I meant to pot this last week when it actually happened but then I completely forgot and was just reminded of it today. So anyway, this is an actual, unedited Luann strip that appeared in newspapers and on GoComics.
I don't have anything to say about it, I just had to document its existence, because no one would believe it.
A man and a woman are standing in a room. The walls are a sort of uneven black and pink chequer pattern that produces a sort of optical illusion of blue patches. In two places, the pattern is unevenly matched, producing distinct squares. There is part of a window visible, drawn erratically and without regard for perspective, making it unpleasant to look at for too long. The sill and trim are white, while the glass is black and blue chequer pattern.
The man, standing next to the window, is dressed in black, with black, unkempt hair and dark stubble. He has a very large nose and bags under his eyes, and is staring blankly. He is holding a sign in front of him which reads:
PLEASEThe text is centred and printed in a simple, slightly rough, sans-serif font. The sign itself is a very pale yellow colour and appears to be at least a couple of centimetres thick in some places, but thinner in others.
The woman is in the extreme foreground, visible only from the neck up. What can be seen of her clothing is black. She, like the man, has a very large nose, but also has very large lips and large eyes. Whereas the man has no chin at all, his head and neck being utterly undifferentiated, the woman has a very pointy chin. Her eyebrows are thick and black. Her hair is brown and worn in a style vaguely reminiscent of Princess Leia in the first Star Wars film (which is to say, episode four).
To clarify, the woman's hair is parted in the middle, with large pompom-like buns on either side of her head, obscuring her ears. Its colour is neither particularly dark nor light. The buns are crosshatched and shaded on the bottom, giving the impression of an overhead light source. Nothing else in the scene indicates such lighting, however.
Both people in the scene are drawn without regard to perspective, appearing to be mostly in profile but with both eyes visible, suggesting that they may have four eyes each, two on either side of the nose, but this seems unlikely to be the artist's intent. The woman's hair is also confusing, as much more of her right bun (furthest from the viewer) is visible than should be the case, almost like it's not attached to her head at all but floating in the air behind her.
It is unclear what the artist hoped to convey through these drawings as the entirety of the joke (such as it is) is conveyed in the sign held by the man. The illustrations give us no further insight, nor is there any additional joke conveyed through the art. Furthermore, we are given no indication of who these people are, where they are, or why one of them should be communicating his dissatisfaction with life through the medium of a slightly humours sign. Their expressions, however, leave us in no doubt that the sentiment (a desire to escape from the realities of their existences) is genuine and held by both parties. Perhaps this isn't a joke at all. Perhaps this is a cry for help from JC Duffy. Hopefully he will get the support he needs.
Florence Capp, a working class English woman, is visiting a supposed psychic, a fortune teller who goes by the name of "Mystic Mary". Flo is wearing a blue jacket, cardigan, windcheater, hoodie, or similar garment, with matching trousers. The trousers have pocket on the left side (and possibly a matching one on the right, although it is impossible to say from this angle). She is also wearing pale blue gloves and a pink headscarf with black spots. Her hair, where it is visible sticking out from behind the scarf, is bright yellow with some squiggles probably meant to imply curls. She is sitting up straight, hands clasped before her, holding a grey handbag or purse. She seems to be paying careful attention to "Mary".
"Mary" is dressed in what appears to be wizards' robes, pale purple with yellow stars, and some S-shapes on the (loose, baggy) cuffs. She also wears a matching hood, bonnet or cap. Her hair, peeking out from the cap, is black and sparse. She appears to be wearing black lipstick. She is leaning forward, eyes closed, hands held out before her, fingers splayed. Motion lines indicate that her hands are waving.
Between the two women is a table, completely covered by a white table cloth bearing the words "MYSTIC MARY" in a vaguely whimsical font. On the table is a "crystal ball", a clear glass sphere resting on a black base. The two women are seated on three-legged, wooden stools. The background is mostly a dark pink colour, but the top part is a solid black, indicating perhaps that the two women are seated in the only well-lit part of a dark room.
"Ah, the mists are clearing" says "Mary". "I can see now..."
In the next panel, "Mary" has opened her eyes and raised her hands slightly. Mrs Capp has leaned forward, placed one hand (palm-down) on the table and opened her mouth to speak. Her other hand (still holding the grey bag) hangs at her side.
"A tall handsome man is going to call for you and wants you to go with him" says "Mary".
"Oh!" says Florence. "How exciting!"
The third and final panel takes place some unspecified amount of time later. Florence is now at home, answering the door to a police officer. The house is a pinkish-orange colour, and several bricks are visible, suggesting that the entire wall is made of brick and that Roger Mahoney (or whoever drew this strip) was too lazy to draw the rest of them. The front step appears to be made of stone or concrete, being a blueish-grey colour, which matches the colour of an unidentified object sticking out above the doorway.
