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Our readers take comics seriously

February 20, 2005|by JAKE WOMER

Comedy is elusive and constantly evolving with society.

It's why Jay Leno and David Letterman can fight over late-night viewers, and comedians such as Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" - on TV at the same time - appeal to viewers who could pass on both.

It's why I find "The Simpsons" to be the funniest television show, and other members of my family think it's inane.

Have you ever heard the one about the newspaper editors who decided to change the comics pages?

In January, we replaced "Shoe" and "Herman" with "Pearls Before Swine" and "Brevity" in The Morning Herald and on Sunday. Also, on Sunday in The Herald-Mail, "Opus," "Pearls Before Swine" and "Brevity" replaced "Andy Capp," "Nancy," "Shoe" and "Magic Eye."

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That's definitely not funny to a lot of people.

Here is what some readers had to say via e-mail:

  • "You removed 'Shoe' and replaced it with 'Pearls Before Swine.' A lousy replacement for a humorous comic. You should have removed 'Sally Forth' and 'Get Fuzzy.'"

  • "Your replacements are pale by comparison (to 'Shoe' and 'Herman'). Down with 'Garfield,' 'Get Fuzzy,' 'Dennis the Menace,' 'Rose is Rose.' They are wasted space. It's almost not worth walking up to the end of the driveway to get The Herald-Mail any more!"

  • "I would really like to see 'Mallard Fillmore,' 'Doonesbury,' 'Pearls Before Swine,' 'Brevity' and 'Get Fuzzy' ... replaced."

  • "Over the years, I have enjoyed your comic strip (page) and considered it one of the best. The one I read first was 'Shoe,' and I also enjoyed 'Nancy.' Why were they eliminated and comics such as unfunny 'Pearls Before Swine,' 'Get Fuzzy,' 'Brevity' and 'Dilbert' added? I'm sure that it is impossible to please everyone, but it is disheartening to see something that you enjoy change."



This last one zeroes in on the problem. Comedy, by definition, has a happy ending. But it is impossible to make everyone happy while trying to keep the newspaper relevant.

I've enjoyed "Shoe," but if newspapers never made changes to the comics pages, then "Shoe" never would have had its time to shine. Deciding the time has come for change is difficult - and no more fun for editors than readers.

It's tough to figure out what appeals to readers. "Get Fuzzy" and "Pearls Before Swine" are good examples. They are highly rated by readers nationwide.

"Get Fuzzy" polarizes Herald-Mail readers, though. We've had as many e-mails from readers raving about it as we've had pleas for its ouster. It's that elusive sense of humor. You never can tell.

It's too early to gauge how "Pearls Before Swine" will be received over the long haul in The Herald-Mail.

For a couple of years, I've been reading "Pearls Before Swine," the comic strip about the interaction between a sarcastic and cynical rat and a densely naive pig. It can be funny, even insightful. It also can be dull. I don't think it's been funny since we've started running it. Hopefully, that will change.

I also enjoy "Zits," "Dilbert," "Close to Home" and "Opus." Based on reader response, "Dilbert" has the same effect as "Get Fuzzy." Some people love it. Others want to see the engineer lose his job.

And there are plenty of other comics - I don't understand their appeal - that are popular. We've received a slew of praise from readers of "For Better or For Worse." I don't get it, but it seems to be one of our most popular comics.

We might not be able to understand the appeal of "Snuffy Smith" or "Mary Worth," but reader feedback - and good humor - helps in the face of these changes.




Jake Womer is Lifestyle editor of The Herald-Mail. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2340, or by e-mail at jakew@herald-mail.com.

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