Joe Martin – Willy ‘n Ethel

If you listen to some people, I probably owe Joe Martin a few added years of life. I say that based on the premise that laughter improves your health and prolongs your life. 

I don’t know how much stock I put on that, but I do like losing myself in humor and I like to laugh. Maybe what I owe Joe martin is many hours of laughter. 

Very rarely, the laughter is not welcomed.

One such time was two nights ago. I had gone to bed early (12:15 am) since I’d had a couple of nights in a row of less than my self-imposed minimum 4 hours of sleep. As usually happens, 3-4 hours after going to sleep, I wake up. Perhaps I hear a noise. Whatever the reason, I usually flip over, and drift back into a slumber-sleep until the alarm rings. 

Sometimes I get up to  . . . ah . . . well, I get up. I don’t turn on any lights, I try to keep my eyes near closed, I try to keep my brain as much as possible in park. That means not much activity beyond, you know, minding not walking into walls, and not soiling . . . er . . . missing crucial targets. 

Except, this came to mind . . . 

Willy Ethel -075

That’s Willy ‘n Ethel . . . one of the strips Joe Martin created. One of his other, Mr. Boffo, competes with Willy ‘n Ethel for my most favorite. 

Sure, Calvin and Hobbes are high up there, as are the Far Side and a few others. But for just busting-out laughing-out-loud . . . Willy ‘n Ethel and Mr. Boffo are champs.

So, the above cartoon comes to mind . . . and I try to suppress a laugh, resulting in a snickering-like noise (I’m not sure if that is an accurate description; I don’t really know what snickering sounds like. It’s one of those words you hear and assign a meaning to, but don’t really research to know what it actually means).

I blank my mind again . . . but the damn cartoon comes back; his expression, Ethel hiding, and presumably laughing, behind the paper, and, of course, the very idea of a balloon covered with gravy as a joke. I laugh out loud, but, you know, still trying to suppress it. I end up making a noise like someone whistling out of their nose while trying not to sneeze and at the same time trying to blow a raspberry. 

By now my brain is well past the slumber stage, and, having received positive reinforcement, throws up this image. 

Farm Report

I burst out into a ‘silent laughter’.

Wondering what that is? That’s when you are trying to laugh in a way you assume is silent enough not to wake your wife, but in fact isn’t.

The inevitable question came . . . “What are you laughing at?”

Well, that broke the damn, and I start really laughing as cartoon after cartoon flood my mind . . . 

Willy Ethel - 139 Willy n Ethel -051 Willy Ethel -091

I can hardly explain to Melisa the why of the early morning merriment, but manage to mention a few key descriptors . . . balloon, gravy, farm report . . . 

Awake, by now she’s laughing along, and bring up her own . . . 

Willy Ethel -079 Willy Ethel -105

I should step back a moment, giving me a chance to compose myself . . . difficult to type when laughing. 

One might note these are scans of clippings. Newspaper clippings. 

While we lived in Michigan I subscribed to not one, not two, but three papers. Not for the news, editorials, ads . . . it was strictly for the cartoons.

Three papers was enough to give me a good mix of available cartoons into which I would lose myself as a break from working. Those that made me laugh got clipped and attached to 8.5×11 inches sheets of paper. 

In fact, in preparation for this post, I took the opportunity to scan some 550+ individual cartoons. I’m guessing I have a couple of thousand more to go. Once it’s all backed up, I’ll shred those originals. They take up room, and we are trying to lean down in all facets of our lives.

These days I have two e-mail comics subscriptions. They arrive in my e-mail Inbox each morning and when I like something, I save it . . . for example, these are all from my subscriptions.

Ahab_tmloo130218 Angel gets wings Bizarro_10sec_rule Gettysburg_Tweet

Of course, I still get Willy ‘n Ethyl and Mr. Boffo . . . 

WnE_the-Master. we-notin mb-ticklish-used mb-computer mb-dodgebell

By the way . . . if you want to spend some time working on getting a sense of humor even remotely close to my own warped sense of humor, read Joe Marin’s Archives.

But for me . . . there is something satisfying to going through the clips. Many have dates that closely coincide to milestones in our lives. I came across one that was a couple of days before Hartwick Professionals, Inc. was formed, in June of 1984. Some were older. That means I carried that clipping around with us in each of our moves for the last thirty years.

Thirty years . . . it sounds unreal when I say it outloud; I actually double-check the math.

But, back to Willy ‘n Ethel (I’ll cover other cartoons strips in other posts). 

Reading these cartoon probably helped train my brain to a particular kind of humor. Mind you, I had embarked on that road before crossing paths with Willy ‘n Ethel, Mr. Boffo, et al.

And, while I sometimes say I have a strange sense of humor, it can’t really be that strange . . . there have to be other people out there who finds stuff like this simply laugh-out-loud!

Willy n Ethel -048 Willy n Ethel -040 Willy Ethel -078

Willy ‘n Ethel have a strange relationship . . . one could almost be envious of it . . . you, know, if it weren’t so dysfunctional.

Willy Ethel -067 Willy Ethel -119 Willy Ethel -088

One of the thing I like about the cartoons is that they break the fourth wall . . . the looks one or other protagonist gives the reader contributes to the punchline.

Willy Ethel -098

Of course, the joke coming out of deep left field is what ultimately cracks me up . . . 

Willy Ethel -080

But, to get back to the story . . . I could not get to sleep, of course. I laid there, thinking of various comics I have not only in the form of collections, calendars, and anniversary publications (when I resume the Bookcase series I’ll cover them all), but in stuff I have saved either in paper form or as digital content.

