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The Boyfriend of the Week

February 19, 2004

Okay, so, excuse number four hundred and seventy-eight as to why this write-up was so extra-special late in arriving on your doorstep. But hey, for the record, this is a good one. It has to do with a totally unplanned, wholly spontaneous demonstration of gravity that just got way WAY out of hand. The net result, at the speed of 32 feet per second per second, was my arse on the ground, two scraped-up palms and a sprained right wrist. Never fear, however -- I'm okay. Luckily, the ground broke my fall. I mean, just imagine the damage if I'd kept going! I could've ended up in China! And then this write-up would've never showed up, because I'd probably be dead from the bird flu, as well as all banged up. The horror!

But anyway, getting real work done last week was a challenge. So, getting a write-up done was pretty much out of the question. Ever try typing with your hand all bandaged up and in a splint? Not only is it difficult, but it looks absolutely ridiculous. To save FACE, I had to put this off. I have a reputation for hipness to maintain!

But, as they say, time heals all wounds. Even wounds caused by klutziness and stupidity. In fact, thankfully, ESPECIALLY wounds caused by klutziness and stupidity. And so I hath returned to you, with a new beau in tow.

And, to make things even more interesting, he's a new kind of Boyfriend. A new GENRE of Boyfriend. He's not an actor, he doesn't write novels, he's never been seen on MTV, nor is he a sock puppet, robot scientist, or hobbit. He is, instead, the artist responsible for one of the funniest, most clever comic strips in print today. He's Darby Conley, creator of the fabulous "Get Fuzzy."

Wait, what? Say that again? No. No way. What? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What do you MEAN you don't read the comics? What is WRONG with you? Born without a humerus? Beaten up at recess for thinking Marmaduke was actually funny? Cancer of the puppy?! (My apologies to Xander Harris for stealing his line there.)

Then, dude, you need "Get Fuzzy" even more than I do.

Now, okay, I really ought to confess something to you before we get much further along. For the last three or so years, I haven't been reading the comics page in the paper either. I've bookmarked the web sites of about six of my favorite strips and I read those daily (for your information, those strips are: Get Fuzzy, Doonesbury, Dilbert, Foxtrot, Meg!, and For Better or For Worse -- I also read "Get Your War On," but it only comes out sporadically and never shows up in newspapers, so maybe that one doesn't count). But not every funny in the funny pages is in my list, obviously. Not even some of the other ones I really like, like Sally Forth or Zits or Adam. This weekend, however, I had an epiphany. Do you realize that my parents read the funnies every day? They even read some of them aloud to each other (which is, actually, quite challenging, because half the funny of the funnies is the drawings themselves -- you have to know a lot of adjectives in order to read a comic strip out loud, a LOT of adjectives). Heck, no WONDER their marriage has lasted for over 36 years! Even science concurs, by the way. Laughing can make you live longer, and everybody says so. Though, oddly, have you noticed that whenever there's an article in the news about the benefits of laughter, the article almost always recommends the movie "Duck Soup" with the Marx Brothers? What is up with that? I mean, have you ever seen "Duck Soup"? Because all I have to say about it is this: it ain't no "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Time to update the recommendations, fellas! And no offense here to Marx Brothers fans. If it's any consolation (and I may just be adding insult to injury here), I never thought the Three Stooges were funny either. Probably because my big brother primarily used Stooges episodes as a guidebook on how to torment me instead of just as an entertaining way to kill an hour on a Saturday morning. Although, actually, come to think of it, tormenting me WAS one of his favorite ways to entertain himself on a Saturday morning. I guess it all makes sense, then.

Anyway, you know how there have been all those articles recently about how starving yourself can add 30 years to your life? Doesn't laughing sound WAY more FUN than that? Yeah, I agree, and that's why I made a resolution to set aside ten minutes out of my day to read every strip in the paper (you know, except for the lame ones, like "Family Circle," which I actually just find plain ol' offensive since it's so obvious all those characters are high on crack). Every strip. Every day. And while I'm at it, I'll take a multi-vitamin, floss my teeth, and eat some chocolate. Or maybe chocolate first, flossing last. Man, with a regimen like that, I will live FOREVER!

If you want to start small, though, you can just start with a daily reading of "Get Fuzzy." It's this great strip about this guy, Rob Wilco, who owns two pets (or perhaps more accurately, "is owned by" two pets) -- Satchel, the naive and adorable dog, and Bucky, the sociopathic kitty cat. Satchel and Bucky are the greatest illustrated good vs. evil duo since Ren and Stimpy (or, one of my other favorites, Cow and Chicken).

