still funk lord and queen after all
March 13, 2015 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Groening and Barry Take New York (Sarah Larson, The New Yorker)
"In the early eighties, discovering non-mainstream culture (independent cinema, post-punk rock, comic strips that weren’t 'Beetle Bailey') was much like being a detective, and local alternative newsweeklies were valuable providers of clues. They reviewed art and music that was hard to find; most important, they printed Groening’s 'Life in Hell' and Barry’s 'Ernie Pook’s Comeek.' Both were electrifyingly good. You wondered who these people were, where they came from, why they did what they did. I remember the jolt I felt when looking at the copyright page of Groening’s book 'Love Is Hell' and seeing an odd message, like a note left in a knothole: LYNDA BARRY IS FUNK QUEEN OF THE GALAXY. Groening and Barry were friends!"
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (27 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
"I am not a jive turkey and this school is not a jive turkey!" made me laugh with no visuals, though I realize now that I imagined it being said by a kind of Krusty/Skinner amalgam.
posted by kenko at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Thanks for this. Always loved them both. This is still my favorite Life in Hell.
posted by chavenet at 9:41 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Ernie Pook's Comeek saved my life.
posted by ikahime at 9:47 AM on March 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

I was 10 in 1980. My older brother who was 15 at the time would bring home a Chicago Reader every Friday. I'd read section three religiously. Life in Hell, though aimed at disillusioned adults, was still hilariously funny to me. Groening even back then knew how to appeal to kids using adult subjects, and vice versa. I liked Ernie Pook's Comeek also, but it often got pretty dark, and in retrospect I was too young at the time to fully appreciate it. There were other comic strips that I can sort of remember, but these are the two I still appreciate to this day.

(we's also read the adult personals, the XXX movie ads and the free classifieds, where pen-named people would post cryptic messages back and forth to each other. Kind of like a chat room with a 7-day lag. I remember one person who would quote obscure Queen lyrics, to my delight. I'd also read about various concerts I was way too young to go to, wondering what these clubs were like, full of adults.

Thanks for the article.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:48 AM on March 13, 2015 [8 favorites]

There are lots of great things about being a professor at Wisconsin but high on the list is that I get to see Lynda Barry all the time. And her students hang out at my daughter's preschool learning how to be creative from the 4-year-olds.

I too grew up on Life in Hell and Ernie Pook, in the Washington City Paper, one of the few alt-weeklies still standing in some semblance of its original form.
posted by escabeche at 9:50 AM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

I am really super-biased since I know the two people who curated that Alt Weekly show at Society of Illustrators, but it's really amazing. I recommend it!
posted by darksong at 10:43 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

they're both cultural treasures. I once sent Lynda Barry a postcard that was a follow-on to a cartoon of hers - the "shortened classics" if anyone remembers. and she sent me one back, which I thought was awesome.
posted by TMezz at 11:05 AM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

They were the main reason for me to pick up the Village Voice.
posted by Splunge at 11:11 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Loved them both in the Reader. I brought my youngest, a fledgling writer, to see Lynda J Barry speak a couple of years ago and Ms Barry was awe inspiring and took time afterwards to give readery jr some pointers about chosing the creative life as a career choice. I became even a bigger fan.
posted by readery at 11:16 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I remember a line from Life In Hell that was something like "Masturbation is nothing to be ashamed of. It's nothing to be especially proud of, either." Over the years, I've decided that's pretty solid life advice for all kinds of endeavors way beyond janking it.

Life In Hell is also why I'm always annoying my wife by yelling "Yee haw! Frosty mug!"

I like Barry a lot, too, I just don't have any good stories about her work.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 11:21 AM on March 13, 2015 [7 favorites]

I may never have laughed so hard as I did at a Life in Hell comic that had a little piece of philosophy that was something like:

"Love is like riding a snowmobile across the frozen tundra and then it flips over pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come."


"Money is like nose hair. If you pull out a little, it is painful. If you pull out a lot, it is painful."

I'm going to stop at two because its possible I could do this all morning.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:14 PM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]

I have the happy little Marlys from the first panel of Marlys' Guide to Queers tattooed on my leg :)
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:22 PM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

Their comic strip runs were before my time, but now I am going to look into them.

I am a devout Simpsons fan. Now I am going through each episode one-by-one from Season 1-25, armed with a notebook and tying timemarks to moments, aspiring to a highlight reel for each season.

On the Society of Illustrators, I am lucky enough to know a member -- coincidentally, a New Yorker cartoonist -- and have been dying to visit the place since early this year.

Another excuse. It looks like the hottest place in town -- I was going to take an artist date there more recently, but sadly, it didn't work out.

Cartoonists are invariably wonderful people, if my friend is any measure. I really hope that their craft is still appreciated and well-paid. I have a Dilbert comic calendar that I read and rip each morning, and it is important to me.

Britain's Private Eye issue after the Charlie Hebdo attacks contains the best real tribute to cartoonists I'd seen recently. Extremely irreverent and also hilariously vicious. Thankfully the Eye leaves kid gloves at home.
posted by niphates at 12:22 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I suspect very few people remember Groenig's music reviews column in the LA Weekly. It was rarely about music. I remember one column in particular, he went dumpster diving at a high school the day classes went on summer break, and fished out all the discarded notebooks he could find. Then he posted excerpts. This is probably second only to his column about the two guys on the bus, one of them had a live crab and the other kept falling asleep so he'd shove the crab in the guy's face. Both of these columns were hilarious and heartbreaking.

