The eye is keen. The mind is thoroughly grounded. The goal is to maintain a sense of intellectual honesty while exploring the culture of criticism and evaluating creativity in all its glory.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Busting a Gut - part II

Laughing –– Part I was absurd. Part II is utterly senseless.

When you really think about what makes a person laugh you may come to realize that it’s not just a ‘joke’ that does it. Many things play a roll and I am one who has come to believe that the laugh should be associated with far more than simple merriment. There is no doubt that laughing feels good (unless you do it so much that your side feels like it’s splitting and your cheeks are about to burst), but is that all there is to it? Sigmund Freud wrote a general explanation regarding laughter that he called the Relief Theory, in which he summarized that laughter releases tension and psychic energy. Considering this, the theory explains why busting a gut can be a coping mechanism for any person who is upset, angry, or even sad. But, I’ll not delve too deeply into that part of the psychology of the laugh right now .... today we need to remain utterly senseless - or, in plainer words, insane. We’ll focus on the idea that when confronted with an inconsistency with reality any person can bring a successful solution by solving a cognitive riddle in a satisfactory way, and most of the time solving the riddle is what brings laughter and a sense of understanding.

There is a point that I understand well and attempt to conform my silly creations to, and that is a basic law of comedy which is called exactness. Exactness will never allow the audience to be confused because, if they are, they will never laugh nor even begin to understand the joke. Before I introduce you to the second Wilderlife critter, I will first illustrate a complete humour-communication-failure with one of my insane painted jokes. I call this cartoon Joe and the Artist, and it was created after I read a small newspaper article about a copyright lawsuit involving Philip Morris and Billy Coulton, the artist who created Joe Camel.

I put a lot of thought into this gag of a painting ... drug an old firewood chunk and some dried-up field grass into our living room; then bribed my husband to dress in a tank top, tuck his blue jeans into his motor-biking boots, then hold still as he knelt before and stretched his neck across the stump as though he were laid out for a chop. The insane joke here is that an artist, which (in a sense) is god-like, intends to violently snuff the life out of his own creation. The joke today does not work because the average viewer does not possess a full accounting of the real-life courtroom drama that happened nearly 20 years ago; and, since the time of my cartoon’s creation smoking has become public enemy number one. What was a play about copyrights and monetary gain from a creator’s tangible form of expression has turned into a nasty public statement about the dangers of smoking. That is an unfortunate turn of events for my cartoon and these days more people turn away in disgust rather than try to unravel the cognitive puzzle that is my image of Joe and the Artist ... the very European artist who felt quite cheated by the giant American company named Philip Morris (Joe was born in Europe in 1974 and was originally created to be a mascot for a French Advertising company. The artist sold him, and all his copyrights, for fifty bucks ... the fool).

What was re-confirmed most from this cartoon is that not every amusing thought has a long shelf-life. Social condition and controversy shift on a whim and what is funny one day may be offensive the next. Although, I have to say Joe and the Artist does bring me sick pleasure these days and I often chuckle in my own sadistic way ... when I’m watching someone uncomfortably spying this thing while they try to find a polite way to say it really sucks. We’ll talk about that sort of humour in a later post.

For now, my Wilderlife Series has proven to be resolved inconsistency for most people viewing it - even an image as insane as the creature we call the Lurky. This painting proves how the theory works in the case of visual humor. The joke is the insanity of a turkey and lizard combined and viewers will automatically try to understand what this picture is supposed to say, or doesn’t say, or implies. Thanks to movies like Jurassic Park and the vicious critter called velociraptor, the Lurky is not too far removed for comfort. I can not tell you how many times I’ve heard people explain the painting to me that way. Surprisingly, I’ve never heard the words, “that’s just wrong” associated with this piece.

COMMON NAME: Emerald Lurky

Species: Voloptar turkilearian rapteus.  Other names include glen, bob, o’brian green socks, and mayflower. The lurky can be confused with descendants of the velociraptor.

General facts: Lurkys are diurnal omnivorish creatures that grow 1 and a half to 3 feet tall and weigh between 40 and 60 pounds. With a wing span of just three inches short of five feet, they are capable of hitting 60 mph, or a tree, provided they can get off the ground. They feed exclusively on pansies and rabbits, but have been rumored to eat dandelions and slugs during lean seasons. Highly developed senses of touch and go allow excellent ariel dynamics that confuses and stuns its prey. Hunting only during the hours between 1pm and 3pm, Lurkys are seldom seen due to the siesta rituals of the Oasis regions in New Mexico and limited areas in Nevada. The main enemies of the Lurky are humans because they discovered the beast tastes a lot like chicken, and their feathers are highly coveted by show girls in Las Vegas and ritualistic Miatec priests.

STATISTICS: As ground nesters, the Lurky commands much space to spread their wings and protect their young. Wings are used as umbrellas, blankets, cozies, and sunscreen. Occasionally, young chicks can be seen atop the parent’s unfolded wings practicing their touch and go proficiencies. The average clutch is 2.3 eggs that are about 6 inches in diameter. They are highly prized in logging camps and back-woods resorts. The birds reach maturity at pubirdy, which is 6 weeks after they discharge their shells, and will quickly find a mate and remain monogamous throughout their very long lives. In the wild, Lurkys live an average of 27 and half years. They have never been domesticated because when they are separated from their mate they will die of a broken heart. Or some such.

HABITAT: North America and surrounding regions. Resides mainly in forest glens along the edge of botanical gardens. Most sightings have occurred in nooks and crannies in the Oasis regions, or in a drunken state, though a few have been seen partially sober. It is strongly advised you never look up during the hours of 1pm to 3pm for reasons good taste will not allow us explain. Also, avoid the fields beside the glens during those same hours. A 60 pound bird hitting 60 mph hour can command overwhelming damage should it hit you.


** Forest Glen
    Gouache on Bristol Board

When I recall the pleasure of making images and words for this series, Forest Glen holds one of the fondest moments for me. Me, Chris, and Goldie sat around late night at our print shop and simply laughed until we cried, each of us adding another outrageous trait or action to give our imaginary raptor bird. My family is so very funny and once we get started the concept of contagious laughter holds true. For me, that is one of the best things in life.

I chose to combine a turkey and lizard simply because I wanted to make the most outrageous combination of animals possible, and discover if I could make it even somewhat believable. Apparently I pulled it off.


Goldie said...

well, if you go with the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs a lizard-turkey isn't that far fetched..... :-) It was fun making up the science stats for those animals.... we so need gene splicing machines! imagine that zoo.....

Irelock said...

Ah, that would be fun!

Chris Schemanski said...

I think this type of humor is the most difficult to pull off, yet the most rewarding if you succeed. I think it stays in your head for a long time. I have heard thousands of one-liner jokes but I remember only three of them.

Irelock said...

I do agree with you on that ... it's very difficult to pull it off and so often it's not timeless. It's like political humour ... great in the moment, senseless much later. I admire those how can make me laugh using very few lines or words ... yet the butt of joke is so complicated it takes tables full of analyst to work it out. That takes a certain kind of mind, no question.