41 thoughts on “Livecast Ep02 – Achewood

  1. YO, I was all about to tune in and I was like “what? I gotta download something?” and then like “Whatever, fine, click” and it’s downloading, right? And then my wife pulls me over to the couch so we can watch 24 on Tivo together. So blame her.

    But I downloaded it and I’m listening now, all right? YEESH.

  2. Ok here’s my thoughts because it looks like I’m alone in this. I love Achewood, it cracks me up. But I don’t think I’m awesome, smart, or hip because of it – in fact I’m pretty sure I’m not cool or smart enough to get a lot of stuff that other people get (motherfucking Mulholland Drive). I wasn’t even aware that some people thought it was inaccessible. I just think it’s plain funny and that’s my right.

    Constructive criticism here: I thought the discussion was kinda flat at the beginning until Kurtz came in. Not because I agreed with what he said – I agreed with just about none of it – but because he knows how to make a point. He described the feeling of “working hard for something vs. nothing” well, and cited examples to illustrate so his opinions on Achewood were clear, even though I disagreed with him. The rest of you seemed to be struggling constantly to say what you did or didn’t like about the strip.

    Otherwise, I love the format and can’t wait to see what the joint looks like live.

  3. Still a great show, I played it for Sam who loves Achewood and she still got some laughs out of it between yelling at the computer when people asked, “Who likes this?!”

    “Meeeee! I like it!” She would yell.

  4. I’m glad that you guys have managed to figure out wether you like Achewood or not, thank you for spending an hour telling us that.

  5. Hey Kurtz, your comic sucks and doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in even the same breath as Achewood. Let me sum up your podcast for you;
    “Onstad enjoys a level of respect I can never hope to achieve, which I don’t understand because his success is based on having a good product as opposed to a huge effort spent on self-promotion and gimmicks, and therefore I seethe with envy and must lash out like a toddler at my betters for want of anything else to do.”

  6. Jake: I don’t know if you’ve managed to gather this in the two years or so that Digital Strips has been operating, but more or less the point of the program is us telling you if we liked something and why. If you’re not interested in that sort of thing, I think perhaps you ought to maybe find something else to listen to?

    Jon: I can understand if you don’t like Scott or his strip, but there’s probably better ways to spend your time than anonymously telling the world what you think of him. Also, it’s our podcast, not his. Just in case you were confused.

    Jesus, people.

  7. I’m not sure what you think anonymous means, but providing a name and email address ain’t it. Apparently, it’s acceptable Kurtz to whine for an hour in a jealous rage, flailing about in his stupidity but to respond negatively to it with a comment it took less than five minutes to write is a waste of time.

  8. Jon: It doesn’t show your e-mail address here, so it’s easy to think you’ve posted more or less anonymously. As for just giving a first name, there’s not a lot of info there. So from a quick-glance point of view, I see how Phil could have drawn that conclusion.


  9. Wow, I didn’t think I was that weird for liking achewood. Actually to be honest I think it is one of the only really well-made, smart, innovative comics on the internet, and I hope liking it doesn’t make me too much of an arroagant dick. The discussion about working too hard for the payoff was very interesting; and i guess that’s how people who do and don’t like it are divided. there definitely IS a payoff though, whether it’s your bag or not; often several per strip, and it’s stupid to deny that.

    Very interesting to listen to, thanks. After hearing this i would just love to know what you guys would think of my little old comic

  10. I maintain that I can understand how it can appeal to some people, but it just doesn’t hit home for me.

    There’s not a payoff to each strip, not without rationalizing and/or making something up. Take the first strip for example (http://achewood.com/index.php?date=10012001). What’s the payoff? Is it that Philippe is too cute innocent to be moved, confounding drum machine be damned? Maybe it’s funny because they’re afraid to move Philippe because they fear him, even though he’s so cute and cuddly. There’s no payoff to that strip, not one that satisfies my need for comics to actually mean or say something.

    I defy someone to tell me what’s funny, amusing, or at the very least INTERESTING about the first strip. I have an open mind and my mind CAN be changed.

    Rice Boy looks like a weird comic, so I want to read more of it before I have any real comment about it. I like the art style of it quite a bit.


  11. Just for the record, that Jon dude is not me.

    But I loves me some Achewood. Sometimes the joy of the journey is in the travelling, not in the destination. Onstad writes characters that are fun to hang out with, and that’s all I require.

  12. Phil: I didn’t even know about this podcast’s existence until someone linked me to it. I’m not a big webcomics guy. I just checked it out because I’m an Achewood fan and I thought a group of professionals in the field might have something interesting to say about it.

