Tell Me A Funny Joke and I’ll Laugh At You

What do you expect a purple-blooded space alien to do? After all, you began the act of aggression throwing a humorous verbal construct in my general direction. Yes, that’s what your jokes are: aggression! You earthlings just don’t see reality clearly; a persistent feature that sometimes makes you endearing, but usually wrong.

You see, it takes a space alien to know what you earthlings should. You think jokes and humor are fun, frothy things. And that’s what Walters first thought when he called me into existence. He wanted to make people laugh and ease their cares. But little did he know what he was getting into.

Things such as a funny jokes video or a funny comic strip are pawns in service of you earthling’s hierarchical obsessions. In order to have more power than the other guy, you need to take him down a peg. If you laugh at him, you get the upper hand and more power. Jokes are the preferred devastating weapons of social engagement.

Some of you earthlings may accuse me of the same thing. You say that I, Zeno, spend most of my time mocking earthlings, that I must use the power of humor to establish the hierarchy between you and me. Nothing can be further from the truth, for I am a totally humorless being in a funny comic strip. I merely point out the wide—scratch that—the astronomical gulf between your marginal existence and my transcendent radiance.

OK, here is an example:

The boss asked his assistant, “Do you believe in life after death?”
“Yes,” said the assistant.
“Just checking,” replied the boss. “You see, after you left early yesterday to attend your grandma’s funeral, she came here to visit you.” 

In other words, the boss is saying, “Don’t mess with the power structure (i.e. hierarchy). I am the boss around here and you will not deceive me.” Carefree and frothy, eh Walters? Here’s another demonstration of social power disguised as a funny joke:

An employee walked into the boss’s office.
“I hope you can give me a raise,” he said. “I just got married and now need more money.”
The boss thought for a moment. [Contemplation just before a punch line is given seems to be a trend in earthling humor.]
Then the boss replied, “Sorry, we can’t be responsible for accidents outside the office.”

Ouch! The wife wasn’t even there and she gets thrown down the hierarchical ladder. Contempt is so good for a marriage…

So go ahead: tell me a funny joke. I dare you. Now that you know some of the underlying ugliness in humor, when you laugh again, it’s gonna hurt a little. Consider that my gift to you!

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Sayings on T-shirts Bug Me

I’m so happy that you earthlings are so proud of the fact that you can write. Over time, you sapian-dudes figured out how to arrange 26 letters into sounds, then words. And with these words, you made the little thoughts that accompany you through your little lives. For most of your civilization, you tucked those modest thoughts into scrolls, notepads and books—out of sight and blissfully out of the minds of the more advanced space aliens that happen to be amongst you.

Then came T-shirt sayings masquerading as funny T-shirt quotes.

So what’s the deal with writing on cloth? And wearing that cloth? And making sure that your painfully —and I mean painfully!—banal sentiments blast their way into my highly advanced ocular arrangement? What did I do to deserve this?

Of course there is your earthlings’ frightening lack of self-awareness when it comes to T-shirts with sayings. I’m talking about the “I’m with stupid” T-Shirt. Yeah, I get it: just below the words “I’m with stupid” there is an arrow that points to the wearer’s left. And if there is a fellow earthling that happens to be standing there, that unfortunate being (by definition, since that being is an earthling) gets the assignation of “stupid.” Did it ever occur to the T-shirt wearer that his mental acumen is not all that tip-top? Why would you want to broadcast to the world that your companion is dimwitted? I mean, don’t you earthlings say that one is judged by the company he keeps?

Another deluded human transmits this gem to the streets of Earth: “…And if I did get smart with you, how would you know?” The operating word here is “if.” Apparently, my earthbound friend believes that there is a reasonable probability of smartness in his future. Frankly, I wouldn’t count on it. In addition, even though he has some doubt about a smart future, he feels the need to lower the intellectual potentiality of his companion. Are the dimwitted comforted by the even more dimwitted in their presence? Just asking.