The police officer is standing outside the house, on what appear to be square or rectangular concrete pavers, each of about 60 square centimetres. The background is a pale blue sky, in which a single white cloud can be seen at the edge of the frame. The weather appears overcast.
Florence is now wearing the same blue jacket, coat or whatever it is as before but with a black skirt, and has removed her gloves and scarf. She stands listening to the police officer with a look of weary resignation. The police officer is wearing an old-fashioned British police uniform, black with golden buttons and epaulettes, black shoes and a black helmet with gold trim and insignia. His eyes are closed but his mouth is open as he is speaking.
"He's in the cells, Flo" he says. "Can you come and bail him out?"
The officer is taller than Flo, and based on the statement made earlier by "Mystic Mary" one can infer that he is also handsome. Thus, her prophecy is fulfilled, as this tall, handsome man has come to see Florence and asked her to accompany him, although not for the romantic reason she may have expected or hoped for.
Brutus Thornapple, a man who appears to be in late middle age, with a largely bald head (save for a narrow band of hair stretching horizontally from ear to ear via the back of his head, and a single strand poking up from the top, near the back), wearing a black suit, white shirt, red bow tie, and brown shoes, sits at a table. One foot is on the floor, the other hangs in the air - his right leg is balanced across his left, perpendicular, so as to display the sole of his right shoe to the viewer. His left arm rests on his right shin.
The table is brown, apparently wooden, with four legs, and appears to have a round top. Most of the table is concealed by a white table cloth, which hangs nearly to the ground. The chair on which he is seated is the same colour as the table - presumably made of the same material - and of a fairly typical "dining chair" style, with four legs and a slightly angled back. The background is a pale green void.
Thornapple is holding a white teacup in his right hand, slightly in front of and below his face. There is a puff of steam floating in the air above the teacup. Thornapple appears to be looking in the reader's direction, breaking the so-called "fourth wall". His mouth is open as he addresses us, his audience, saying "There's nothing like a good, strong cup of coffee to get you going in the morning!"
In the second panel, Thormapple has moved the cup to his lips and closed his eyes. The puff of steam is gone, replaced by a single wisp. Thornapple is apparently taking sip of the beverage (implied to be coffee) presumably contained within the cup.
In the third panel, Thormapple has placed the cup on the table, near the edge closest to him. The single wisp of steam still floats above the cup. Thornapple's right hand is no longer visible, presumably hidden behind him. His eyes are still (or perhaps again) closed and his mouth is open once more as he is again speaking. This time, however, he looks disappointed (or perhaps resigned) as he says "Unfortunately, this is decaf!", the exclamation mark at odds with his dejected pose.
The joke, such as it is, sets up in its premise the expectation that Thornapple is currently drinking a good, strong cup of coffee - the implication being that a good, strong cup of coffee contains sufficient caffeine to "get [one] going". The punchline contrasts with both this implication and also with the appearance of Thornapple's face in panel two (which could be interpreted as a look of satisfaction) and, ideally, surprises us with the information that the beverage Thornapple is drinking is actually decaffeinated coffee, and therefore will not have the power to "get [him] going".
This joke follows a fairly typical scheme for generating amusement, which is to create expectations in the minds of the audience only to reveal that those expectations are unfounded. The audience is then pleasantly surprised to discover their mistake, and marvels at the cleverness of the joker in pulling off this deception. Specifically, we are led to believe that Thornapple is talking about the beverage that he is currently consuming, but in fact he was referring to some other, hypothetical beverage - one that he would prefer to be drinking, but is, for unstated reasons, not drinking.
The first thing I noticed, that I was originally going to comment on, was that sign in the first panel. "Upspeak", I assume, refers to HRT, a vocal peculiarity associated largely with women, particularly young women. Also Australians, but that seems less relevant. Is that a subtle way of saying "no women allowed"? That can't be the intended meaning, surely?
That led me down a bit of a rabbit hole on Wikipedia so I read about gay lisp and sexy baby voice among other things, which was interesting, but doesn't really relate to this comic. Anyway, all that almost distracted me from actually reading the strip, so I almost missed the weirdest thing about it.
The joke follows a pretty standard form of complaining about gym memberships (you don't go and they're hard to cancel) but hold up a second - that's Barry he's talking to. I'm not sure how old Barry is supposed to be, but Curtis is apparently 11 and Barry's younger, so let's say... 9?
Why is Gunther complaining about gym memberships to a nine-year-old? No wonder he's not saying anything back. What would he say? Is Gunther expecting sympathy or understanding from a literal child? What a weird situation.