Everyone has a charity or a cause that they believe in. Mine is Family Circus, by Bill Keane. Family Circus been around for over 50 years, and hasn't even been funny yet on accident. It's the only part of the newspaper that birds won't shit on. And I have vowed to destroy it.
Rather than tracking down and destroying every Family Circus comic, I've spent years developing a robot capable of rewriting them. This powerful robot has been programmed with every modern technique of joke construction and irony. He is named PG-13, after the guidelines set down by the Motion Picture Association of America that he is forced to cyber-follow. What that means is that in each comic, PG-13 is only allowed 4 to 6 curse words, and none of them can be a sexual fuck. So he cannot fuck you, but he can have fucking sex with you. He's incredible and amazing and I have spent the last five days feeding Family Circus comics into him. Here are our results.
The Family Circus Original:
Ugh. Look at that bullshit. Did you know that every time someone makes a joke that begins and ends with a seat-and-tray-tables speech, it erases an episode of The Three Stooges? That's how powerfully unfunny it is. When Bill Keane typed this, every baby for 200 miles stopped smiling. If you read it out loud, milk will actually crawl back up your nose. Doctors are funnier when they explain that your AIDS medicine might give you anal fissures.
When I put this comedy tragedy into PG-13's robot comics port, he told me to fuck myself, which he legally shouldn't even be able to say. Then he, almost defiantly, produced this: The Family Circus Original:
About every fifteen Family Circuses, one of the children will get naked. In this one, there's even a wild stretch for a dick joke! What the hell happened in the bathroom that allowed a naked boy to escape his mother and make it all the way to the front door? Did she slip and die? Is she back there bleating for help while her memories spill out of her head wound? Is this the kind of neighborhood where you send your nude children to the door as a goof? "Shit, shit, here comes Fed-Ex! Take the kid's pants off!" Bill Keane has such a schizophrenic sense of humor, that's entirely possible.
Maybe I'm thinking about this in the wrong direction. I mean, looking at that woman's jaw and apish hands, it's pretty clear that it's a man in a wig. So maybe it's funny because that's a crazy thing to have near a naked little boy? I'll never understand. Luckily, PG-13 had a fit of cyber inspiration and created three improved versions. PG-13 BONUS:The Family Circus Original:
What the shit is this? Butterflies are nice? Bill Keane, a woodchipper is a better babysitter than you are a comedy writer. This isn't even homegrown wisdom. Bill Keane just thinks special needs children lead such horrible lives that to them, happiness is any insect not trying to kill them.
PG-13 barely even hesitated when his scanners ran their cyber lasers over this comic: The Family Circus Original:
Despite the fact that I was falling in love with PG-13, I knew I had to put one of these meandering dotted line Family Circus maps inside him. I figured he'd hate it, but I wasn't prepared for it to take him to such a dark place: The Family Circus Original:
The Family Circus children have no consistency. In one comic they're asking why they can't eat the candy bars out of grandma's Diaper Genie, and in the next they're making puns about 50's art movements. Bill Keane doesn't give a fuck about whether or not it makes sense for the characters-- if he finds a word that means two things, he makes a Family Circus comic about it without even thinking. I swear, within two years you're going to be seeing: "Daddy! Our Sex Ed teacher told us to practice putting a Jimmy on with a banana. Jimmy loved it!" or "Mom? Where's the watering can? Dad said you haven't been wet since 1978."
If there's one thing PG-13 has, it's consistency. So when I gave him this comic for rewriting, he took one look at it and said, "THE BOYS FATHER DRAWS DICKS. HA. HA." He then gave me 75 variations on that before finally generating this: The Family Circus Original:
Kids say the cutest things when the people around them die. And in Family Circus, they are always having misunderstandings about their grandmother's medical conditions. Maybe they're waiting until the kids are in their teens before they teach them respect for human life. If Family Circus cartoons went on for one more sentence, every single one of them would end with, "Oh, that's hilarious, you little bitch! My God damn mom is dying!"
And if they went two more sentences, "Dying? What, like an Easter egg? Yay, Easter!"
Three sentences longer? "You're eight years old! How have you never encountered a word that means more than one very specific thing!?"
And if they were four sentences longer, "I'm old enough to read the birth defect warning on cigarettes, you harpy. You're lucky I'm not just a screaming face in an incubator."
PG-13 had some interesting responses to this challenge. At first he seemed to get a little too hung up on Family Circus' disregard for human life. However, on his third cyber attempt, he generated such a perfect Family Circus comic that it's virtually indistinguishable from the originals. The Family Circus Original:"Hi, we're from Child Protective Services. We were driving by and couldn't help but notice the open-mouthed kissing gauntlet you've built here with this elderly couple and these toddlers. Yes, I'm sure you have some kind of explanation. But sir, ma'am, put yourself in our shoes. If we don't shoot you at least in the kneecaps, we could lose our jobs."
When I gave this to PG-13, he seemed especially confused. Not by his suddenly raging cyber boner-- I programmed that to go off every three minutes so I could make eggs. No, PG-13 seemed genuinely confused why a human would make something like this. Maybe that's why he generated such a strange comic: The Family Circus Original:
There are two serious problems with this comic. The first is the shaky setup to the punchline "winternet." If, as a writer, you're going to go take your reader on a long walk to a shitty pun, that should come with an apology letter. Not from you yourself, but from the doctor that couldn't reattach your dick. Rapists read this comic and understand now what they've done.
The second problem here is that computers don't display static. Bill Keane has mistaken them for televisions. I'm sure that's common among people who grew up with cholera as their only hobby and who still calls pulleys a fad. Seriously, fuck you, Bill Keane. Why did you invent his own entirely new circumstance if you didn't have a clever comment about it? It's a two step process to nothing. Your stupid ass probably had to redraw the whole comic after someone told you that computers don't have gas tanks.
When I asked PG-13 to rewrite this crap, the paradoxical nature of it immediately fried his logic circuits. He stared at it blankly, clattering and smoking the entire time. Suddenly, after six hours of silence, he spat out these two cryptic comics and refused to ever work again: