Bizarro Explained

A lot of humorists will tell you that if you have to explain a joke, it isn’t really a joke. I would agree, but I still say there’s a joke here even though I have to explain it.

A metric assload of people have written to me asking what this cartoon means, and apparently even more people than those who wrote didn’t get it because almost all of them have said something like, “none of us can figure it out,” or, “I’ve shown this to everyone I know and nobody knows what it means,” or “I visited Mount Olympus this morning and not a single god had any idea what this was about.” Okay, I get it. I did a crappy job getting this one across.

So, for the first time in my god-awfully-long career, I’ve added a middle frame to explain the joke; an illustration of the part I wanted your brain to fill in. If this doesn’t explain it, nothing will. Please don’t write to me to say that you still do not get it, because I will hunt you down and block  your airway with a sock.

And please, my precious, precious Jazz Pickles, do not blame yourselves. It is my fault that this gag didn’t get across to most people, and I am deeply ashamed. My greatest regret, of course, is the shame and sorrow this has brought to my family. (Last line borrowed from Elliot Spitzer’s resignation press conference statement.)

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64 Responses to Bizarro Explained

  1. Simio says:

    I kind of figured it out after some thought, that being the only explanation that made any kind of sense… Hey, they can’t ALL be your best work, can they? #;-)

  2. Joe Catman says:

    You know what? I think you could have just the middle panel with the caption and it would work. So you are still the master of the single panel cartoon.

  3. Riccardo says:

    Nice! I gotta say, what with the added sketchy middle panel and an understanding of why that middle panel is sketchy, the resulting cartoon is even better than the original, in a very meta-humoristic sort of way. Well done :)

  4. Linda Marshall says:

    Dan, you might be cheered by seeing this, from the comments section of the Comics Curmudgeon. You admitted the other day that rewording the caption would have been better, and your blog post about that had been posted on CC (nobody there got this one, either…) Here’s a response from one of the commenters :

    “Kudos to Piraro for being so self-aware. He really is one of the best out there – his clunkers are few and far between, and his good stuff is very good indeed.”

  5. David A. Day says:

    You are not pushing your aristic boundries if at least occasionally no one gets what you are doing.

    “Hay Beth, are you over that shame and sorrow yet? I am writting Dan.”

  6. Kirkintilloch says:

    Happy to say that after a moment or two of thought I got it the first time around without having to have it explained.

    Nice to see that I am right every now and again.

  7. Thumper says:

    Well, now I feel special, because I got it… ;)

  8. Chris says:

    For what it’s worth, this was the only Bizarro I’ve not understood. That’s a pretty good record for any cartoon. :)

  9. Kevin H. Feeley says:

    First off:

    Love your work, have loved it for years. Keep it up.

    Secondly. The middle frame confused me.

    I hadn’t seen this one, yet, and without the middle frame, it makes perfect sense to me.

  10. I get it, I get it. Finally. I sort of got it the first time, but I thought it was a comment on riding the “short” bus.

  11. Kyrie says:


    (but we still <3 u)*

    (*love – ?)

    (*are less than 3 of – ?)

  12. I figured it out right away. I’m special.

  13. Katherine says:

    I didn’t think this was hard to understand. It’s really cute too. But we all get confused occasionally.

    • Happy Ford says:

      I agree with Katherine. I got it the first time.. Maybe those who didn’t don’t have such a well honed sense of humor as some of us do.. Maybe it’s not your fault as a humorist at all.

      Best regards

      • Chakolate says:

        I got it, too, and it never showed up on, so maybe it wasn’t so inscrutable after all.

        I agree, though, that the middle panel makes it even funnier.

  14. Magnus says:

    Nostalgia. Just like the jokes I used to know as a child: (Jørge Mogensen is the name of the artist.)

  15. Erik R. says:

    That definitely adds some perspective.

  16. Heidi says:

    I actually thought you were poking fun at riders of the “short bus.”

  17. Stone Indian says:

    I have to say, that I actually got the joke, but because you are usually so meticulous in your art work I had to think about it, because the size of the bus seems to be in perspective to the buildings. I actually assumed that it was a “pancake” bus with a front and a rear but no seats in between. Had it been closer to the trees on approach and departure, I would have gotten the original intent instantly. But after 27 years, a guy is allowed an off day. Just don’t let it happen again!!

