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Beetle Bailey, 10/6/04

I should say right off the bat tonight that the current drug-dealing storyline in Mary Worth attracts me so powerfully that it’s taking every ounce of willpower to not do that strip again today. But I know that you, the readers, deserve more variety, so instead I’m going to take on a very serious issue in the comics community: Overly Contrived Setup Syndrome, or OCSS.

OCSS is a humor malfunction that occurs when the author of a comic comes up with a punchline first, then works backwards to create an scenario to set up that punchline. For all I know, this happens all the time, but I would only offer a diagnosis of OCSS when the creaking of the machinery is painfully obvious. Take this Beetle Bailey, for example. The punchline: Sarge whistling because he accidentally ate a whistle — that’s funny! (It’s actually not, of course, but stay with me.) So, um, why did he eat the whistle? I know, because it fell into the stew! But why would it do that? Why would Lt. Fuzz be leaning over Sarge’s stew for it to fall in? That’s a pretty contrived scenario. You see that events become progressively less probable when you consider them in reverse order — a sure sign of OCSS.

OCSS is a symptom of gag-driven strips. Basically, some strips (I would say the better ones) are character-based, which means that the humor is derived … from … the …

Oh, no, I promised that I wasn’t going to do it.

Let me start again. In a gag-driven strip, everything’s about a particular punchline, which means that … it … doesn’t…

Mary Worth … crystal meth … must … resist … argh …

Oh, hell, I give up. Enjoy!

Mary Worth, 10/6/04

You know what they say — the first piece of gum is free!