    As it is now I do not think there was much of a discussion, since everbody involved save for one person hates the strip. Most annoying was when that one girl came in and just started transcribing strips. I’m not sure what the point of that was. I don’t know if you choose your contributors and/or gauge their opinions beforehand, but it might have been a more balanced discussion had there been more active participants that actually like the strip. Also, did you try contacting Onstad himself?

    For the record, I like Achewood because it has great characters and funny, creative dialogue, not because it’s “cool” to like it. There is also not really any sort of deeper meaning to it. Achewood is just a comic about cats getting high. Chill.

  13. brandon: Although personally I think Achewood doesn’t really hit its stride until after the cats are introduced, the first strip, to me, is amusing because it implies that all that Philippe has been doing the entire day is standing in the corner, oblivious to the fact that he’s on top of the drum machine instruction manual.

  14. But my problem is that you essentially have to make up your own joke. Was he there all day? Did he just go there because he likes corners? To be spiteful? There’s nothing in that strip to indicate what you said, which is basically you doing half the work to make it amusing. So, for now, I stand by my “reading more into it than exists” opinion.

    What would be a good “stride” strip to read? For that matter, what are some people’s favorite strips that amuse them incredibly? I’m sincerely baffled and I consider myself a humorist. I don’t know if it’s me or the strip or if everyone’s just messing with me.

    Jon Goatsenberg – I sort of get where you’re coming from. It was the weird character interactions that kept me reading the Great Outdoor Fight. That’s just what kept me interested, though, not what made me kept reading. I only kept reading because I had to for the review.

    It’s all about taste and subjectivity, I completely get that. But I’m generally pretty good at seeing things from multiple angles, which I’m not able to do in this case. LEARN ME, PEOPLE! SCHOOL ME!


  15. I agree with Jake– I think the tendency is to think it’s aiming for “depth” just because the dialogue gets so heavy and is so well-written? I dunno. It’s not an ADD comic like the rest of the internet. It’s like a Thomas Pynchon webcomic. Is it cooler to like it or not like it?

    brandon: the payoff, to me, of the first strip is that you don’t know why the hell philippe is standing on it, or why the hell that’s supposed to be funny, but isn’t it just hilarious anyway? don’t think tooo hard. The first strip of course is never the best, though, so it may not be a good example.

  16. brandon: Like evn said, you’re thinking too hard. If you start looking for explanations to the logic behind the scene you’re just ruining the joke. Téodor can’t figure out how the drum machine works, but he can’t read the manual because Philippe is standing on it. That makes perfect sense. It’s also completely absurd. It’s funny because it’s a realistically absurd situation.

    I think what throws a lot of people off is that the comic is that it’s so unconventionally structured. It doesn’t have punchlines at the end, the humor comes from the characters, the situations they get into and their actions and dialogue. Jon Rosenberg a couple of comments up said it well; Onstad writes characters that are fun to hang out with. They’re not punchline machines, they have actual personalities and interests and shit. They’re fleshed out. The comic doesn’t hit you in the face with jokes, you just got to lean back and get into the groove and feel the funny flow.

    This is a good example of a strip that makes me laugh:


    There’s no real punchline here. I still think it’s funny. Why? Because Ray put 2000 Flushes in the toilet to make the water a beautiful blue color. Because it features the line “You want to go on a little mini-vacation to paradise? Come look in my toilet, dude!”. Because his toilet water is such a beautiful blue that he organizes a party in honor of it. He organizes a party because his toilet water is a pretty blue color. That’s what Ray does. That’s his character. That’s funny shit.

    I don’t know. It’s difficult to explain why something makes me laugh, but I do know WHAT makes me laugh. Achewood makes me laugh.

    Nobody is messing with you, Brandon. Nobody has anything to gain from pretending to like a certain webcomic. We cool.

  17. That’s why I’m looking for better examples, maybe because I don’t find someone standing on a manual inherently funny. If it were in his nose or his ear or if he was using it to create origami, something not so bland, I would, again, at least find it interesting.


  18. Jake, Wiz –

    Those are decent examples of amusing. I like the concept behind the “ass man” vs “breast man” strip. The mini vacation strip was interesting, too. So I see that there are strips that at least wander towards more traditional conventions of amusement. I’ll admit to cleverness and being somewhat amused.

    “one of the funniest webcomics out there”, Wiz? Et tu, hombre?


  19. Wow. When I first read that there were people who thought Achewood wasn’t funny (screw exclusionism–I had no idea I was unique. I still kinda doubt it), that first comic is exactly what comes to mind. As soon as I saw that I just bust out laughing–there was no working for a pay off at all, there was no thinking, no literary references, no programming jokes, no culinary jokes, no rock music jokes.

