alien action. The Defense Department, in partnership with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, could go on full alert and try to provoke any UFOs spotted into an all-out intergalactic battle. This holiday would have big potential for product merchandising and psychiatric referrals in an otherwise slow season.

National Yard Sale Weekend (1st weekend in June). We all have plans for a yard sale sometime in the near future, but most of us never get around to doing much more than gathering together an enormous pile of junk we never quite know how to get rid of. On National Yard Sale Weekend, everybody can stick all their mismatched jelly glasses, ceramic penguins, and 478-piece jigsaw puzzles outside for the neighbors to pick over. Even numbered addresses sell on Saturday, odd numbers on Sunday. Plenty of buyers, plenty of sellers, plenty of crap.

Editor’s note: This column was originally published in December 1996. It is being republished this month to help celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Funny Times and because the writer is out of town, celebrating a new holiday (for him), his 50th birthday.