We Need to Keep Laughing

It’s a good thing I put on slippers before opening the front door to retrieve the morning newspapers. Usually it’s a quick trip just outside our saguaro-ribbed courtyard door and I’m back inside to feed my habit of morning coffee and overnight news. Once a journalist, always a journalist I suppose. Today, however, on a clear yet cold day, our newspapers had barely made it off the street and into the blacktop that constitutes our driveway. Walking out there, I risked having one of the neighbors catch me in my robe. NOT attractive !

Luckily I had a scruffy creosote camouflage and Mr. White Pickup never noticed me scooping up the bundles of news. Walking back to the house, I wondered two things: A. was there a substitute driver today who didn’t realize our long driveway serves as the turnaround for the neighborhood? And B: Did I remember to give the delivery person a Christmas gift?

Both papers were remarkably thin. That’s fairly typical for a Monday, especially when one considers the advertising bonanza that IS the Sunday paper. But when opening the local paper, The Arizona Daily Star, I found it had crammed all but the SPORTS into an 18-page “A” Section. And because the Arizona Cardinals were in yesterday’s Super Bowl, a good portion of the front page was dedicated to the “Heartbreak” loss. I really didn’t need to read about it. I watched on TV. I did find the below-the-fold article about the 30-second, full-frontal PORN scene that somehow infiltrated the Comcast broadcast during the last moments pretty darn funny.

But that was about it for entertainment. The Business section, Local, Regional, and World News, as well as the Editorial and Op-Ed pages were all there. Even the Obits had a showing. (People are always dying to get in the paper). The Lifestyle section, Accent, was missing. There was a “life story,” a regular columnist and a reader-submitted photo squeezed in, however, it’s a glaring testament to the degree of importance the editors and publishers place on the product’s entertainment value. When revenues drop—in this case advertising revenues—what entertains us or helps us to feel better about all the bad (and yes, even heartbreaking) news, is the first thing on the chopping block.

Last night I read an article (Village Voice Media Suspends Cartoons) about cartoonists losing their jobs with local weeklies and alternative papers. We’d already seen a trend of comics disappearing from newspapers and now, one of the main reasons to pick up an alternative—for the biting and creative humor offered by a few talented scribbblers—is being erased.

I have a favorite cartoonist. His name is Lloyd Dangle and his brilliant, self-syndicated comic strip is called TROUBLETOWN. These language-rich cartoons focus on politics and current events, and you won’t find a sharper humorist. According to Dangle, his work is still featured in 17 newspapers, but he’s definitely experienced the cuts. “When you lose a paper, it’s like losing an arm in a meat grinder,” he says. “It’s terrible for the ego and distressing for the soul.”

Even if TROUBLETOWN disappears from the papers, there’s still an opportunity for you to see his work. He maintains a blog, and has had at least three books published. In my house they’re found in one of two places: the coffee table or in the bathroom reading rack. I pick them up whenever the morning newspapers are filled with all the crap of current world events.

It’s time to get out your pen and help support comics like Lloyd Dangle. Scribble a letter to your local weekly and let them know how much we need to laugh right now.

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