Nothing I say can really do justice to those columns, except to note one thing: when people first caught on to Groenig, he was a guy who rode the bus and went dumpster diving.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:38 PM on March 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

I was writing about Lynda Barry just this week. I would seriously name a daughter Marlys. That is pretty much all I can say about how I feel about her work.

When I was a kid, the little Easter egg in the front of Matt Groening and Lynda Barry books always made me smile.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:40 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is where I again endorse Medium's The Nib which, in addition to some of the more notable webcomickers and better (mostly lefty) political cartoonists features a few of the long-time denizens of the alt-weekly 'comic pages', like Shannon "Too Much Coffee Man" Wheeler, Ken (Ruben "Tom the Dancing Bug" Bolling) Fisher, and Dan "Tom Tomorrow" Perkins, yes, the more political ones, but that's The Nib.

Hey, waitaminute, the ever-expanding ever-mutating hub includes some notable veterans of the alt-weekly comics wars, including Tom the Dancing Bug (current AND classic), John "DERF" Blackderf's 'The City', Scott (The Onion) Dikkers' 'Jim's Journal', Tom Hart's 'Hutch Owen', and Carol Lay, as well as several younger comics creators who are definitely following in their collective footsteps. (GoComics is not ALL Peanuts and Nancy reruns, but it does take some work to find your way around them).
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:26 PM on March 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

Groening- “You think L.A. is Hell, this awful place of corruption and anti-creativity, and when I look at Wisconsin—”
“It’s its own kind of Hell,” Barry said. She described it as “colder than Scott Walker’s tit.”

posted by MtDewd at 1:46 PM on March 13, 2015

TBPH we have had a couple of miserably cold winters in a row, this one a bit more unevenly than the last. Barry lives in a town up the road from me; here's a local newspaper's interview from a few years ago, and here's a more recent profile out of Milwaukee.
posted by dhartung at 2:54 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

My father had a subscription to the Village Voice when I was growing up (in Ohio) and I LIVED for their comics. We still have an elaborate set of Marlys- and Jeff/Akbar-based jokes in my family to this day.
posted by at 3:10 PM on March 13, 2015

Life in Hell is the reason why my wife will not watch game shows with me. At every answer I get right that a contestant does not I will say, "Idiot! Those prizes are rightfully mine!"
posted by Fezboy! at 3:37 PM on March 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

Years ago, my ex and I were driving back to Berkeley from some late night trip. We got pulled over by a cop, who asked my ex some questions ("Do you know why I am stopping you tonight?" etc etc).

As he was handing over the ticket, he then asked, "Sir, what do you do for a living?"

"I'm unemployed."

Smirking, the cop walked back to his patrol car. "You have a good night!"

Miffed, my ex asked "What was that all about?"

That was when I pointed out the t shirt he was wearing.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 4:31 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

That Barry and Groening were good friends is not news to people who read the alt-weeklies of the West Coast in the late 80s and early 90s. Maybe for once NYC was the last to know about something?
posted by gingerest at 5:06 PM on March 13, 2015

I worked at an English language weekly paper in Budapest in the 1990s. We wanted to run Lynda Barry's Ernie Pook strip but couldn't transfer pay in dollars and Hungarian currency was not convertable. Barry gave us permission to run the comic strip in exchange for a cassette tape of Roma folk music.
posted by zaelic at 3:30 AM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

Through my adolescence into young adulthood, I remember devouring every week, in turn, Charlotte's Creative Loafing, then later DC's City Paper, then later the Triangle's Independent and Spectator (the corporate Spectator was eventually bought out by the Indy), and then finally the Athens, GA Flagpole. Just reading Life in Hell made me feel cool (I was not).

They were the food for my wanna be left wing activist and cool person soul long before there was a world wide web and even after, before there were such a thing as blogs (and Metafilter). Every now and then, I pick up Atlanta's Creative Loafing to read on the train, but it's just not the same, man.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:58 AM on March 14, 2015

At every answer I get right that a contestant does not I will say, "Idiot! Those prizes are rightfully mine!"

LOL that comic has been taped to my fridge for decades. But it appears that your link contains a cropped version, omitting the lower part of the comic. Here is the full version.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:50 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

I get the sense that Lynda Barry is incredibly awesome with little kids -- she regularly co-draws comics with them that end up in her collections, and a friend of mine from college met her when she was younger and Barry drew her something, too.

It is well worth following Lynda Barry's Tumblr.

One! Hundred! Demons! is the comfort food of my soul and is right on about dancing, smells, and ex-boyfriends-as-headlice. I can't ever get over the yearning Barry's work manages to elicit.

My puppets, Weena and Erna (a bastardization of Arna), are named for an Ernie Pook comeek which I found in the Pasadena Weekly as a teen and never quite understood. My sisters and I would periodically yell "Don't eat Weena!" at each other regardless.
posted by gusandrews at 2:38 PM on March 14, 2015

I still can't believe the pretentious head lice exboyfriend is IRA FUCKING GLASS.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:21 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

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