With the recent revelation that Gary Larson’s “Talking Dogs” comic is scientifically accurate, fans of the long-running strip can’t help but look back on some of Far Side‘s other great canine panels. With their lovable demeanor and puzzling behavior, dogs were always one of the comic genius’ favorite subjects to goof on.
Whether they were plotting against the mailman or trying to get the house cat, Far Side‘s resident pooches never failed to get readers laughing. Though Larson penned dozens of panels about man’s best friend, only the very best have readers barking with laughter to this day.
Blow Up The House
Dogs aren’t always the most graceful animals, and their destructive behavior has spelled doom for many pieces of furniture over the years. The “Blow Up the House” panel shows off Larson’s signature skill for exaggeration and makes it very clear what some people think about dogs in the house.
The front lawn was often a scene that Larson returned to again and again, and in the panel, he shows off his artistic ability to draw the reader’s eye across the page. The visual of a dog standing over a dynamite plunger is funny enough as it is, but the reaction of the dog’s owner is what really puts it over the top.
Larson’s impact on comedy can’t be overstated, but some of his darkest Far Side panels show that his humor was a bit blacker than his contemporaries. Featuring two dogs talking, the “Tutored” panel is a thinker that ends with a sidesplitting punchline that says a lot about the trusting nature of dogs.
Always looking on the bright side of life, the poor dog who’s about to be snipped seems to think he’s in for something good. Like a classic case of pride coming before the fall, the comic’s true humor comes from the fact that the dog in the car is bragging to his friend without realizing the dark twist of fate he is about to endure.
One of the oldest cartoon setups is the never-ending struggle between cats and dogs, and Larson used that premise to the fullest in Far Side. Set in a courtroom, the “Cat Killer?” comic is one that gets funnier the longer the reader takes to analyze it.
Not only is the lawyer’s impassioned plea hilarious, but it is made doubly so by the fact that he is preaching to a crowd exclusively composed of cats. As if that wasn’t a perfect joke on its own, Larson really puts punctuation on the panel by including the goofiest-looking dog he could conjure up as the supposed perpetrator. The funniest Far Side comics have only gotten funnier, and the “Cat Killer” panel is no exception.
Though dogs are heavenly creatures, Larson wasn’t afraid to show the darker side of man’s best friend, and he often tapped into the canine’s deepest darkest fears. “Dog Hell” combined two of Larson’s favorite muses in the form of the underworld and dogs, and he presents the reader with a unique vision of the bad half of the afterlife.
Casting the dogs as mailmen and cleaners, the iconic writer conjured up the perfect biblical punishment for the angelic species of pets. Of course, since dogs are beloved by the writer, their hell isn’t too dark, and their fitting punishment is a much lighter sentence than many of his human characters who wind up in the underworld.
Any time Larson gave dogs the attributes of humans readers were in for a treat, and it was especially funny when their human-like behavior had a typically canine spin on it. Showing the lengths dogs will go to intimidate cats, the “Dog Threats” panel proves that even the toughest dog is still lovable.
The note is a mish-mash of dog gibberish and the satisfied look on the dog’s face as he runs away is a testament to Larson’s subtle artistic skill. If the reader stops to ponder the scene for a moment, they are treated to a particularly humorous mental image of a dog trying to compose a threatening note and only coming away with incomprehensible barking.
Moods Of An Irish Setter
The best Gary Larson comics were always simple but effective, and many of his dog-centric Far Side panels could get the biggest laughs with the smallest amount of effort. “Moods of an Irish Setter” is Larson’s love letter to the breed of dog, and the use of repetition is comedy gold.
The joke isn’t complicated, and the punchline is old, but the image of seeing the same goofy look on every dog’s face, despite their emotion, is genius. Any reader who has ever interacted with an Irish setter can attest to their unflappable demeanor and the panel is a treat from one dog owner to another.
Nervous Little Dogs
Not limiting himself to only one breed of dog to spoof, Larson spread the love around and made comics that appealed to the owners of all kinds of dogs. Using negative space extremely effectively in the panel, readers of the “Nervous Little Dogs” panel eventually find what they’re looking for in the form of a coffee-addicted dachshund.
Attempting to explain the jittery nature of smaller dog breeds, Larson posits that it is a heaping helping of coffee that keeps their energy high. Never one to stray from absurdity, the visual humor of the panel is accentuated by the image of a seemingly helpless little dog working in the kitchen and making itself a cup of java.
What We Say…What They Hear
One of the things that made Far Side an iconic comic strip in the ’80s and ’90s was that it found a balance between absurdity and relatability unlike many of its contemporaries. The incredibly humorous dog panel shows an owner berating his pet, and it even clues the reader in on what the dog hears when receiving such a dressing down.
Ever the social prognosticator, Larson’s take on the situation is actually pretty accurate to the way the dog’s brain works, and it makes sense that the only word it would recognize would be its name. Despite its plausibility, the comic doesn’t lose any of its humor because every dog owner has reached an impasse with their canine pal and couldn’t get through to them.
The motivation of dogs is pretty straightforward, and there is no denying that canines are entirely food-motivated above all else. In “Hey Bucko”, Larson presents a dog that has been pushed too far and has taken drastic measures to get the one thing it wants above all else.
With pistol in paw, the dog goes full Dirty Harry in its pursuit of food and the startling image is exactly what made Larson so unique. The befuddled look on the faces of the human characters makes the panel even funnier, and the message is clear even without the humorous caption that Larson tags onto the panel.
Even if he had fun with his dog characters and depicted them in a negative light sometimes, it was abundantly clear that Larson had a loving affinity for man’s best friend. Standing as a testament to Larson’s creative genius, the “Dog Translator” panel is the quintessential tale from the Far Side.
After a brilliant scientific breakthrough, Professor Schwartzman’s device is rendered useless by the fact that dogs have nothing of note to say. Highlighting their friendly demeanor, all the dogs in the neighborhood are greeting the scientist with friendly hellos, and the panel is as heartwarming as it is hilarious.
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