Sean Maher's Quality Control

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Arsenic Lullaby: The Farrelly Brothers and Todd Solondz are Pussies

So here I am reviewing my opening salvo, and it occurs to me that maybe I’m coming off a little "PG".

Ho ho, I love comics, this shit rocks, come join me, hip hip hooray!

Well, I certainly want to keep the focus here positive and constructive, but that doesn’t mean I'm only gonna be reviewing Bambi, y'know, and what better way to demonstrate that than by giving you a quick look at one of my favorite, awful, awful comics?

Ladies and gentlemen, if you haven't been reading Doug Paszkiewicz’s wonderful Arsenic Lullabies, the odds are fair that it's not for you anyway. The series requires a really muscular, flexible sense of humor, as it's rife with jokes about the holocaust, abortion, child molestation, and violence.

Normally, I'd hear that and find myself only mildly interested. Usually, when folks are going for "grossout" or "black" humor, they do one of three things that make me lose interest: they try to make some kind of important social point, they rely on the darkness of the humor to be funny for them, or they flinch.

If I'm reading cruel humor, I want some actual cruelty in it, okay? If you’re gonna show me a kid getting mauled by a bear, just go ahead and do it; don’t make it complicated.

But Paszkiewicz neither complicates things nor flinches, and he puts a surprising punch of comedic talent into the book - it's not just funny because an aborted fetus zombie crawls back up into a woman's uterus for revenge, it's funny because the man's got real chops with timing and delivery. And his sense of humor has guts to it, and so on top of finding things like this really funny:

--I also find it charming.

What’s that? I’m a sick bastard, you say?

Whatever. Here's the thing: when I read this kind of stuff and laugh, it's not like I'm somehow endorsing child molestation. That's completely ridiculous, to a point of such obviousness that I'm embarassed to have to say so. I'm laughing at the unexpected, at the outrageousness of the story being told, at the clever characterization of Voodoo Joe and other recurring characters. But it's important that I'm also laughing at myself - I do have a strong concience, and like a lot of people, I spend a lot of time evaluating myself, picking apart each little action and thought, trying to be sure I live up to my own expectations - it's exhausting. And often, it's silly and dumb. And the fact that Paszkiewicz is able to make me laugh at such terrible things helps me take myself a little less seriously.

I'm thankful for that. Every issue of Arsenic Lullaby that comes out is a real joy for me, because I know I'm going to be able to sit back and relax with some big, fat belly laughs, with no strings attached.

Am I recommending this to everyone? Hell, no. I've only met a handful of people in my life with a sense of humor robust enough to enjoy Aresenic Lullaby, and those people have all become fast friends. If the rest of you want to laugh at Cameron Diaz putting jizz in her hair, that's cool - but I don't think that goes nearly far enough. I need the line pushed farther.

And Paszkiewicz is always pushing it for me.


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