An Exception

Of course, I did encounter an earthling with a more realistic assessment of his mental state. Rather confidentially, he strode by wearing a T-shirt blaring “Do not disturb! I’m disturbed enough already.” I’m proud of that earthling; knowing one has a problem is the first step to recovery. Unfortunately, recovering from being an earthling is not very likely.

Here is an informal inventory of other “funny” quotes on T-shirts that I have seen that are presently searing my psyche:

  • The world is a strange place. Let’s keep it that way![1]
  • Sarcasm is just one free service we offer.
  • Who’s Pete Sake?[2]
  • I can give a headache to an aspirin.[3]
  • I’m not 50. I’m $45.95.
  • Keep staring. I may do a trick.
  • There’s one in every crowd and I’m it.
  • No one cares about your blog.[4]
  • I’m thin because I take myself lightly.
  • I’m not as dumb as you look.[5]

 There is an untold number of other little clothbound bromides strutting around your planet. I still don’t understand why; I’ll just have to find a way to get used to it

[1] No problem there
[2] That’s what I want to know
[3] I think that saying is backwards
[4] That hurts!
[5] Great way to make friends!
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I Deserve a Great Cartoon Voice Over

cartoon voice overYes, I am superior to you. You don’t know how many times I love to say that. But actually I’m not saying anything: I have no voice! You see, whatever I “say” is really a stream of written words. All my verbal pontifications translate into either erudite posts or comic strips with floating words above my head that somehow flaunt the laws of gravity.

So since one day I hope to “find my own voice,” I took some time to see how to get into voice acting. Not for me obviously since I have no voice, but to see what an earthling has to do to provide me with a cartoon voice over. (It’s absolutely galling for me that I have to be dependent on an earthling to be heard. Aaaugh!)

 The first thing I found that securing voice acting jobs is very competitive. So don’t quit your day job. (It’s so funny how you earthlings are chained to your diurnal rhythms of your insignificant sun. My job—to put earthlings in their place—proceeds regardless of sunshine.) Most of the voice acting jobs got to an established core of professionals. The skills for voice acting are considerable and people who need them are comforted by established track records.

Voice acting, the discipline encompassing the voice over cartoon, is concentrated in few regions of the United States. You guessed it: mainly New York or California. Texas is also becoming competitive. However, it may be worth investigating what is going on in your area. Because California is a high tax state, more and more entertainment related work is being outsourced to other parts of the United States and Canada. Keep your antennae up; mine always are!

Who Am I?

One aspect of voice acting is to create personas. How will that person act? Does she have an accent? Is he serious or lazy? When reading a script, there is a lot of information to read between the lines. Some say it’s a good idea to run a movie in your mind while reading. The extra care in contextualizing the script can give the performance more authenticity.

Having a good voice is a great start, but using it effectively is another story. An announcer could have a voice rich in luxurious overtones, but if the delivery is in a monotone, all the overtones on Earth cannot save you. The ability to deploy the voice effectively in order to get into voice acting is crucial and takes much work to perfect.

As for me, I don’t want an accent for my voice. Nor do I want it high and squeaky. And I guess if it’s too low, the voice just won’t jive with my 4’ 11’ frame. So what I should sound like is still way up in the air, just like the words floating over my head.

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Funny Birthday Cards Are Not So Funny

As I may have mentioned before, I am two billion years old. I remember visiting your planet ‘bout a billion years ago when the only earthlings in existence were little single cells. How much more tolerable you earthlings were back then, single cells swimming around, happy as can be. Who knew that when you developed into the multi-cellular “miracles” that you are today that you would grace the universe with reality TV and monster truck shows. I mean, who knew?

This brings me to an uncomfortable observation. No, actually I’m quite comfortable. So this brings me to a simple observation: I get to be two billion years old; you are lucky if you see 100. Because of this fact, I decided to thoughtfully take this into account when I presented the Prof with a birthday card:

Birthday Card Funny

Sometimes I am really nice!

Now since each year brings you at least 1% closer to your demise, a certain nervousness seems to pervade your earthling birthday celebrations. And that’s why I think you earthlings should attempt to make your birthday cards funny.

