Thursday, August 02, 2007

WANTED: CLASS CLOWNS!

Don't you love class clown art? It's the stuff that used to crack everybody up in high school and earn the artist and the people who laughed at him a session in detention. It's so delightfully ignorant, so spectacularly stupid, that nobody can resist laughing when they see it. I'm happy to say that the noble example above (click to enlarge) is by a Theory Corner reader, Daniel Aguilar. Thanks, Daniel! You did the site proud!
What class clowns know that more polished artists tend to forget is that ignorance is funny. Too many professional artists are cursed with good taste. They just can't bring themselves to stoop to the level of what really makes people laugh. Thank Goodness Don Martin (above) didn't have that problem.
Of course you could argue that if they were willing to stoop they couldn't do it anyway. Class clowns are a special breed. Most people couldn't do it if they tried.
Animation studios are always trying to do funny shows without hiring funny or creative people. I think that practice started in the 60s when New-Agers spread the belief that everybody is creative and only needs to express it. After 40 years of decline in the arts, isn't it time that we laid that theory to rest?
Beavis & butthead, South Park, and the Simpsons certainly proved that there's an audience for ignorant drawing, but my own taste runs to the better-drawn examples of the genre like the kind of things Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, Bob Nolan and John Kricfaluci did (See John's "Naked Beach Frenzy"). They worked hard to keep the class clown sensibility in 3-dimensional, constructed characters.


Studios should hire class clowns, especially the ones who can draw. I don't think Pixar will ever do this because they seem determined to be known as "The Refined Studio," but maybe the smaller studios will take a chance.




34 comments:

I.D.R.C. said...

There should be a museum or coffee table book of teacher-confiscated Bic pen art. Trouble is, they never give it back.

Animation studios are always trying to do funny shows without hiring funny or creative people. I think that practice started in the 60s when New-Agers spread the belief that everybody is creative and only needs to express it.

I think you could just as well blame it on the word "animation," which for some reason replaced the word "cartoon". Everyone knows a cartoon is stupid and funny. If you say you make cartoons, that's your goal. If you say you make animation, the goal seems to be to make cartoons that are not that funny.

But whatever the root cause, I agree it's past time for the industry to show some real support for stupid funny. We do have a handful of stupid funny shows in the post-R&S era, but alas, not much visual skill on them. Without that, certain very entertaining kinds of stupid funny just aren't possible.

Anonymous said...

Many of the guys at Pixar are among the weirdest, funniest class clowns I've ever met or heard of. They don't crook their pinkies or laugh politely, they are hysterical and guffaw, etc., just like real cartoonists.
"Refined"? I guess that's what you think of their stuff(obviously)-fine, but I wouldn't rush to label guys you don't know.
Someone could say they wished Tiny Toons had "had wacky, crazy cartoonists working on it-what a shame that guys like Eddie are so sedate(d)", etc. based on your reasoning. But that wasn't the case, was it?
Just something to think about.

JohnK said...

Thanks Mr. PhitsJerrold,, but you spelled my name wrong again!

Spizzerinktum said...

I have always operated under the assumption that stupid and funny are the same thing. I can't count the number of times I've praised something as being stupid and discovered I'd hurt the feelings of the person who created it. I always end up having to clarify: "But stupid means GOOD!" It can even mean great.

i.d.r.c. nailed it: it's that icky "animation" word that's the trouble. The first time I went to one of those "animation" festivals I saw a few decent cartoons in a row, all made with cels and everything, then I recall sitting through a Bill "Formula Hack" Plympton piece, and then something terrible and deeply troubling appeared on the screen: Sand.

That's right. It was a sand cartoon. All swirly and New Age-y (though that term hadn't yet been invented) and probably about feminism or soybeans or how it felt to be a Virgo. It went on and on and on, just like real sand does when you are in the desert, alone and friendless with no car, no soda, and a bad case of herpes.

