Cartoon understanding in parallel worlds

Two cartoons that have come by me recently that work only if you have a fair amount of cultural knowledge in two dfferent domains, which are presented in the cartoon as parallel worlds equally present there. A Brevity strip by Dan Thompson from 4/27/18 (thanks to Joe Transue for help in identifying the strip); and a Wayno & Piraro Bizarro from yesterday:

(#1)Taxi driving (by Uber) and popular music (by Roy Orbison), united by portmanteau in a cab

(#2) Surreptitous dealing in pot and the habits of woodpeckers: potheads and logheads / woodheads, metaphorically united on a street corner (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

In a cab, in a song. In #1, we are both in an Uber cab and in a (specific) Roy Orbison song: “You Got It”, with the chorus “Anything you want, you got it. / Anything you need, you got it. / Anything at all, you got it.” Which you can watch here (in a live performance from 1988):


From Wikipedia on the cabs:

Uber Technologies Inc. (doing business as Uber) is a peer-to-peer ridesharing, taxi cab, food delivery, bicycle-sharing, and transportation network company (TNC) headquartered in San Francisco, California, with operations in 785 metropolitan areas worldwide. Its platforms can be accessed via its websites and mobile apps. Uber has been prominent in the sharing economy, so much so that the changes in industries as a result of it have been referred to as Uberisation

And on Orbison:


Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician known for his powerful voice, wide vocal range, impassioned singing style, complex song structures, and dark, emotional ballads. The combination led many critics to describe his music as operatic, nicknaming him “the Caruso of Rock” and “the Big O”. While most male rock-and-roll performers in the 1950s and 1960s projected a defiant masculinity, many of Orbison’s songs instead conveyed vulnerability. His voice ranged from baritone to tenor, and music scholars have suggested that he had a three- or four-octave range. During performances, he was known for standing still and solitary, and for wearing black clothes, to match his dyed jet-black hair and dark sunglasses, which lent an air of mystery to his persona.

(#5) Bonus Orbison (because I like it so much): Orbison and an all-star cast of friends (Bruce Springsteen, k.d. lang, Elvis Costello and more) perform his “Only The Lonely,” recorded on the Monument Records label (video from “A Black and White Night”, a 1988 Cinemax television special)

(Note: the cartoonist Thompson has a Page on this blog.)

Smoke pot, hammer wood. On the face of it, the drawing in #2 shows a lumberjack or logger, in a side street or alley, offering a log for a passing woodpecker (an anthropomorphic one, granted, but still a woodpecker) — a pileated woodpecker, apparently  — to “check out”, that is, to use as he sees fit. A basic understanding of this interaction requires that you know about the predilections (real and pop-cultural) of woodpeckers and, in particular, their close association with tree trunks and their disposition to hammer or drum on logs.

From Wikipedia:

(#6) See my 10/9/14 posting “Plato — or Woody Woodpecker?”, with a section on the (large and noisy) pileated woodpecker

Woodpeckers are part of the family Picidae, a group … [also taking in] piculets, wrynecks, and sapsuckers. Members of this family are found worldwide, except for Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Madagascar, and the extreme polar regions. Most species live in forests or woodland habitats

… Members of this family can walk vertically up tree trunks, which is beneficial for activities such as foraging for food or nest excavation. In addition to their strong claws and feet, woodpeckers have short, strong legs. This is typical of birds that regularly forage on trunks

… Woodpeckers have strong bills for drilling and drumming on trees, and long sticky tongues for extracting food (insects and larvae).

… Many of the foraging, breeding and signaling behaviors of woodpeckers involve drumming and hammering using the bill.

But you won’t really appreciate the cartoon unless you also see its (fairly detailed) metaphorical correspondence to a different world, of illicit street commerce in marijuana. The woodpecker — a “loghead” or “woodhead”, an aficionado of lumber for recreational use — corresponds to a pothead in the street drug dealing world. From NOAD:

noun potheadinformal a person who smokes marijuana, especially habitually.

That is, someone who enjoys recreational marijuana ‘marijuana for recreational use, with the relational (rather than predicating) Adj recreational. From NOAD:

adj. recreational: [a] relating to or denoting activity done for enjoyment when one is not working: recreational facilities | recreational cycling in the countryside. [b] relating to or denoting drugs taken on an occasional basis for enjoyment, especially when socializing: recreational drug use.

And the lumberjack hawking his log corresponds to a street dealer in pot, surreptitiously offering his wares to a likely-looking buyer — “Hey, buddy, wanna try some first-class weed?”. From the Pop Culture site on 10/25/12, “The 25 coolest drug dealers in movies”, on Jay & Silent Bob in Clerks (1994), as portrayed by Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith:


After six movies, you would think that Jay and Silent Bob would have worn out their welcome, but it’s almost the exact opposite. Whenever they are on screen, they instantly make any Kevin Smith movie watchable, even the dreadful Mallrats. Sure they spend most of their time leaning against the outside wall of a convenience store and making juvenile dick jokes, but through stilted acting and awkward dialogue, these two managed to become pure, uncut icons.

Unlike the vicious coke and heroin dealers of countless movies, Jay and Silent Bob are as gentle as a box of kittens. They won’t break people’s thumbs and legs if they haven’t paid up, and are just as likely to lose money dealing as they are to make it. They seemingly always find themselves in the middle of a conflict, and are usually prepared with plentiful weed to help them through it.

Then, of course, juxtaposing the woodpecker-lumber world and the drug dealing world — overlaying one on the other —  is absurd. And, consequently, funny.

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