Nice Try

But of course the operative word here is “attempt.” You would think that a funny birthday card would be something to put your fellow earthling in a good mood. But from what I observed, these “humorous” birthday cards are just cruel. And since it’s my role to say cruel things to earthlings, I don’t want anyone elbowing their way into on my territory.

One example of the many happy birthday card messages I found reads:

We wanted to bake you a cake with birthday candles on it. But there were so many, that it burned the ceiling!

So what this nice little greeting is really saying is:

You’re going to die soon. And by the way, you have to make an unexpected expenditure to paint the ceiling. Happy Birthday!

Another example:

You’re not really old until you put a remote control  to your ear and wait for a dial tone.

I’m over 2 billion years old and I have also been waiting for a dial tone from one of those remote controls for years. This I don’t get.

But another birthday card I do understand only too well. It shows a toothless man holding his false teeth in one hand and a slice of a delicious cake in the other whilst declaring that one can “brush your teeth and have your cake too.” So apparently multitasking is a plus when your biological earthling containers (such as they are!) start to fall apart. Is it the purpose of this “funny” birthday card to highlight the inevitable physical decline of your friend’s body just as he gets ready to celebrate?

Sometimes I just don’t know about you earthlings. Birthdays are a vulnerable time and yet some of you pick those nasty birthday cards to send you to your friends! Instead, pick nicer birthday cards and really enjoy your birthday celebrations. Since you earthlings are all multi-celled now, I think you can handle that.

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I Make My Own Game

I really don’t blame you earthlings, I really don’t. The fact that space aliens are the usual target of your violent computer games doesn’t make me make me angry in the least. After all, we are actually trying to destroy your world. Your resistance (at least in fictional settings) shows that you guys still have some self respect.

Good for you!

But I find it difficult to play your computer games, particularly the one featuring extraterrestrials. The space dudes that I encounter, well, seem more reasonable than you earthlings. In fact, I try and network with them; you never know what cross-galactic-economic-efficiencies one can cobble together. But alas, computer games are primitive tales of survival and all that networking just gets me dead.

I’m the Control Freak Around Here

But the biggest problem I have is that I’m a leader, not a foot soldier. I have no patience at all following the rules of even the most basic ethical systems, much less computer game systems. So I needed a situation where you make your own game.

But it isn’t enough to move characters around; when I make my own game I want a crack at the very fabric of existence. So when I saw the Sploder Physics Game, both of my hearts jumped for joy! (If you want to see it, you’ll have to Google it yourself. I’m not here to make your life easier; I’m here to demonstrate how superior I am to you.)

The Physics Game allows you to create objects and see how they would work in various situations. For example, if I were to blow up Earth, I always wanted to know how much the reduced drag due to the loss of gravity (no Earth = less gravity) would save me in mileage on my flying saucer. Of course that’s a little beyond what the Physics Game can do, but you get the idea what you can do on a more modest scale.

When you take enter the website to create your own game, there is an automatic tour. This is good for you slow witted earthlings and you should take your time to learn about all the building elements. The first group in the upper left hand is the tools panel which allows you to create and change objects. Then there is the attributes panel where you can change the properties of each object. There are some properties on this planet I’d like to change and these tools might do it. How ‘bout a plaid, oscillating sky?

To the left are the fun stuff, the prefab objects. This changes the behavior of the object you are building. Wanna make the robot faster and more wobbly? Then grab a tool here. The rest of the buttons are self explanatory, especially the undo button. Where would you limited earthlings be without the undo button? And of course, I never need the help button!

This game is involving and exciting. I was able to make a wobbly robot almost walk across the screen. This is a game that involves a lot of time to really understand how each element impacts each element. But I think it’s worth the time because you will develop a sixth sense of how mechanical processes work, a lasting benefit long after the video gaming years are over.

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Cartoon Making Software and Me

I am a cartoon. Or a comic strip character. Or whatever. But I do know that I am not made with some cartoon software free download. I am lovingly crafted (I assume!) by the hand of some creature named Walters who I never met but know very well since my soul is trapped in his brain, the part of his brain that used to contain old income tax info. I know that since there is a very nice tax table he left behind that I put my feet up from time to time.

