This is not a post about how Joan Rivers affected my sense of humor, even though I did find her funny, but rather about how something so small can tumble into big changes for a strip.
When this strip was starting I was struggling to find enough different ways to tell insults, I’m good at insults, I like doing insults, but I thought they were generally a little harmless and not as mean as Rick Dodge as originally conceived should be when he’s insulting people.
How could anyone get offended over mild, good natured, teasing, insults? (This was like six years ago and since then I’ve seen people have nuclear meltdowns online over less than those mild insults so now it makes sense but at the time it didn’t).
I knew I had to up my insult game and make it meaner, nastier, if I wanted Rick Dodge to be as hated as I needed him to be for the strip. That’s where Joan Rivers came in. She was mean in the right way and she had a new show that I read was spectacularly mean (and still funny) called Fashion Police. Great, I thought to myself, I’ll watch the show and try to get in that mean mindset instead of staying in my amused, quietly teasing mindset.
A funny show. I laughed. But my eyes got wider as the show went on. Swear to god I thought they were trying to get some of the celebrities whose clothes they were making fun of to commit suicide. It was nasty. Mean. Vicious. Borderline evil. But damn funny.
And also wrong for me, wrong for the strip. I could watch the show, and laugh at the jokes but I knew less than halfway through one episode that I’d never be able to go that deep and that nasty. Beyond my capabilities and my stomach.
But Rick Dodge had to offend people and offend them to their very core or the story wouldn’t make sense so I had to come up with a reason for people to listen to him and take his insults to heart.
The reason I chose was Credibility. If Rick was acknowledged as a top talent with a good ear and commercial success then even his mild insults would come across as a hard right hook to the jaw. It’s like the difference between some random person online not liking my strip and insulting me and Bill Watterson (the creator of Calvin and Hobbes) making a mild comment about over packing jokes and not hitting the punch line hard enough (that’s true about Dodge the bullet by the way but it’s a deliberate choice and honestly I think my off center side jokes are funnier being in a place other than at the end). I’d be annoyed at the random yabo but Watterson would crater me for days.
So I stuck with the kind of jokes I knew and liked, but upped Rick’s credibility and fame and everything just fell into place. It worked and it flowed with what I was doing, my sense of humor, and the philosophical point I’m trying to make.
All thanks to Joan Rivers.
(My actual influences? Mel Brooks, Mel Blanc, Mel Torme, Mel Watterson, Mel Mochrie, Mel Styles, Mel Marx, Mel Torme, Mel Laurel and Hardy, Whole lotta Mel’s goin’ on.)
Thanks for reading,