Close to Home sucks

Illustrator Tom Pappalardo on the stunningly unfunny newspaper strip Close to Home: "It is so poorly executed I usually spend more time trying to comprehend what I’m looking at than I do not spend laughing at the punchline."


  1. A few weeks ago I discovered, which appears to be an archive of various US newspaper cartoons. Or to put it another way, where the funny pages go to die.

    I clicked around for a bit, slackjawed at how unfunny these things were. We all make bad jokes, but before you go to the trouble of sketching, inking and colouring them, you’d think you’d throw away the worst material. Which makes me wonder what the reject pile looks like.

  2. Now, now there’s no need to beat up on the guy too badly. I’ve never really seen this strip before, but everyone is terrible at their first few…

    “Nationally syndicated in 700 U.S. papers for 18 years”

    …Really? You know, I tend to claim my local paper is terrible, but apparently it’s not nearly as bad as it could be.

  3. But Pappalardo’s writing is just as bad. His first paragraph contains this gem of a sentence: “In the intervening bunch of years, it has apparently gotten much much worser.”

    1. Did you bother reading more than that? He goes from “worse” to “worser” to “worserest.” Golly, maybe he meant to do it that way.

    1. I actually kinda thought Better or Worse was OK 25 years ago, but I think there was either a factory-ifying or the original artist died or something (cf. Hagar the Horrible).

      1. I can see that. I was more just throwing out nearly random thoughts on taste as if they were truths, to make a point that I didn’t make very well in retrospect. We all have things we like and don’t like, and the Internet is full of people proclaiming them as if they were gospel. I am quite sure there are people who love Close to Home at least partially because of the drawing style, just as I am sure there are people who hate Life in Hell because of its.

    2. Oh you are so off the mark here. Not on Zits, but on For Better or For Worse. It’s not cutting edge biting social commentary, but it is a gentle, sweet partly-autographical story of a family told slowly over the course of thirty years. You don’t have to like it, but it’s due some respect.

      1. The art for For Better or For Worse is pretty good compared to some of the other syndicated strips too. And I recall it being a big deal at the time when a character came out of the closet. Apparently she got death threats because of it.

        1. Wait, which For Better or Worse Character is gay? Because I’ve been crushing on the mom for years and I’d feel sheepish if she were a lesbian the whole time.

          1. He was an incidental character, a high school friend of Michael, the protagofamily’s son.  FBOFW was never laugh-out-loud funny but I liked the expressiveness of Johnston’s drawing style, and the resolutely Canadian undercurrent made it pretty hard to get annoyed at. Where Funky Winkerbean hits you over the head with issues and cancer and death, FBOFW just kind of placidly observed those sorts of things as a part of life.

            And yeah, Farley.

          2. I think the friend is named Laurence.  Been a while since I read this strip because it jumped back to the beginning.

        2. i believe you are right, she did. it’s an inoffensive strip, but over the long haul the character arcs were worth it. i remember being torn to shreds when farley died.

  4. What ever happened to the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?”  I don’t understand the value of Tom Pappalardo’s rant, or why it deserves Boingboing’s attention.

    1. His rant was very valuable because without it, I may have read the funnies and laughed if the joke was funny. NOW I realize that COMPOSITION is important. See? Crucial.

      Also, the drawing of the cars and the train was really, really terribly done. I mean, it deserves to be called out.

    2. > What ever happened to the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?”

      Well, some of us eventually graduated from elementary school, and learned the value of criticism.  When a movie’s bad, I’d like for movie reviews to tell me as much, etc.

      When mass-media produces crap, it’s right to shun it.  Embracing crap leads to a society that produces nothing of cultural value.  Hopefully, we can, as a nation, strive to produce valuable art.

      1. But I don’t really see any validity to TP’s rant. He doesn’t like it–it’s not aesthetically pleasing to him and the drawing style makes it difficult for him to figure it out, yet he goes to the comic eagerly every day. OK. Seems to say more about TP than the comic to me.

        1. It might be aesthetically pleasing to some people, yes. So that’s personal preference, there.

          But the use of perspective? The poor composition? That’s not personal — that’s technical, and technically this comics sucks.

    3.  Careful… you’re not saying something nice.  You run the risk of being sucked into a vortex of a fallacy and might come out interesting…or more likely badly rendered in a McPherson panel as neighbor smothered in arbitrary snoods.

    4. What ever happened to the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?”

      Try looking in the drawer where you put, “Why do I keep reading things that piss me off?”

    5. There’s a significant difference between “ can’t say anything nice…” and “…one can’t say anything nice…”

  5. These really deserve an alternate caption contest. The first one could say:

    “No, no, it’s a conveyor belt. You put it between the couch and the fridge.”
    “Now she may not be fast, but she gets great mileage.”
    “We have no place to store this stuff. We can’t even stand inside our garage without ducking.”

  6.  I was amused by the MapQuest one.

    I personally don’t particularly care if the art any given strip is kinda lousy or not provided it delivers a good punchline (or is just a good story, like the wonderful Better or for Worse. Don’t be haters!). That being said, my local paper runs this strip, and it rarely entertains me. Here and there, though. Moreso than ‘Family Circle’. :P

  7. This essay needs two more pieces of information to be complete.  First, as was just advertised here, compare:

    It is a comic featured in my local newspaper, The Daily Hampshire Gazette (syndicated in like, 700 other papers, too, says wikipedia)…

    (Tom Pappalard)

    In June 2012, “after 1,669 installments (and down to only 38 papers, amid the smoking wreckage that was once the alternative press), Matt Groening put an end to one the funniest and most caustic comic strips ever.

    (Boing Boing)

    Second, someone in the comments on that site wrote: ” I looked up his background because I thought perhaps he drew using his feet, being armless or something. No: an technical engineer.”  That reminded me of the late John Callahan, a quadriplegic cartoonist who drew with his mouth, and whose comics were A) funny and B) wildly artistically superior.

  8. This reminds me of the stupendously un-funny, hard to read “Quigmans” from the 80’s.  They had exactly ONE semi-funny comic in the 4 years that I read them at college.  

  9. Heh.  I have Googled the title of this post, “Close to Home sucks” more than once in the past just to make sure that I wasn’t missing the joke, and that it did in fact suck.

  10. What a load of pretentious twaddle.  People don’t go to read newspaper comics because they want high forms of art.  All they want is a short bit of fun and hopefully something to smile about at that time of the day.

    I did check out Mr. Pappalardo’s comics too.  They are amusing, observational humor.  To my tastes, better than Close To Home, but not amazingly so.  I enjoyed both.

  11. As a regular at the Comics Curmudgeon, I’ve been looking daily at some really awful strips. “Close to Home” constantly bites off more than it can chew, with unwieldy devices that don’t pass the credibility test for even the split-second needed to read the caption. Most often, you have to work backwards from the caption to try and guess what is being represented in the drawing. Like another seemingly unkillable strip, “Cathy,” the artist hasn’t gotten a bit better, even after years and years of daily drawing. Unlike “Cathy,” there’s not even a trace of good writing behind the pictures. It’s a botch on the page, and it’s a crime that it’s hanging on while better strips are dying from lack of support.

Comments are closed.