Some things happened like they always do. The leaves peeped out, the crocuses sprouted, then the riots of magnolia, peach and azalea blossoms, sprinkled with dogwood. Soon, they all turned brown and dropped away and everything was green. The attic, where I work, went from cold in the morning, ‘cuz we don’t actually have heat up there, to hot and stuffy, too bad, since I prefer to have the windows open, but manageable, since there’s an air conditioner in the wall.
But lots of things have changed. My son has gone from day camp to overnight camp to home from college, looking for jobs and spending his downtime on the couch, watching Adult Swim and stroking his beard.My daughter’s still young enough for another summer at overnight camp, but not many more, and when she gets back, it’ll be time to learn to drive. The sand castles, pool passes, waits in lines of cars to pick up one kid or another at the end of the day that filled the summers of years past are gone now, fallen away like spring flowers, passing over and way like a wave you duck into instead of trying to ride on your boogie board.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is summer’s promise. I understand the impulse to spend the night of the Solstice dancing around a fire, celebrating the midpoint of the year, like they do at Stonehenge, where I’d love to go on the Solstice some day, not because I’m a pagan or a druid, but just because it seems cool. As usual, I’ll probably have to make do with a drink on the porch. Here’s to summer! It’ll be gone too soon.
Well, Passover starts a week from tonight, which means it’s time for our annual Passover story. We’ve been doing this for 11 years now, since the strip’s second year, and we went through the low-hanging fruit a long time ago. Meaning that some years, in our effort to do something new, we’ve cobbled together stories that we were less than happy with. This year, though, we actually found a nice universal and simple topic we somehow missed. Hope you enjoy it and, if you’re a Passover person, have a wonderful holiday. AFTER you clean the house.
So, I got an email from a reader last week that read as follows:
“Being a married man in his forties with teenage kids, I can relate to a lot of the family and everyday situations that these characters encounter. I appreciate the down-to-earth interactions and sly humor. But I do have a bit of a criticism. Len’s character is good in that he is a committed husband and father, but he has too many “doofus” moments. I know it’s a comic, it’s meant to be funny, but he seems to get more than his fair share of embarrassing decisions and their consequences. As much as current culture takes shots at the American dad (from Homer Simpson through most weeknight sitcoms and on), it would be nice to see Len have more strong father characteristics to go with his comic catastrophes.”
The letter addressed a topic you hear about a fair amount, at least in some circles–the willingness to make men, fathers in particular, the butt of the jokes in comedies and other types of entertainment. It’s been a concern of ours, though less because we fear undermining the status of fathers than because it’s a cliche.
As I said in my reply, while it’s true that Len frequently plays the doofus, he’s hardly Homer Simpson. He’s not stupid and incompetent, nor is he generally motivated by selfishness and greed, as Homer is. Len means well and intends to do the right thing. He’s just wrong a lot. The fact is, almost all the humor in our strip is based on irony, that is, a character wants something and ends up with the opposite. If you read us consistently, you know that Abby is just fallible as Len is. In fact, we try to give the two equal time to be incorrect, though it’s not on a fixed schedule—we may, say, do 2 Len stories in a row if those are the ideas we happen to have.
Comedy’s all about human frailty; strong and admirable characters are seldom very funny or even interesting. And while our strip isn’t strictly autobiographical, it does reflect the way we see ourselves, and while self-deprecation may be an effective strategy to gaining reader’s sympathy, it’s also our natural tendency. Which is to say, if Len’s a doofus, it’s because I’m one, too