Sand cartoons. There's your culprit, friends.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the strangest experiences I ever had was when I recognized a gag cartoonists style, in a situation I did not expect him in. He is stupid and funny, and somehow is very good at expressing timing and reaction in very minimalistic ways.

I was channel surfing, caught a bit of Spongebob, which I don't watch normally, and there was this bit with Spongebob, and Patrick standing in line. There was a funny gag, and I immediately thought... Sam Henderson! I made sure I caught the credits, and sure enough, there his name was! I had only seen him in alternative comix, and his own Magic Whistle.

He cant' 'draw' but he can 'funny'.

In my grade school drawings, when the gag went "blue' there was this fellow that was determined to get me in trouble, hated me for some reason, and would always take the naughty gag to the teacher.
I always wondered what his beef was.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

IDRC: Good point! I much prefer the use of the word "caroon" because it reminds the speaker of the funny origin of the industry.

Neil Gabler's been promoting his Disney book and he always uses "animations" to describe what Disney did. It makes me want to strangle him.

Anon: Ouch! Well, I can't argue with that, but if there are all those funny guys running around there then they must be terribly frustrated.

"Ratatouille" afforded a great chance to test the comedy water with Remy's rat friend but we only see a tantalizing glimpse of what could have been. I get the feeling that a lot of gags were generated for this character but they never made it to the screen.

Pixar is too cautious where comedy is concerned. A character will go right up to the brink of pulling off a visual gag then back away at the last moment.

Linguini's writhing at the stove is a case in point. That could have been a really memorable scene. The gag was carefully set up, the audience was all primed for a tour de force scene, and what they got was some mildly amusing bends. If the studio had funny people they should have put them on that scene and let them run with it.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

John: A typo! Thorry!

Spizz: Was that sand cartoon by Carolyn Leaf? I may have seen it.

I agree about the virtue of stupid. Lately I use the word "ignorance" to express what I used to mean when I said stupid. It dawned on me that some kinds of stupidity are really irritating but the subcategory of ignorance is always funny.

Of course ignorance seems too slight a word to describe the guy with the finger on his ear in the Don Martin cartoon.

Lester Hunt said...

"Linguini's writhing at the stove is a case in point." Or the scene where the rats make dinner. That could have been a bravura sequence of food-based slapstick. In actual film, they show a rat on a piece of cheese tobogganing down a grater and, as I remember it, that's pretty much it. The film moves on to advancing the ever-loving plot. Imagine what the Fleischers would have done with that scene: the green pea machine gun, the egg-beater motor boat, etc.

Looney Moon Cartoons said...

Finally a little recognition for the class clowns. In school I was always drawing cartoons of the teacher falling over, goofy rednecks and general stupid shit. I have never had to stoop to that level because I live my day to day life on that level. In fact, I just got fired from my job as a concierge for drawing cartoons all the time and being 'artsy'.

Kali Fontecchio said...

"IDRC: Good point! I much prefer the use of the word "caroon" because it reminds the speaker of the funny origin of the industry. "

Hahahah caroon!

"Thanks Mr. PhitsJerrold,, but you spelled my name wrong again!"

Hahahha PhitsJerrold!

I like 'em that there yer blagposse o'er yonder er what knot, Der Fits-Pap-treeeeeeeeek Daruuuaauuuuuuu!

Lourve,

Kadiiiiiiiii Fun Tech E O

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Kali: Haw! Nice picture! It looks like you had difficulty passing that baseball you swallowed last week!

Anonymous said...

I think its unbelievable that john k isnt producing his own show right now. Theres at least 30 half hour animated kids shows in full production right now and they all stink

Tom said...

I once got an "A" on a geography paper in sixth grade but, the teacher evilly pointed out, because I'd drawn a cartoon in the lower left corner of the paper, he was lowering my grade to a "C". Well, today that teacher is dead!

Anonymous said...

Ignorance is your best entertainment value.

Anonymous said...

"I can't argue with that, but if there are all those funny guys running around there then they must be terribly frustrated."


