On Sundays, the Lockhorns has five panels, which increases the odds of one of them being a winner. I know the whole women-don't-understand-automobiles thing is tired, but this completely cracked me up.
I'm a sucker for watching a bad situation get worse, particularly when there is a beat between the punchline and the guffaw. In this case, Reiner has drawn Leroy in such a way that we know that the nearest gas station wasn't just half a mile back.
I also like his look of complete resignation.
One of the keys to the Lockhorns, Bunny Hoest notes, is that Leroy and Loretta love each other. They bicker constantly, but there's not a lot of actual hostility, more of a "here we go again" atmosphere. It's an exaggeration of normal marriage, yes, but not a travesty of it.
Anyway, the punchline in this cartoon is not what she says but how he reacts. We'll get back to that topic.
For those who hate those traditional gender roles:
Wumo (the online version) flips the male/female gender roles for this gag, with him as the healthy cook and her as the philistine cheater.
I like the exaggeration, too: She didn't sneak out for a Krispy Kreme or some other top-of-the-line bit of sugar/fat gluttony. She bought absolute crap.
As for quinoa, yes, I eat it. It tastes good and I like the consistency, though I find it doesn't stick with me for very long so that what I gain in nutritional piety I'm apt to lose in quantity consumed. My father used to say that escargot were simply an excuse to eat garlic butter, and I kind of feel that way about quinoa: It's a mostly a medium for whatever you're mixing with it.
But there's a secondary punchline in the caption at lower left. Yes, we live a hard life. It also adds to the significance of the gender-role swap.
For those who prefer a traditional approach to gags about healthy eating:
Juxtaposition of the Day
I went to the grocery store yesterday and, by golly, they have the Halloween candy out. In mid-August. Mid-freaking-August.
I told the kid at checkout that I was going to buy it next week, when I pick up my Thanksgiving turkey. Little did I know that teams of cartoonists were already on top of the situation.
But, man, this "exaggerating for comic effect" just gets harder and harder, doesn't it?
Though in the case of Halloween candy, it really is smart marketing. If people buy a bag of those little "fun-size" candy bars three days before Halloween, they're back to replace them the day of.
So how many bags can you sell if you set it all out 10 weeks early?
The stuff isn't exactly Queen-O, after all.
About those punchlines
One of the very basic dividing lines in cartooning is how you handle a punchline. There isn't a set formula, though Schulz used to talk about the critical importance of the penultimate panel:
In the first example, the third panel is a classic set-up line, but in the second, it's the pause -- the beat -- that sets up the punchline.
The first sets up a more traditional laugh-line, a ludicrous continuation of the seemingly-thoughtful reflection, while, in the second, the punch line is the voicing of the disappointment we now realize we were seeing during that blank beat.
In the Lockhorns above, there's only one panel, so the set up is the caption and her expression of innocent annoyance, and the punchline is the realization of where he's been and what a hassle it was and why the radio has stopped working and what she was doing while he was away and what he's going to have to do now.
Which is to say, multipanel comics can be less demanding of the reader because they have more space in which to be explicit. Zack and Edison are both well-constructed, but they're practically novels compared to the Lockhorns.
The Wumo today is more like the second Peanuts gag, in that the "secondary punch line" is similar to Snoopy's line in the fourth panel.
It's a reaction, really, but from the cartoonist, not a character. And, while the joke is funny without it, it's funnier with it.
If those two cartoons ran in the New Yorker, they wouldn't have either the "First-World Adultery" or "You mean, that's it?" lines. Wumo would rely entirely on the situational gag, while Peanuts would end on the look of blank disappointment.
Which is why New Yorker cartoons generally provoke a knowing chuckle rather than an actual laugh.
And why a lot of people hate New Yorker cartoons.
I'm not one of them. I enjoy a knowing chuckle.
What I hate is when the cartoonist uses the final panel to give you that dig in the ribs of "Get it? Get it?"
Bud Fisher did it a lot. Not always, but to the extent that last-panel beatings or fainting or running-away is strongly associated with him. But he did it a century ago, when the art form was new and people needed more instruction in how it worked.
If you have to apologize, tear it up. If you have to explain it, start over.
Oh, never mind. Here, just get it out of your systems!