From New York, original humor writing & commentary by Brian Sack. Subject to all the flexible quality standards of internet self-publishing.


The Week In Garfield

A weekly analysis of the world’s greatest cartoon.
Jon asks Garfield if he is jealous about his new flame, Liz. Garfield thinks Jon shouldn’t flatter himself.
Why this is funny:
The humor here comes from the fact that Jon secretly wants Garfield to be jealous of his dating Liz. For the cat to express such feelings would suggest that he values Jon and their friendship – offering a necessary boost of self-esteem to a 50-year old bachelor who has been living with a cat for nearly three decades.
However, what Jon has not realized in the 28 years he’s cohabitated with a cat is that Garfield is a sassy, independent feline with a rapier wit from which no one is safe.
Apparently the relationship between Jon and Liz is going swimmingly. Although Jon states he likes Liz “a lot” he is unwilling to be “serious” in the sense that he considers himself not ready to show her his sock drawer. Garfield agrees with Jon, and suggests that he should not show her his sock drawer until his wedding night.
Why this is funny:
In this case, no one is prepared for the comedic sucker-punch: that a sock drawer represents a relationship milestone. The comedy juggernaut continues through the last panel when Garfield suggests Jon should save the sock drawer for his wedding night with Liz. This is hilarious because most people do not see wedding nights as an occasion for sock drawer voyeurism but rather as a night of drunken humping. Or for traditionalists – awkwardness and bleeding.
Jon reports to Garfield that Liz laughed at his jokes all night. When he is greeted by silence, he inquires as to whether it is wrong to question Liz’s sense of humor. Garfield suggests that it is not, implying that Jon’s sense of humor is not good. The comedy factor is significantly increased by Jon’s polka-dot bow tie.
Why this is funny:
We start by laughing at Jon’s outrageous bow tie, then we find ourselves rooting for him. The child-like excitement of a 50-year old man gushing in front of his aged, snotty cat is endearing. When his enthusiasm is greeted by silence (a signature Garfield technique) Jon remembers he’s not funny. This is reinforced by Garfield who, like Mo’Nique, is never afraid to tell it like it is. The humor is multiplied because Garfield is a little cat and Jon is a human who could conceivably have the snarky feline put to sleep.
Liz meets Garfield and states that since she and Jon are dating, she hopes they can be friends. Garfield suggests that this will be difficult because he has seen her naked.
Why this is funny:
This preys on our emotional investment in Jon, and our anxiety about his new relationship. We want things with Liz to work because Jon is approaching his golden years and lives with an impudent cat. But we also know that Garfield is never going to make things easy – so we’re completely primed for his impish response. Naturally we’re not disappointed! Not only does he suggest he’s seen Liz naked (imagine the hilarious visual of a naked woman walking by a cat!) but Garfield’s excuse rings true: It is hard to be friends with someone who’s seen you naked. Right?
Jon and Liz express their like for one another. Jon informs Liz that he wants to take the relationship “to the next level” – which Liz comes to understand means polka-karaoke night. Garfield tops off the punch-line with the sarcastic quip “Welcome to our world, baby.”
Why this is funny:
Again, cartoonist Davis displays a mastery of the comedic art of building up expectations in the audience before delivering something completely unexpected. In this case, we all come to believe “the next level” must mean something significant such as dating exclusivity, cohabitation or sodomy. But no! Once again the reader is sucker-punched with the hilarious revelation that Jon considers “polka karaoke night” an advancement in the relationship.
When Garfield quips “Welcome to our world, baby” he is acknowledging that a socially inept 50-year old bachelor and a snide cat is an unusual situation for a woman to be brought into. One can only wonder what happens with Jon and Liz next week, and if there’s some kind of tenure for cartoonists.

Next week: A look at the incredibly subtle humor of Cathy.


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