No, they aren't terribly frustrated", strangely enough. They take pride in what they do and justly so. And sometimes the very funniest, most creative guys there do get to see what they did actually followed through to the screen. Icing on the cake.

Meanwhile they do as many cartoonists do: funny drawings with their friends, being creative, eating lunch, having a laugh-all the things that made your career fun even if you didn't do stuff you were always thrilled with in the end. That's life. It's too short to wallow in "frustration" based on someone else' perception of what is successful or measures up.

Wouldn't you agree?

I.D.R.C. said...

It looks like you had difficulty passing that baseball you swallowed last week!

That's how the girl in the Brighton Beach scene should've played it!

I.D.R.C. said...

Wouldn't you agree?

Not me. I think if they had any real balls there'd be a revolt. Instead they are content to accept the reward of a paycheck for betraying their own instincts.

Just a thought.

Charlie J. said...

hey eddie!

I have a terrytoon comic with a JIM TYER story thats about the evils of class clownism! It ends with dinky duck encouraging kids not to play jokes but go to the library instead! Imagine the wackiest animator of all time telling kids not to be funny!

pappy d said...

The class clowns are out here. But how do they wind up serving at the pleasure of schoolmarms?

A class clown needs feedback from an audience, too. Is there some place where 'board artists sit around a table together & try to crack each other up as they work? Working alone, it seems like the clever wry-smile bits appeal to you more than the crowd-pleasing belly-laugh stuff.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

At least we have action movies, rap music, and Will Ferral movies (when he's not trying to be arty like in Stranger Than Fiction) to fill our ignorance quota.

Actually, the hip-hop theory is that only the beats have to be igorant. People love ignorant lyrics, but as long as your beats are ignorant you can rap about anything you want. But nothing less than three syllables per line should rhyme, por favor. We are not animals.

If Transformers had been a more ignorant film, it wouldn't been alot better. They tried to give it a story.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Anon: No offence intended. I don't expect Pixar to change course tomorrow and do my kind of slapstick. It's not that kind of studio.

Let me re-constitute my argument and confine my criticism to the handling of Remy's friend and Linguini's spastic scene in the kitchen. If the studio had more comedic awareness those parts of the film could have shined.

I cringe to think of things that went through during my watch and I have a natural sympathy with people who have to deal with the same problems. Admitting that still leaves room for friendly criticism, which this is.

Charlie: Scan it and link to it!

Gabriel said...

I once got an "A" on a geography paper in sixth grade but, the teacher evilly pointed out, because I'd drawn a cartoon in the lower left corner of the paper, he was lowering my grade to a "C". Well, today that teacher is dead!

Haha, cool story! I got one too: here in my country our grades are numeric, from 0 to 10. I always had the habit of drawing on the tests. One time I didn't get any of the questions right, and my teacher wrote: "math: 0, drawings: 10".

PCUnfunny said...

"I think that practice started in the 60s when New-Agers spread the belief that everybody is creative and only needs to express it."


I think this is definetly were the word "style" has gotten out of control.It has become an excuse for bad drawings. I can't tell you how many times I tell people South Park or some flat cartoon looks like shit then someone says "Oh that's just there STYLE". That is not style, that is crap.

Anonymous said...

different tastes for people obviously. for me pixar doesnt cut the mustard. doesnt really do anything for me as well as most cartoons out right now.

again, it is all relative. what might be HILARIOUS to you and your buddies at pixar, is not necessarily funny to me, or eddie, or a lot of other people. and what i find funny is probably offensive or "off" to you.

fair enough. but let us make the dinstinction between what eddie is talking about. dumb stupid funny shit. bottom of the barrel hilariousness that cartoons are best at exploiting. feature film 3d is a whole other genre within the animation medium. i just dont think it lends itself to the organic assymmetrical retarded fun appeal of cartoon drawings. it depends on what you are trying to accomplish but you shouldnt be peeing your pants over this kind of stuff.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind in the least anyone who doesn't dig Pixar's output. What I take exception to is someone as bright as Eddie tarring a lot of people with an assumption about their tastes or sense of humor because he doesn't fancy "Finding Nemo" or Incredibles". He knows better than that.

