Monday, November 19, 2007

Unfunny Comic: Mallard Fillmore

When the Boston Globe has made changes to the comics it publishes, the editors get lots of irate emails. Seems people are passionate about their favorite cartoon strips.

I think the Globe publishes a lot of unfunny comic strips -- some are not intended to be funny (like "For Better or Worse." But "Mallard Fillmore" by Bruce Tinsley seems to want to be funny, and consistently fails.

That may not be surprising for a strip whose character -- a duck -- is based on a pun referring to an otherwise forgettable president. (Quick: name one thing Millard Fillmore can't. He wasn't event elected president, but as vice president, and became president when Zachary Taylor died in office. Fillmore was not re-elected. He continued to try to be re-elected as the candidate of the Know Nothing Party -- which should tell you everything you need to know about him.)

Today's strip, for instance, is an example of the one-sided perspective that typically passes for humor. Mallard, who is a reporter, is interviewing Stephen Colbert about the current writers' strike, and says, "Mr. Colbert, shows like your 'Colbert Report' had to use reruns when the writers' strike began...Does that mean you can't be funny with a stable of writers?"

The Colbert character replies with an empty "thought balloon" (which indicates a character's thought or comments).

Mallard's response: "Woo! Did you just ad-lib that?"

Again, Colbert responds with an empty thought balloon.

Tinsley takes a cheap shot since he never questions whether politicians (on either side of the aisle -- although he would probably only accuse Democratic politicians of doing this) actually write their own speeches. Or take into consideration that Colbert and others may want to show solidarity with their writers by not continuing to produce the show during the strike.

Actually, I think Tinsley could use a stable of writers to improve the strip.

On the other hand, as an example of a strip that can be funny, there's "Monty" by Jim Meddick.

In today's strip, Monty is getting ready for Thanksgiving, and asks a recurring character, a professor from the future, "So Professor, do they still have Thanksgiving in the year 2525?"

The Professor is baffled, so Monty explains: "Don't tell me there isn't any Thanksgiving in the future."

"Well," says the Professor. "We celebrate a holiday on the 4th Thursday in November, but it's called ThanksGetting Day."

Now Monty is baffled.

"Yes," says the Professor. "As in 'Getting' great deals on name-brand merchandise. It's for procrastinators who didn't begin their holiday shopping on 'HallowPricesWeen..."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Administration Goes Official with Fake News

The Bush Administration, seeing the popularity and influence of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," has apparently gone into the fake news business for real.

FEMA wanted to hold a press conference but didn't give reporters enough time to actually attend the conference. FEMA went ahead with the conference anyway.

According to the New York Times, "With no reporters in the room — only television camera crews — FEMA’s public affPublish Postairs department decided to go ahead with the event anyway. The agency’s own staff played the role of the press corps, posing unusually respectful questions for the deputy administrator, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson Jr., retired. 'Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?' one asked."

The PA executive ultimately resigned, and was designed a new government job.

Again, according to the Times, "In retrospect, he said (the official), when he realized that no reporters were in the room and it was the agency’s staff that was asking questions, he should have called off the news conference. 'I should have jumped up regardless of how awkward it would had been and said, "Wait a minute, time out,” he said. “My mistake.”'"

I wonder if FEMA will borrow "The Daily Show's" old slogan, "When News Breaks, We Fix It."

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen vs. Ben Bernanke on monetary policy

I'm not sure it's a coincidence, but now that Rupert Murdoch owns the Wall St. Journal, its editorial page is taking a down-market approach. How else to explain the Journal's Editorial about monetary policy that cites supermodel Gisele Bundchen as a monetary policy expert? (The editorial is available here.)

The premise of the editorial is that the Brazilian supermodel "is reportedly now insisting that she be paid in a currency other than the U.S. dollar." Not that the Journal has confirmed that Bundchen is actually getting paid in euros, but that there's a rumor that her currency of choice is the euro. Perhaps the Editorial Page considers this an important development because Bundchen influences the behavior of lots of other supermodels that it represents not a run on the U.S. dollar, but a catwalk strut to the euro.

I actually agree with the Editorial Page's perspective that a declining U.S. dollar can be a bad thing for Americans.

But when the Editorial Page concludes with a reference to Bundchen's boyfriend (Tom Brady, the New England Patriot quarterback , for those sleeping under a rock), I think its clear that the vaunted Editorial Page of the Wall St. Journal can be safely accused of tarting up its opinions. What's next? A look at supermodel foreign policy?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dead Man Branding

I was going to call this "Dead Men Don't Wear Brands," but the fact is they do.

If there's anyone left who doesn't believe we live in a brand-savvy age -- with one major, glaring exception that this decade has not yet been named -- Forbes' annual list, "Top-Earning Dead Celebrities" shows the power of branded-but-dead celebrities. biz-media-deadcelebs07_cz_lg_1029celeb_land.html.

The 13 legends in our seventh annual list of the Top-Earning Dead Celebrities grossed a combined $232 million in the past 12 months. Many are instantly recognizable one-name wonders (Elvis, Marilyn, Warhol) who still command attention worldwide, making them marketers' ideal pitchmen."

What's incredible is not the fact that these dead celebrities made much, much more than I did over the past year without working -- while I put in thousands of billable and (like the writing of this blog) nonbillable hours. It's how consistently the Forbes' Top-Earning Dead Celebrities remain on top, year after year. Elvis, Charles Schultz and John Lennon were the top three when the list first came out, and continue to be the top three this year. (See the list, below.)

That's not just remarkable. That's the power of terrific branding.

Perhaps it's different, perhaps it's not branding for dead celebs like Elvis, Beatles John & George, Bob Marley, writers Schultz and Dr. Seuss (see, the value of a medical degree, even a phony one), or even the hardest-working men in the afterlife, Mr. James Brown and Tupac Shakur (who continues to issue new posthumous albums). For them, I understand the case could be made that it's their music, books, or art that people keep buying. (Although one might have thought two decades after his death in 1987, Andy Warhol's 15-minutes would certainly be over by now; yet he made $15 million last year.)

But what about Einstein ($18 million), Marilyn Monroe ($7 million), Steve McQueen ($6 million), or James Dean ($3.5 million)? No one's buying new scientific discoveries by Einstein. There aren't that many people trashing their VHS tapes and buying blu-ray versions of movies with Monroe, McQueen and Dean.

Writing about Dean, Forbes notes, "The 'Rebel Without a Cause' has a different moniker in the licensing business: Old Faithful. The iconic Dean image--squinty eyes, cigarette dangling from his lips--remains a staple of college dorm rooms everywhere. Dean's image has cropped up in ads for Barneys, Chrysler and Lee Jeans."

That is the power of branding.


Forbes Richest Deceased Celebrities
Rank Name 2000 Earnings
1 Elvis Presley $35 million
2 Charles Schulz $20 million plus
3 John Lennon $20 million
4 Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel $17 million
5 Jimi Hendrix $10 million plus
6 Bob Marley $10 million
7 Andy Warhol $8 million
8 J.R.R. Tolkien $7 million
9 Frank Sinatra $6 million
10 Jerry Garcia $5 million
11 Keith Haring $4 million plus
12 Marilyn Monroe $4 million
13 James Dean $3 million

The Lucky 13 in 2007

  1. Elvis Presley

  2. John Lennon

  3. Charles Schulz

  4. George Harrison

  5. Albert Einstein

  6. Andy Warhol

  7. Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel)

  8. Tupac Shakur

  9. Marilyn Monroe

  10. Steve McQueen

  11. James Brown

  12. Bob Marley

  13. James Dean