Over the last two weeks we’ve been having a discussion about the hows and whys of cartooning. We have covered subjects such as; the creative process, idea generation, method, personal style, and content. Today we’ll wrap up our three weeks of cartoon appreciation with a look at common types of gags. To be honest, I’ve never really been quite comfortable with the term “gag”. It makes me think of cats expelling hairballs and so forth. Anyway, we will briefly cover some typical gag types using examples from this blog.
In the early days, I had no clue as to how one creates a gag or writes a punch line. I had learned the basics of cartooning but the gag writing process was a mystery. So I made it a point to carefully observe the construction of gags in primarily single panel cartoons that are found in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. I studied many of my favorite cartoonists like Gary Larsen (The Far Side) for example. Over time I noticed patterns starting to emerge. Some of these basic gag/joke patterns are listed below. This is by no means all of the possible variations, and a given cartoon can easily be a combination of two or three types of gags. I don’t know how other cartoonists classify their joke material, but here is my personal list. Many of these are self-evident by their names.
Substitution- Most "Far Side" cartoons are of the Substitution variety. Substituting something for what is normally expected. The Octopi Movement In this case we have a typical domestic situation but with eight-legged sea creatures.
Reversal- This is self-explanatory. Herring Houdini Harry Houdini was famous for performing underwater escapes among other things. This cartoon also works as a Substitution, or even a Parallel see below.
Extreme- taking something to an illogical extreme, or an unexpected extrapolation. Self-Portrait
Oversimplification- reducing something to an illogical extreme. Virtual
Literal- taking a situation or something too literally. The B-Word In this case using the “b-word” as it was originally intended.
Surreal- an off the wall scenario. Hoax Need I say more? This one raises many questions.
Pun/Wordplay- Clown Fish A pun based upon an old saying. This one would also qualify as a Cliche.
Cliche- taking a cliched scenario or saying and giving it a new twist. The idea of castaways on a deserted island has been done so many times as to have become a cartoon cliche. Marooned I do one of these "island" cartoons each year as a challenge to myself.
Anticipation- anticipating what will happen next. Beware This toon also has an Extreme element.
Incongruous- placing unrelated things together. Foundling This also works as a Parallel.
Parallel- I think that Parallels are easier to show than to explain. His, Hers, It's
I hope you have found this series of posts to be fun and informative. Perhaps now you'll see cartoons in a different way. I look forward to your comments.