I am not so thrilled that cartoon making software—free even!—has hit the scene and can make armies of cartoon competitors for the hearts and minds of you earthlings. Being a cartoon character is a completive business with the specter of not only being fired, but actually being erased.

Nonetheless, since I live in the world of cartoons, my first hand experience can be helpful. I guess this is also a moral issue since I want the undrawn cartoons of tomorrow to have the same high quality life that I have so far enjoyed. So in their interests, I will guide you through the ins and outs of what to consider when choosing cartoon making software.

Frame choices. Your cartoons are most likely going to be energetic critters, so give them the room to spread out. Frames should be of all sizes and shapes: long ones for action scenes, narrow ones for close-ups (my face is made for close-ups!), even different shapes such as ovals.

Wide variety of templates. Cartoon characters do things. So your cartoon design software should include a wide variety of templates for characters, background elements, thought balloons, grawlixes and stylized action commands (i.e. Zap! and BOOM!). And don’t forget to evaluate the font that goes in those thought balloons.

Easy to use workspace. With all those elements, a space where you can move them around is essential. See how comfortable it is when you drag and drop elements from one area to the next. Is this workspace designed well enough to use for extended periods of time? I don’t want my future cartoon brethren to have a limp or a misplaced eye because the workspace was not sufficiently ergonomic!

Filtering options. You may want to change the look of some of your elements. Filtering options can include making elements look hand drawn, shiny, grainy, brighter, or darker. Each software program has its own method for filtering; so investigate and see if the method is right for you.

Multiple file support. Who knows where you will send your comic masterpiece or what program you will embed it in. Make sure that a good number of file options are supported, such as GIF, BMP, TIF, PCT, etc. Also verify that the cartoon software can import files that you may wish to process.

Personally, I like to be rendered as a GIF file. Because it takes up less space, I feel less bogged down and lighter in spirit. It’s really very nice.

So there you have it: a comic to mano rundown of what makes cartoon making software tick. Good luck and be responsible for whom you create; there are enough dysfunctional people in the world as it is without making any new ones!

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A Cartoon Character’s Advice on How to Do a Comic Strip and Design a Cartoon

It’s one thing for you earthlings to design a cartoon any way you wish. So one leg is shorter than the other or perhaps one eye is too big. Maybe the ears can’t possibly work because they are too small and can’t pick up all the necessary sound waves for intelligible speech. No problem, right?

But what if you are a cartoon character! I mean, design is all I have. Sure I’m superior. Sure I’m better than you. Sure you are in awe of me. But if I’m designed wrong, my quality of life suffers big time. My quality of life—you know, the one that matters.

Unfortunately my fate is sealed. I am already “designed” and have to live with what that Rembrandt of a cartoonist Walters has done to me. The best I can do is to keep complaining until Walters hires some “real” artists to draw me in a consistent and predictable manner. Until then, I am at the mercy of what amounts to a butcher who uses a pencil rather than a knife.

Extraterrestrial Charity

But I’m in a rare charitable mood. (I can’t explain it so I’ll just go with it.) Because of my suffering, I will offer advice on how to do a comic strip so it’s done right. I hope to prevent the future sufferings of the paper and ink set—my brothers and sisters in solidarity!—from future ill conceived and poorly executed comic strips. So here is my advice:

Think of character design. What common characteristics will bind your characters together? For example, the characters of Peanuts all inhabit short squat bodies with dinner roll-like shoes, Doonesbury denizens all have distinctive blackened-recessed eyes, and Family Guy stars either have too little or too much of a chin. The distinctive binding characteristic you select to design a cartoon will be the most important way people will recognize your work. Choose wisely.

Make decent personalities. Fortunately, the other characters in the Lunar Antics® are really cool: Drusus is really smart, Linda is gorgeous and Zed is a true blue. Even the hapless professor is likeable and almost a father figure to me. But don’t tell anyone; I don’t want it to get out.