Overall I don't see why an intersting little discussion of the importance of "class clowns" should include a left-field swipe at Pixar. What was the point of that? If Pixar is totally irrelevant to you and to Eddie then why bring them up at all?

Is his point strengthened in any way by putting people at Pixar down(and it is putting them down to imply they are either unfunny or poor frustrated souls because you think their films are dull or unfunny)?

I would be just as quick to defend Eddie if someone judged him by his credits on "Heathcliff" or "Tiny Toons".

Vincent Waller said...

Yes but would you do it under your own name, rather than Anon?

I.D.R.C. said...
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I.D.R.C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Heathcliff!!?? Good Lord! I forgot that I even worked on that. This is getting nasty! Anonymous is airing all my dirty linen. If this goes on even my dog won't talk to me.

Like I said, I don't expect Pixar to drop what they're doing and adopt my style, but I would like to see them use comedy (I mean real comedy) in places where it's appropriate and supports the story...like the Linguini spaz dance.

I did a post a while back on Disney's use of slapstick in Snow White. Disney had the dwarves slurping their soup, slapping and pushing each other...and that was in a feature!

Same thing with Dumbo. Pink Elephants compensated for the scenes where the little elephant's mother was pushed around. How about the slapstick in 3 Caballeros, Alice in Wonderland, and the Headless Horseman and Pecos Bill featurettes?

What I'm saying isn't that radical. It just seems that way because everybody is so doggone cautious these days.

I admit to being a little disingenuous here. I guess I actually do wish that a big studio like Pixar would drop everything and commit to a balls-out comedy some time in the future. Disney rolled the dice with Roger Rabbit and it worked for them. Maybe it could work for you guys too.

(Sigh!) We can hope that one of these days we'll see major animation studios commit to comedy the way that the Max Sennett and Hal Roach studios did.

Anonymous said...

if pixar decided to do a comedy theyd probably hire "comedy writers" and itd just be another shrek

Spizzerinktum said...

Was that sand cartoon by Carolyn Leaf?

Eddie, I saw that sand cartoon way, way back in art school and I wasn't paying attention (as usual), so I don't know who perpetrated it upon my young eyeballs.

Is Carolyn Leaf the one who made that sand piece that was circulating around YouTube a while back? She makes a constantly changing sand picture that turns into faces and birds and stuff like that. But you can see her hands--it's not animation--and even her face, maybe. I guess that kind of thing is sort of okay. Why? Is she your wife or something? Am I banished? <:^/

Regarding Ratatouille, the fact that Brad Bird let the rats be rats--running on all fours being the strongest example--and filled that poor woman's attic with them, among other delights of squeamosity, forgives (in my opinion) the squandered opportunities somewhat, though, like many of you, I was frustrated by the loss of what could have been. On the other hand, they had to finish the damned thing sometime.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Carolyn Leaf!? My Wife!!!? Good Lord no! I like Leaf's work very much in small doses but I have a feeling she wouldn't like the cartoons I like.

I did wonder if the cook's spaz dance in Ratatouille was the way it was because there was no time to correct it.

Anonymous said...

Beavis and Butthead is some of the funniest dumb humor around. John K says he likes B&B (http://www.inthe80s.com/july1995/animate/beavis.html), and King of the Hill. It's becuase of the percise character animation, even though it's not over-the-top and cartoony, it still accurately saterizes human faces. Also, the original Beavis and Butthead is a modern spin on the classic cartoons in which 1 or 2 characters are placed into a simplistic plot/setting for 6 minutes. In addition, Mike Judge claims that he made drawings as a kid to make his friends laugh, i.e. he was a class clown. Seems to fit in with your ideals to me.