Are you someone who grew up with a dad or an uncle sharing The Far Side cartoons with you that you didn’t quite get? Did you grow to love the humor, only to fall into a depression when you realized there would be no more new content?
If so, these 9 fun facts about the strip by Gary Larson are going to bring back all of the good feels – and guess what?
We are going to be getting new content now and again after all.
9. Three insects have been named after creator Gary Larson.
In 1989, entomologist Dale Clayton named an owl-biting louse Strigiphilus garylarsoni. Larson agreed after Clayton explained they wanted to name the louse because of Laron’s “enormous contribution that my colleagues and I feel you have made to biology through your cartoons.”
Larson said he was honored, and also that he knew “nobody was going to write and ask to name a new swan after me.”
Additionally, there is a beetle called Garylarsonus and a butterfly called Serratoterga larsoni.
Life goals, am I right?
8. Larson knew he didn’t want recurring characters.
Before agreeing to distribute The Far Side nationally, Chronicle Features asked Larson to embrace recurring characters “like Charlie Brown or something.” They felt it was part of the recipe for success, but Larson was adamantly opposed.
“I instinctively thought of that as very limiting. And I also just didn’t see humor as something that had to be confined to one particular character. To me, what was exciting was trying to do something that would crack someone up. And I didn’t see how characters or a particular character enhanced that. In fact, I think it would work against it in some cases.”
7. The Jane Goodall Institute was upset about one of the strips.
In 1987, a sassy chimp remarked while grooming her mate “well, well – another blonde hair …Conducting a little more ‘research’ with that Jane Goodall tramp?”
The one-liner started a controversy that resulted in an angry letter from The Jane Goodall Institute’s executive director.
“To refer to Dr. Goodall as a tramp is inexcusable – even by a self-described ‘loony’ such as Larson.”
Larson, who deeply respected Goodall, was “horrified,” but it turned out that Goodall herself loved the comic.
“I thought it was very funny. And I think if you make a Gary Larson cartoon, boy you’ve made it.”
6. Larson was inspired by a children’s book.
The book is about a bear who goes around sitting on other animals’ houses.
“There was something so mesmerizing about the image of this big bear going through the forest and squashing the homes of these little animals. I just thought that was the coolest thing in the world.”
5. The Dayton Daily News has a bad habit of accidentally switching The Far Side and Dennis the Menace captions.
They’ve committed the hilarious blunder not once, but twice, as the strips sit next to each other.
In 1981, The Far Side showed a young snake at family dinner saying “Lucky I learned to make peanut butter sandwiches or we woulda starved to death by now.”
Dennis Mitchell, also munching on a sandwich, groaned “Oh brother … Not hamsters again!”
Larson thought both cartoons turned out to be “immensely improved.”
4. Larson once had to issue a press release to explain a strip.
Larson has made a killing on cow jokes, and the writer thinks “cows are sort of tragic figures. Cows blur the line between tragedy and humor.”
The strip in question, published in 1982,showed a cow presenting an assortment of low-tech gadgets she’d built, and was supposed to satirize the outdated anthropological belief that only humans make tools.
No one got it, and Chronicle Features received so many letters and phone calls from confused readers that Larson wrote and published a press release with an explanation.
“The cartoon was meant to be an exercise in silliness. I regret that my fondness for cows, combined with an overactive imagination, may have carried me beyond what is comprehensible to the average Far Side reader.”
3. There are two animated Far Side shorts.
In 1994, CBS aired a 20-minute program called Gary Larson’s Tales From the Far Side. The film was an animated reinterpretation of several of the classic cartoons.
It won a Grand Prix award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.
A sequel aired in 1997, after Larson’s retirement.
2. The strip inspired a widely-used paleontology term.
You know those nasty-looking spikes on Stegosaurus’s tail? Well, if you’ve ever heard them called a “thagomizer,” it’s due to Gary Larson.
Before referred to them as such – “after the late Thag Simmons” – they didn’t really have a name.
1. You can visit a Far Side museum exhibit.
Gary Larson has been called “the unofficial cartoonist laureate of the scientific community,” and for scientists around the world, his work is the bee’s knees.
The California Academy of Sciences decided that so many were using his cartoons to decorate, they might as well make it official, and set up a special exhibit.
“The Far Side of Science” features around 600 individual cartoons, and has been open (and traveling) since 1985.
These are fascinating tidbits, don’t you think?
If any of them surprised you, tell us which in the comments!