One of the unfunniest comic strips still appearing in the “funny papers” is Marvin by Tom Armstrong. Granted, comic strips don't have to be funny—plenty have focused on being dramatic while managing to still be entertaining in the daily-short format—but Marvin is presented as humor.
As a kid I always read the Sunday comics and often the daily comics in the newspaper. At some point in my adolescense I realized that Marvin hadn't been the least bit funny for ages and that Tom Armstrong must have run out of material. This was especially apparent when the dog started talking and turned into an unfunny antagonist for the baby.
How unfunny is it? Reading Marvin is almost as bad as the intentionally unfunny The Castlefunnies by Lem Sportsinterviews and Levert Burtmore.
“If you don't like it, don't read it!” might be the typical, lazy response from some people. Well, I have in fact not read it for several years, but I recently decided to start reading it again to see if it's still as bad as I remember. It is, which prompted me to write this essay. Here are some samples I recently clipped from the newspaper:
The joke is that poop stinks and because Marvin is a toddler he poops his pants, and because the stench rises his dad can smell it while standing behind him. Oh, okay. Ha ha ha. Ha.
Here's a joke we haven't seen a million times already: The dog wants to go for a walk, so while holding the leash he insists his owner needs more exercise.
One week the “jokes” had Marving walking past “Beware of Dog” signs and the dogs trying to be repulsive by saying things like, “I don't floss,” “My fleas bite,” and “My farts are toxic!” The pinnacle was, “I have loose bowels.” “Loose” like normal “dog poop all over lawn,” or “loose” like “dog diarrhea all over my kitchen floor in the middle of the night”? In any case, nobody is surprised by dog poop in the same yard as a dog. As a kid I stopped playing in my backyard when my parents decided to get the family a dog.
The gut-busters continue as an unfunny observation is made about an unfunny action in an unfunny situation. It would be just as unfunny if Marvin were holding a sandwich, then when asked why, he simply took a bite. Now subsitute the sandwhich with a bat and replace the second kid with Ozzy Osbourne and it might be darkly funny.
I could continue to show example after example of how lame, innane, and unfunny Marvin is, but I don't want to wear fair use too thin. I think I'm annoyed so much by this because the space in the paper is wasted when there are dozens of more entertaining comics that could appear instead—many that used to but don't any more. I even wrote to my local newspaper 20 years ago to request they publish anything else instead of Marvin, but two decades later Tom Armstrong is still getting paid to tell unfunny “jokes.” They could even repeat some classics that have ended, like Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes, and people would enjoy those immensely more than Marvin.
Yes, Marvin, your comic strip is sad.