But it's not just your standard "dumb cute character constantly accidentally messes up evil plans of mean ol' cranky character, who always begins each strip with a diabolical 'mua ha ha ha ha' and ends it with a scowling 'darn, foiled again!'" kind of thing. Because Satchel has his moments of absolute genius, and Bucky is really just an old softie on the inside. Plus, Conley is a very hip, very funny writer. The strips are so original -- they have the wide-eyed wonder and sarcasm of "Calvin and Hobbes" and the right-on social commentary of "Doonesbury." I mean, right now, for example, Bucky the cat has just challenged this evil ferret to an official, slapped-with-a-single-glove kinda duel. It's bad vs. even worse! And while some readers might just take this plot at face value, I can plainly see what is really going here. Can you say "Bush vs. Sadaam"? Or "Everybody vs. Michael Jackson"? Or "Entire Country vs. Janet Jackson's right boob"? Sometimes I am just blown away by Conley's ability to so poignantly bring into focus some of the extremely important issues of modern society.

The man is a GENIUS! (Note: I don't actually believe Conley was thinking "Bush vs. Sadaam" when he came up with the Bucky vs. ferret plotline. I was just being one of those annoying people who thinks everything is about politics, even when it's actually just about how funny it is to see a cat get its butt kicked by a weasel.)

And, even better, Darby's pretty cute too! Granted, the photo above is the only one I could find on the web. And it's possible it's been airbrushed like crazy and he actually looks more like, say, a wookie. But I'm okay with the fantasy that he is as pictured. And also, of course, he's the guy in his strip too to me (even though he said in an interview that he's actually nothing like Rob Wilco). A mellow, cool guy with a great sense of humor and a monumental amount of patience (because, honestly, as much as I love him, I would've taken Bucky back to the pound years ago.)

Darby began his career as a cartoonist when he was a kid, publishing his strips in the Doyle High Trailblazer, his Knoxville, Tennessee high school newspaper. In 1986, he won first place in a student cartoon contest in the News-Sentinel, and in 1990, enrolled as an art student at Amherst College in Massachusetts (note: also the alma mater of Foxtrot creator Bill Amend). While he was a student, he got into rugby, and his love of the game is something that pops up in the strip every now and then (a reference, a rugby shirt on Rob, e.g.). In 1994, Darby graduated with a BA in Fine Arts and Art History.

Becoming a syndicated cartoonist is no easy task, though, so Conley got a day job as an elementary school teacher while he submitted strip after strip to United Media. In 1999, they finally took notice and, after a bit of tinkering, "Get Fuzzy" was born. Since then, Darby has added the prestigious National Cartoonists Society award to his list of credits, and "Get Fuzzy" is now published in over 175 newspapers around the country.

Though his art and humor are definitely reminiscent of Bloom County and Calvin & Hobbes, the Darbster says his visual style was actually more inspired by the Belgian "Tintin" comics. His quirky, offbeat sense of humor he says was primarily inspired by both Douglas Adams and Monty Python (like me, Conley attributes his love of French jokes to the Pythons, though, for the record, we would both like to say that we actually have nothing against the French. Even though they are extremely ridiculous people who are extremely ridiculously easy to make fun of.)

Up next for Conley is not only more strip-writing (something he spends at least 60 hours a week doing), but also a rumored "Get Fuzzy" feature film. Could be good, could be "Dilbert: The Animated Series" (*shiver*). When asked who he would want to cast to be the voices, Conley couldn't think of anyone, though he did say in his mind, Satchel sounds just like Winnie the Pooh.

Now hold on, let's review: Douglas Adams, Monty Python, Winnie the POOH? I swear, it's like Darby Conley was MADE to be my Boyfriend. I mean, it just doesn't get any better than this! (In fact, it actually gets a bit worse -- Conley is married with children. Drat!)

But anyway, the important thing I want you to take away from this write-up is that laughing is extremely important, and Darby Conley and his cast of characters can give you the giggles like nobody's business. So read the funnies! It just might save your life! And if you don't get "Get Fuzzy" in your paper, you can use the link in the list of stuff below to get there every day and you can also write to your paper and request that they subscribe -- Darby will thank you, and then you can tell him it was all because of my recommendation, to which he'll reply, "Really? You don't happen to have that girl's phone number do you?" to which you'll reply, "I sure do!" to which I'll reply, "Hey, Darby, how about dinner?" quickly followed by "Hey, Darby, will you marry me?"

He's also got a few compilation books out. Check your local public library.

MacGyver Factor Score: 94.279%. Points off because not only is Conley already married, but I'M already married and thus the above question is actually moot. How is this Darby's fault? It's not. But I'm completely irrational when it comes to grudges. So there.


Boyfriend-Related Links
Get Fuzzy (a link to the strip)
Article about Get Fuzzy at Suite 101

Meet the Makers: Darby Conley (a great interview!)


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