The interplay of personalities will become more apparent as you work through the strips. But if you take the effort to decide the personalities of your characters before you begin the strip, the fine congealing of your comic characters will occur more rapidly.

Age your work. When you get a new idea, write it down and wait a month. If it is still funny when you read the idea a month later, it has a decent chance of being funny later. This waiting time is no problem for me since I am over 2 billion years old. An additional month is meaningless—just like you.

Be ready to do a comic strip all over again. Of all the advice I have given, this is the most disturbing. If your cartoons just aren’t working, then you may want to stop working on them and create a whole set of new characters. Believe me, this is something I don’t like to face. To think that one day Walters may wake up in a funk and decide to nuke all traces of us on his hard drive is existentially terrifying. But moving on to more successful characters may be the best option for an earthling cartoonist.

Now that I reminded myself that Walters has the ability to move on to other characters, maybe I’ll be nicer to him. Note that the operative word is “maybe.”

 

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A Space Alien’s thoughts on Comic Book Writing

Sometimes it is challenging to be a fictional cartoon character. One major disadvantage is that your thoughts are not your own, or rather the words that you say are not your own, or rather the words that are printed in a bubble above your head with a line perilously close to your mouth are not your own.

Interestingly, these text balloons are stylized descendents of depictions of breath coming from cartoon characters mouths. In this 18th century cartoon, you can literally see that the breath is coming from the speaker’s mouth, carrying the words right along with it. From my perspective, that’s a rather charming concept. Since I live in outer space where there is no atmosphere, my physiology does not need air. So the concept of text attributed to me floating above my head levitated only by air is just plain wrong. But Walters never listens to me, especially on how to write comic strips.

Comic Strip Adventures

Technically the comic book that I’m currently appearing in is not a comic book; rather it’s a compendium of comic strips. So there is no overarching story that coincides with a traditional plot that you earthlings are used to. You know, the staples of comic book writing: introducing the goals, having a crisis, surviving the black moment. So predictable. And might I add, so unlike your dreary little earthling lives?

Well there is nothing overarching in the construct I inhabit. In fact, you can call the 4-panel prison I live in Attention Deficit World or ADW for short. (Sounds like a defunct airline, doesn’t it?) Case in point: I barely finish an opening observation, the professor says something stupid and before you know it, Zed comes flying in with a punch line. And suddenly it’s over: the final frame recedes and I find myself thrown into another frame at the start of another 4-panel comic strip.

To make things worse, many times the new situation is completely unrelated to the one I was just in. There I am, standing in the fourth comic panel in a field enjoying Zed’s patented (and subtle!) punch line, and then wham: I’m in the first panel of a new comic strip, ducking for cover because the professor is having a mid-life crisis and is taking my flying saucer out for a reckless spin. And in seconds I’m the one that has to come up with the punch line!

Economy Matters When You Write a Comic Strip

As you can see, my larger point is that there isn’t much time in a strip. You gotta make your point and move on. Attention Deficit World is fast paced and the readers are only going to spend a few seconds with you. So here are some quick tips I stole from Robert Walters brain when he wasn’t looking:

  1. Use a few words as possible. This is a visual medium, so if you can say it with pictures, say it with pictures.
  2. Create tension. After a premise is stated, think about how to add tension to the moment. Think this part through: the better the tension the more fun and  effective your punch line will be.
  3. Consider the “double punch line.” This is a technique pioneered by Gary Trudeau and Berkely Breathed in there brilliant comic strips. When you write a comic strip, if you can create a structure that has two punch lines that feed off of each other, you will truly delight your reader.
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The Inevitable Comic Strip How To

There goes Walters again telling all who happened to saunter by electronically all about his comic strip “prowess.” Sure, I’m one of his creations and you think I’d be grateful. Actually, his ink-stained efforts gave me the “gift of life” if you call this strange existence of simultaneously existing on thousands of printed pages and a region of neurons in the “Great Master’s” brain a life. But I digress. In fact, I always digress because superior minds can’t help it. But I digress.