  18. Tanja says:

    Hah, I got it first time! But I did have to think about it for a couple of minutes, forehead screwed up, eyes narrowed… nothing wrong with a little brain exercise, though. So those of us who are “special” (or really really warped), do we get a title? Dr Jazz Pickle? Jazz Pickle extraordinaire? Jazzier Pickles? Jazz Pickles with screwed up foreheads and narrow eyes?

    I’m still waiting for the Jazz Pickle merchandise, by the way… I’ve just bought a “Pilates of the Caribbean” drink bottle for my Pilates-instructor friend’s birthday. I can’t wait to give it to her! :)

  19. I’m ashamed to admit I missed this particular comic, so now I know what it means before I even see it. Does that mean I got it or that I get it?

  20. Shelly says:

    I did figure it out originally, after thinking about it a bit, that you were playing with perspective. Subtle, but funny.

  21. Scott Lyman says:

    That didn’t work because of the perspective you used in the first and last panels. The bus is shown on or near the horizon, so one compares it to the buildings adjacent (for which there is no reason to assume there is any change in ‘normal’ size), and one is surprised when the bus is (in the new middle panel) shown to be tiny. The joke might have worked better on a featureless midwestern plain, or if it was somehow revealed you were on a tiny world with a much closer horizon. This is now explained, since I know everything about cartooning because I have never done it.

  22. Mike Bennett says:

    Wow! I got this first time around! I must be a gee-nius!! Either that or it’s because I’ve been a fan of your work since the mid-80′s! I ran across a collection of your work in a bookstore while on vacation. Been a fan ever since. We’re polar opposites on a lot of things, but I really appreciate and respect your abilities as a cartoonist.

  23. Mike Bennett says:

    Sorry, I meant to type “mid-90′s”.

  24. Lisa R. says:

    Fear not — my 12-year-old got it immediately. “It’s about perspective, Mom,” he said.

  25. Tom Almy says:

    I’m afraid that this will become for you what “Cow Tools” was for Gary Larson. As was mentioned, your artwork perspective is too good for the caption!

  26. Rick says:

    Like a few of the others, I feel good because I’m of the minority that did get it. I looked at it twice and said to myself, “Self, it’s got to be a reference to the art technique of vanishing point. I like it.”

    I agreed with myself and all was right with the world.

    Rock on, Dan.

  27. elin edwards says:

    i guess some folks have no perspective…

  28. Ssteppe says:

    Wow – count me in with the few who got it the first time. And I never thought I’d see the day when you actually added an “explanation” panel. :)

  29. Richard says:

    You’re being silly. Most comic artist don’t make any effort at all to push their audience into thinking. But that’s what you’ve alway been about, right? If you sometimes push too hard, that’s fine. Sometimes you don’t push us hard enough, and we don’t feel the delightful frisson of being one of your rare Jazz Pickles. You’ve been doing this a wonderfully long time, and the law of large numbers tells us that there will be good and bad extremes.

  30. jp says:

    We figured it out over on the CIDU page…

    The problem is that your artistry and sense of perspective is so good, that we mostly didn’t realize that, for this one comic, you were “drawing like an Egyptian”.

    Keep up the great work, Dan!


  31. rubber_wonder_boy says:

    i totally got it the first time around!!!

    though you could have done it in 1 panel:

    make the 2nd panel large enough for the bus stop sign and then add the script from the 3rd panel.


  32. I got it, but did not think it was as FUNNY as usual. but you are funnier than anyone else, so not to worry!

  33. hemlock says:

    “i dont get it.”

  34. Cupcakesniece says:

    I got it right away! Course, I had heard the joke about the little girl in the airplane, who turned to her dad when they were taking off, and asked ” When do we get smaller?”. Maybe not your best joke, but I don’t think it’s your worst. It’s just a matter of perspective.

  35. I was going to say, “That sure puts things in perspective…” but I see someone else in the comments beat me to it.

    I weep for humanity.

