Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fred the Clown

Several of the chapters in Roger Langridge’s “10 Steps to Happiness,” in his 2004 Fred the Clown book, are hysterical — particularly “Alphabet,” going from Fred the Amorous to Fred the Zoophyte (Langridge loves his word play); “Where the Smart Things Ain’t,” his play on Where the Wild Things Are with giant Pogo characters in pursuit of the protagonist; and especially “The Shoulders of Giants,” with its nod to Buster Keaton, Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Harold Lloyd, et al.

This last story in particular has a plot and a message rather than just another custard pie and a good gag.

Also attesting to Langridge’s talent are his variations on Peanuts, Garfield, Family Circus, The Phantom, Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend, the Yellow Kid, Krazy Kat, Blondie, the Hulk … and even Shakespeare. His brilliant essay on the Fred the Clown comic strip, by comics historian “Helvetica Darwin,” demonstrates his knowledge of newspaper strip legacy. (And it carries a laugh-out-loud final punchline.)

And I was delighted to see his inside reference to Doctor Who.

On the other hand, there’s a wide streak of truly unfunny incontinence jokes — no pun intended — that’s hard to ignore.

But maybe not all the stories are intended to play well with others. They bring a laugh, a pie in the face … and occasionally some really dumb, infantile jokes. Just like the socially troubled Fred himself.


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