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 . . . 

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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 . . . 

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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!

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.


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