How do you take your humor? Dark? Twisted? Goofy? Corny? Sick? Raunchy? If any of these appeal to you, you will enjoy a collection of comic strips, Cyanide and Happiness, by Kris, Rob, Matt & Dave. The book’s publicist warns, “This book is illicit, insensitive, perverse, profane, dark, depraved, reprehensible and, well, just plain wrong. Those of a sensitive nature should put it down immediately and pick up a Self-Help book instead.” Most of that is accurate, though Cyanide and Happiness is a lot more entertaining than a self-help book.
Cyanide and Happiness is a webcomic, hosted by explosm.net. The characters are stick figures in t-shirts, and interestingly the drawings do convey emotions. What they also do is maim each other in a variety of violent ways. The humor is totally irreverent, and will be offensive to a silent majority who won’t have occasion to pick the book up, anyway. In the introduction to Cyanide and Happiness the author/artists advise, “If you are younger than 15 or older than 50 there is an 87% chance something in this book will offend you…These aren’t your grandma’s Sunday funnies, but I think that’s why we like them. Your grandma’s sort of a bitch.” I must be in the 13% minority, being both over 50 and a grandmother, and found the book a welcome addition to my humor collection. Mind you, the two sections I check out first in the book store are humor and serial killers (excuse me, “True Crime”).
Most of the grandparents I know would be offended by Cyanide and Happiness. Some of the cartoons are sexually oriented, many are violent, but mostly they are weird. Funny weird. I may not have found them offensive because they are rendered so good-naturedly. The colors used in this stick figure world are bright and the drawings are unthreatening. The degree of “sickness” involved rests on the reader’s sense of humor. If you appreciate sick jokes and have a vivid imagination, you will see more in these drawings than is actually there.
The comics are all between one and nine panels and 120 of them have appeared on the web site. An additional thirty were created for this book. Some contain jokes you may have already heard (or seen), but they are still funny in the stick-figure world context. There are one-panel cartoons that are bound to be repeated, such as “Bulimia. Twice the taste, no calories” (think about it).
The hard thing about sharing what’s in the book is that it doesn’t translate to pictureless prose very well, so I can’t tell you about two comic strips that deal with 9/11 and Abraham Lincoln (separately). This is the second time this year that I’ve come across a 9/11 reference which was truly funny, something I didn’t believe possible. Like many of the comic strips included in Cyanide and Happiness, the 9/11 content isn’t so much “haha” funny, but more “oh, yeah.”
I wanted to share at least one very funny entry, and I think I can with a six-panel strip that features a parent telling a child a bedtime story, “Hey, Diddle Diddle.” The first four panels show the parent reciting the poem and in the fifth saying “Yayyyyy! You like that?” To which the child replies in panel six, “What sh** are you smoking Dad, seriously?”
I like to pass books on to others after I’ve read them (if I don’t, I’ll run out of living space), but Cyanide and Happiness is too entertaining to give up. I’m willing to share, but I know I’ll want to return to its pages.
Bottom Line: Would I buy Cyanide and Happiness? Hell, yeah.