Stuff I love, stuff that cracks me up, stuff that brings up a rare desire to have more people in my life I could introduce to things they probably missed but which I think they should be exposed to. 

The reality is that there is nothing worse than showing a cartoon to someone, and have the person look back at you with a blank stare, or worse, a fake half-smile.

The majority of adults I’ve interacted with in the 40+ years would look at this next cartoon and look back at me with a blank look on their face. 

They would not recognize it as one of the funniest and most poignant cartoons I have ever seen.

But, that’s OK . . . Joe probably wrote it as much for himself as he did for the few who would find something in it both funny and a reflection on the absurdity of our lives. It is enough that I read it, laugh, and, though I can’t explain it to others, gives me a perspective that eases, if only a bit, my short journey that is my life.

Willy n Ethel -053

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

Disclaimer: I hold no claim on any of these comics. Where I could, I specifically asked if I could use them (Joe Martin was the only one who answered, giving his permission as long as they are not used for monetary gain). Should the individuals associated with these cartoons find their presence here objectionable, please let me know, and I will take them down.


Note: if you are not reading this blog post at, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.


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. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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22 Responses to Joe Martin – Willy ‘n Ethel

  1. oneowner says:

    Willy ‘n Ethel are new to me but I have had other favorites for many years. Gary Larson’s cartoons still crack me up (remember when potato salad goes bad?) and the old reliable Kliban’s Cat (wackawacka). I think you can understand people more if you know what makes them laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      Yeah, Farside also holds a special place in my warped sense of humor (I have the boxset collection with notes, sketches, interviews).

      I remember the first cartoon I ever saw of his . . .

      “Late at night, and without permission, Reuben would often enter the nursery and conduct experiments in static electricity.” It showed a guy rubbing babies on his shirt and sticking them on the ceiling.

      I think I yelled out “YES!!” and pumped my fist in the air as I danced a silly jig. The GM Manager conducting a meeting at the time was less than amused.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t seen Willy ‘n Ethel for years. Now, I’ll look them up online and see if I can get them in my e-mail. Thanks for sharing those and others. They do make me laugh.

    Comics are also a big part of my day. We subscribe to two papers for the funnies. I also have collected a number of comics over the years. The earliest are from 1978. My favorite funnies: Calvin and Hobbes, For Better or Worse, and When I Was Short (I have one from 1990 on our fridge.) Yes, many do relate to milestones in our lives. One from Doonesbury is when Joanie Caucus, who went to college later in life, graduated – about the same time I did under similar circumstances. ;-)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These are great! :-D You have good taste in comics! I’ve always loved Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes! :-D And being a mom, I always loved Baby Blues! :-D
    Willy and Ethel ARE laugh out loud (snort) funny! :-D Thanks for sharing them! :-D
    I was watching a TV show last night (set in the 1930’s) and one guy said to another, “See you in the funny papers!” So, I looked up that expression to see how/why it came about. :-)
    HUGS!!! :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      Well, whenever you need some laughs and have a few minutes, head over to the archives . . .

      As for the saying, there are multiple hypothesis on its origin. I’m going to ask my father-in-law (he just turned 90) if he remembers it, and if so, what meaning it had. I doubt he would know the origin, but perhaps I can find out how it was used (there’s speculation about that as well).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Eddy Winko says:

    I didn’t spurt my tea out, but I did miss my mouth a few times. A great late breakfast read, cheers!


  5. kelli schmeisser says:

    I too laugh and laugh and laugh out loud at comic strips every chance I can get. After all, they were the tools my dad used to teach me to read.
    My fondness for Willie and Ethel is, probably to most, considered excessive. As you stated…the blank stares, shrugging shoulders, etc. etc. I feel bad for those poor saps.
    When I stop laughing at the genius of these, ya might as well stick me with a fork!
    Thanks for this wonderful article of appreciation!
    Kelli Schmeisser


    • disperser says:

      Thank you for the comment, and sorry for the late response. For some reason, I missed the notification.

      I split my excessive fondness almost evenly between Willie n’ Ethel and Mr. Boffo (both by the same artist). I should be doing a similar treatment of Mr. Boffo soon.


  6. Debi mueller says:

    Does anyone know what the “picture” in some of the strips is about? It is always the same design and appears as a picture on the wall.


    • disperser says:

      I just checked a whole lot of the cartoons I have, and I have not seen any picture on the wall. I noticed an occasional pipe, and sometimes a hanging something or other, but no decorations that I can see.

      I’ve not checked the latest ones, so if it’s something recent, I’ve not seen it. Sorry.


    • disperser says:

      . . . unless you are referring to the abstract-looking thing with triangles and such . . . I thought that might be something to do with the printing.


    • disperser says:

      Ah . . .

      Some of the strips have an animated version. You can point your phone to it and if you have the right app, you can see the animated version.


  7. Jason says:

    What do we have to do to read the latest Willy ‘n’ comic that I’ve been trying to read all day? They haven’t bothered to update it on the main one, and it’s in the afternoon. My favorite ones are when Willy makes comments about Ethel’s sister.
    God bless you, Jason Scott Irelan


  8. David Orona says:

    My all time favorite Willie and Ethel comic featured Ethel saying , “I thought that we agreed you weren’t going to loosen your belt until we got home” with the illustration showing another couple looking disheveled, laying on the floor, the dinnertable and their chairs knocked over backwards, their plates and silverware, coffee cups and saucers, scattered about the restaurant floor.


  9. A post much needed these days
    Real laughter is so rare…people really need to get a grip and lighten up.
    (or those that see the wisdom in that – should run far away from the grim moper for their own self preservation.)

    Liked by 2 people

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