  36. Billy Green says:

    I think the center panel didn’t occur to me because in the two other panels the bus appears to be as tall as the buildings in the distance.

  37. patrick says:

    I have enjoyed many of your “messed up perspective” comics in the past, but this one wasn’t obvious to me. I thought I was losing my edge. Thanks for the explanation.

  38. Bob says:

    There’s a distinctly positive aspect to this – it really shows the interactive value of your blog, Dan. The fact that you respond to comments and use the feedback makes the Bizarro blog a cut above many of the other comics blogs.

  39. ojeano says:

    Tiny bus coming, tiny bus going. Tiny bus on sign. What’s not to get?

  40. Tom says:

    Now that it is explained, I understand the joke. However, in both panels, the bus appears to be taller than the doorways in the buildings it is passing — i.e., consistent with reality. Good joke, bad execution.

    Given a previous cartoon of yours,

    this was what I originally assumed might be going on this time:

  41. Brian says:

    I thought of Steven Wright’s joke:

    “I saw a flying saucer land and some little green men came out. I asked, ‘Are you really that small, or are you just really far away?’”

    Kudo’s to both of you for the big laughs.

  42. PatricJMiller says:

    Holyfreakinshirt! How literal are people today? No imaginations. I got it…I laughed…and then went looking for a small bus model to stick in front of the bus stop by our house.

  43. Philistines says:

    I really liked this one – even without the explanation! Too many cartoonists always do jokes that are just verbal. One of the greatest things about Bizarro is that you actually use the pictures to tell the jokes – don’t stop, good sir, don’t stop!

  44. joanne says:

    oh this is ridiculous….. I’m pretty sure I didnt get it at first….I dont quite remember.. (cuz the past month has been more than awful) but the point is… not getting it doesn’t mean a darn thing…so judgemental… some folks are …cartoon elitists?

    and Dan! I agree with David who wrote.. ” you aren’t pushing your artistic boundries” if sometimes people dont get your Gags.

    Your work is like good poetry or a fine piece of is about interpretation.. there are so many ways people may find a panel funny… it depends on how the situation pertains to their own life…and Ive written to you about this before… if I told you what the FB/ funeral panel meant to me when I read it today…it would take a book.

    AT times i dont always ‘get it’ when I see a panel.. I share it with my husband or friend… we contemplate on it.. it’s great! also.. this is funny… I guess with cartooning you are trying to get YOUR JOKE across… but it’s all in the eye of the beholder…

    BTW.. i get it now…and the middle drawing is adorable…. so do I get a sticker?

  45. Tom Fletcher says:

    Thank you for your reply. I humbly bow to your greatness.

  46. Indi says:

    Hey, I’m late to the party, but just had to say, dammit Piraro you should have left it alone! I like it when a comic is a bit obtuse so when you do get it you are still a little bit sure that maybe you didn’t really get it. It’s like a standup having to explain, “see, calling them Aristocrats after describing all the vile things they do is ironic, and irony is funny.”

  47. Paul says:

    Am I the only one who though he was waiting for the letters “BUS” to come along? Apparently yes. Reminds me of this:

    • joanne says:

      That’s cool Paul…!!! That’s what ‘m talking about!! Your imagination took you in an entirely different direction!!! No need for explanation from the artist! In fact it led you to remember the video about the cows….which I in turn just watched and found it to be one of the funniest damn things I’ve ever seen!…This is all VERY IMPORTANT to me…. My dearest friend and I lived in a magical, creative world together…we would just take one idea and expand it limitlessly…we were poets and artists together…we were inseperable and laughed our selves into hysterics all the time…Sadly, he has passed on…..but one of the reasons I love DAN P. so much is (well, besides everything) is his imagination and the way his comics stir my imagination..

  48. Smidoz says:

    Please give me an address to the original. I don’t mean any offence to you or your readers, but I actually don’t think it needs the middle frame, it just needs some perspective. So the original would be appreciated.

  49. Steve says:

    My friends and I can’t figure out the Michigan trees cartoon on March 26, 2012. What are we missing?

  50. I’m sorry, Dan, but I just don’t get it. Could you explain to me, pllllllllleeeeeeeez?

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