Now if you are really interested how to create a comic strip you can go here to Robert Walter’s site to see how it’s done. Or you can stay here and get the “inside” story of how to make a comic strip—with the caveat that it’s from a fictional character’s perspective.

What is a comic strip?

To you Earthlings it’s a series of panels that tell a short story. To me, it’s my home, my entire world! Mr. Robert “Rembrandt” Walters insists on 4 panels when the rest of the comic world—due to the high price of ink—is working in 3 panels. Who does he think he is, Doonesbury? Walters claims that the extra panel stretches the comic’s premise setup to a higher tension so there is a more hilarious “snap” of a punch line can delight the reader. Give me a break! I am there all the time and I see no evidence of a funny comic strip. It just means I have to act 25% more which means us fictional cartoon characters really need a union.

Pencil me

I know it’s time for work when I slowly come into existence as a pencil sketch. My first impressions of sentience is cloud-like, I am only a vague outline, a hazy torso with ill-defined appendages. But soon, things firm up and I become… ZENO! I mean, how fortunate for you!

Unfortunately, it’s not quite over yet. It takes forever while Walters figures out an expression that he likes. He draws one expression, erases it, draws another, and erases it. It’s like being an extra for Star Wars, sitting in makeup all day long while the makeup artist slowly builds an alien proboscis with its associated sharp teeth. But eventually it’s over and I’m either frowning or laughing or whatever. I like it best when I’m glaring condescendingly.

Ink Stains

After the torture of penciling, at least there is some relief when he inks the cartoon. Taking his trusty pen nib in hand, he slowly draws over the pencil lines that he just made. Frankly, this is the best part; it’s like a massage. Cool smooth ink covers the fine granules of graphite that make up my form. As the ink dries, I feel the energy in me grow. Soon I’m completely set (set in ink on the page that is!) and I’m ready for another day’s work in pointing out to earthlings their innumerable inferiorities. Now that’s how to make a comic!

 

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IT Comic Strip

No, my mastery of English has not degenerated into Caveman-eese; what I mean is the “Information Technology” comic strip (IT comic strip). Frankly I don’t know why Earthlings need any technology at all considering the quality of information they have available. Why bother placing all that gibberish in little elegant silicon wafers? Seems like a waste of a reasonably competent technology.

Ah, but I offer something better than the usual warmed over comic strip IT. As you probably know, I am superior to you. Of course it’s in the About Me section, but it is my duty to constantly remind you of the huge gulf of intellect that separates you and me.

Why don’t you go visit the About Me section now. I’ll wait…

Now did you see that third panel? Look at that math. Now that’s information! There it is simple, bold, informative!

Superior.

If you want comic strip IT, then The Lunar Antics® is the place to visit. Most earthling marketing executives are absolutely scared to make any mention of math in any product. They are afraid they will lose the attention of the average earthling, their eyes glazing over as their limited brains fry over the simplest algebraic constructs. Well, it doesn’t matter to me. Fry away, little brains. I will show you the astounding math regardless of whether you like it or not.

X-berts

But the other IT comic strip universes are quite amusing. Yes, I read Dilbert (via Robert Walters visual cortex) and I enjoy it very much. But from what I understand, Dilbert is supposed to be the sympathetic character. He seems like the usual earthling just trying to get through the day without accidentally blowing up his planet.

Frankly, the character that seems the most reasonable to me is Catbert. Unpredictable, mercurial, impervious to pleas for compromise: that’s what I relate too! However I don’t quite understand what Catbert does… He seems to be in charge of something laughably called “Human Resources.” Laughable because I don’t think earthlings are resourceful at all—in fact, their defining characteristic seems to be a deficiency in resourcefulness.

So what is this wonderful cat-earthling supposed to be in charge of? Is the adjoining room next to Catbert’s completely empty? Is the genius of Catbert that he uses his volatile management methods to obfuscate the fact that the room of resources is a phantom because, of course, earthlings are resourceless?

My esteem for Catbert only grows. Maybe Walters can draw a ruthless cat-earthling for our comic strip. I can only hope.

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