“…the River in Which We Sink or Swim…”

Bill Griffith recently offered his Top 40 List on Comics and their Creation and it got me thinking about the influence of his generation—the RAW/Arcade generation you might call it—not only on comics but on popular culture generally.

If there’s one document that sums it up beautifully, it’s Gary Panter’s funny, screwed-up, poetic, and profound Rozz Tox Manifesto from 1980; a call for artists to infiltrate the lumbering machines of popular culture and start messing with the gears.

Through twisted masterpieces like Panter’s designs for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, or his friend Matt Groening’s long-running, society-scouring The Simpsons, it’s become clear in retrospect that these guys were (at least partially) dead serious about many of these ideas.

As of the last ten years, the idea of infiltrating mass media can seem almost redundant. The great mass of media is increasingly generated by a decentralized confederation of unaffiliated knuckleheads like you and me. But as long as there’s a hellish laugh track still running somewhere, Panter’s virus still has work to do.

Discussion (7)¬

  1. Alex Rudnick says:

    Laugh tracks!

    Laugh tracks are so weird! They cut in and out so suddenly. Is there a distinct period to when they get played, do you think? (we must say something gut-bustingly funny every 37 seconds)

    • Scott says:

      God, they’re horrible. I still hate whoever shoved laugh tracks into those early Sports Night episodes.

      Worst of all though was when they started inserting roller coaster screams into the mix. God, the sound — THAT HELLISH SOUND!

  2. Perhaps you’ve seen these clips from ‘Friends’ and other sitcoms in which the laugh track has been removed:


    The most apt comment I’ve seen regarding these clips was, “My god. They hate each other.”

    Nice post. I always learn much here!

  3. Avram says:

    And did Item 5 (“We require well lit media centers that serve soft drinks and milk”) predict the rise of Starbucks and wifi-equipped coffee bars?

  4. Felipo says:

    oh boy those sure are a lot of wikipedia links
    is there a problem
    no! in fact i think wikipedia should win the Nobel Prize for literature!

    i love wikipedia 🙂

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