Family Circus

A comment from Tané Tachyon on my last Zippy posting, in which Family Circus figured prominently:

A couple years back I had The Best American Comics 2008 out from the library, and just loved Lynda Barry’s intro comic about what the Family Circus had meant to her when she was growing up.

So: some words about Lynda Barry and Family Circus, and about language in Bil Keane’s strip.

Keane died last November. From Dennis Hevesi’s obit in the NYT:

[Keane:] “When you look at the comic page, you can usually depend on something acceptable by the entire family.”

Particularly acceptable to Mr. Keane, said Andrew Farago, curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, were mispronunciations and word twists: “A kid would say ‘pizgetti’ instead of spaghetti, and Jeffy would say, ‘Can I wear my short-sleeve pants?’ ”

Barry’s appreciation at the time:

I was a kid growing up in a troubled household. We didn’t have books in the house but we did have the daily paper and I remember picking out Family Circus before I could really read.

There was something about the life on the other side of that circle that looked pretty good.  For kids like me there was a map and a compass hidden in Family Circus. The parents in that comic strip really loved their children. Their home was stable. It put that image in my head and I kept it.

I’d always heard that great art will cause people to burst into tears but the only time it ever happened to me was when I was introduced to Bil Keane’s son, Jeff.  As soon as I shook his hand I just started bawling my face off because I realized  I had climbed through the circle.

And how I did it was by making pictures and writing stories.

I am so very sad to know Bil Keane has died.

To me the Family Circus is my family. They are my soul family in the image world.

That’s why if you say a word against Family Circus to me I will slug you so hard.

(Keane’s warm, affectionate view of family life and his focus on cute-kidisms rub some people the wrong way; there are people out there who just hate Family Circus.)

Four kid malaprops:

Plus one piece of adult wordplay:

These are one-panel cartoons, and the word play is the entire point, which is why Family Circus became famous for its word play.

Addendum: previous blogging on the strip:

ML on LLog, 4/8/06: Quasi-modal be in Family Circus (link)

HH on LLog, 5/11/07: Family Circus filology (link)

AZ on LLog, 6/28/08: Parts of speech (link)

AZBlog, 3/6/12: And on bears (link): take-off on the strip


4 Responses to “Family Circus”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Nick Fitch on Facebook:

    There most certainly are people who can’t stand the Family Circus. Having been introduced to it during my sojourn in the US, I’m one of them. But the people who *really* hated it were the ones behind the Dysfunctional Family Circus. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it; but here’s an archive:

  2. George Says:

    After reading Mr. Nick Fitch’s comment on Family Circle, I have absolutely NO INTEREST in following his link to the Dysfunctional Family Circus. Telling me he’s a hater is no way to interest me in that which he likes. Later Hater…

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Even if FC mostly gives you warm fuzzies, DFC has its delightful moments.

      Surely you don’t want to let one person’s misanthropic comments determine what you look at.

  3. Family Circuses | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] The Family Circus on this blog, see this piece on word play in the cartoon, with links to earlier […]

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