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Gary Larson and The Far Side$
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Kerry D. Soper

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781496817280

Published to University Press of Mississippi: September 2019

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496817280.001.0001

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Deadpan Irreverence with Cosmic Proportions

Deadpan Irreverence with Cosmic Proportions

The Comedy of The Far Side

(p.59) Chapter 2 Deadpan Irreverence with Cosmic Proportions
Gary Larson and The Far Side

Kerry D. Soper

University Press of Mississippi

In this chapter the explores the comedic devices and themes on display in The Far Side. First, he looks into Larson’s working methods as a comedian, charting his process from free associative brainstorming into strategies of refining and clarifying his jokes, and finally receiving critical feedback from editors. Second, using specific cartoons as examples, he analyzes the humor of Larson’s work in relation to basic theories of what makes us laugh: surprising incongruities, irreverent treatments of taboo subject matter, and comic depictions of violence or misfortune that evoke in the reader mingled emotions of sympathy and schadenfreude. He then explores a number of the comedic devices commonly used in The Far Side, considering ways that Larson modified or combined them in original ways: wordplay that literalized figurative speech or tested the logic of clichéd maxims; in medias res (in the middle of the action) vignettes that required readers to complete a narrative; cross-overs between animal and human worlds; gothic or morbid deconstructions of comforting social myths; and cheeky parodies of a variety of genres, mediums and discourses. Throughout the chapter the author periodically breaks away from close readings of Larson’s cartoons to paint in broad strokes the larger philosophical meanings circulating around The Far Side, suggesting ways that his comedy often became pointedly satiric, borrowing from the philosophical traditions of naturalism, absurdism, and the carnivalesque.

Keywords:   Comedy, Humor Theories, Satire, Absurdism, Naturalism, Carnivalesque

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