    If you laughed at all at that first comic, you laughed instantly. And here’s why–it plays with our sense of the way people should act around each other, a sense comes to us as humans innately, instantly, and subconsciously. I don’t THINK about why they’re absurd, I just instantly KNOW that they’re absurd. There’s a set of neurons in my brain that, as soon as they get to the third panel, signaled the laugh reaction. If you lack those neurons, well, I guess you won’t get it. You might be better off for it though because having neurons like mine definitely does not correlate with material success.

  20. But it’s NOT absurd. What’s absurd about standing on a manual? I guess I have more stuff on my floor than other people.

    A tangential absurdity would have been an end line of “Philippe is made of macaroni.” Situational absurdity would be “Philippe folded it into a schooner and is sailing to Mexico.” Even a simple absurdity would be him saying “Philippe is standing on it” and show Philippe NOT standing on it.

    Maybe it is the neuron thing and something in my brain just isn’t equipped to interpret Achewood as funny. I don’t hold anything against people who like it…and I don’t make judgments about “you people”, either. I’ve found out that people like Wiz Rollins, Kris Straub, and others who I respect think it’s great, too.

    I think, in the end, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. I’m still confused and humoristically disoriented, but there’s just no way to fix that.


  21. brandon: It’s absurd because there’s no reason why Philippe is standing on the manual, or why this means the manual is inaccessible. Anyway, I don’t know why we keep coming back to the discussion of one single strip that isn’t even among the best ones.

    midnightcartooner: You base your opinion of people on their taste in webcomics?

  22. Believe me, I’ve got more stuff on the floor than anyone. Transversing my dwelling is more like climbing than walking. But if you look at that comic, that’s not the case–the manual is just sitting in a corner surrounded by empty floor space, Phillip is perfectly content and oblivious.

    It isn’t the funniest Achewood and it’s not even really characteristic, but there you go.

  23. Finally we find some people to defend Achewood. Funny how we get response after the show and not during the 4 weeks of asking you to attend beforehand. I said this many times during the show and both Brandon and Scott disagreed with me. There was no thinking for me, the complexity and absurdity of each of the strips was not difficult to follow. I used several examples to explain my point but apparently no one choose to listen to me. So let me reiterate.

    While I was reading Achewood I felt like I was watching reality TV. The last couple of years were much better then the first 4 but overall I found everything to exist without point. Each individual strip/story arc had no point except to display how ridiculous the characters are. For everyone who is now mad at me for comparing these two things I’ll go back to what Phil said. These are the opinions of DS and we asked for all of you to join us, although from these comments I think I’m inclined to create a part two if all of you would agree to join us this time.

    Once again: I GET IT. I had no trouble following it. There was just nothing I found funny although there were several strips that did entertain.

  24. I would love to defend Achewood, and I’m sure there are many others at the “Official Unofficial Achewood Forums” who would like to come on the podcast to defend it, also. I don’t think Achewood is deep or requires much intelligence or patience to get. I don’t think there is a “hidden message” that takes 20 minutes to understand.
    I also think that Phillipe standing on a manual is funny because it shouldn’t affect Teodor’s ability to get the manual, but it does … it’s cute but I also think it’s character establishment for both Teodor (trying to be a kind, gentle guardian for Phillipe but generally not sure how to approach him etc) and Phillipe (stands in corners? why would he do that? we read on, to find out more about him).
    You might recall that the first comic of “Calvin and Hobbes” is also establishing and not extremely funny. It merely displays how Hobbes and Calvin meet. Not that I think Achewood is as good as “Calvin and Hobbes,” but my point is that initial strips are about establishing characters and setting, rather than having gags.
    I also think that the first comic strip of just about ANY comic is complete crap because the artist is still figuring out his characters and medium. Go look at the first strip of your favorite comics and consider how funny it is. Often they lack punchlines or have crappy punchlines.

    I agree that once the cats become the more central comic characters, the strip takes off more and comes into its own. Also, I THINK Onstad was the first to write blogs for his characters … and Scott Kurtz appears to have made a blog for his character Skull, so he has Onstad to thank for the influence on that.
    Also, who is Kurtz to call anything “random” when one of his characters is a genderless troll? Plus he’s got other mythological creatures. THAT’S pretty random.

  25. @brandonjcarr, midnightcartooner, daku, and others:
    I wrote a very long defense of Achewood this morning, and have tried to post it several times throughout the day, but it hasn’t yet appeared. I’m not sure if it’s just too long, or if comments on here must be approved and mine hasn’t been yet, or what. But if you’re actually interested in a reasoned, exampled response, I can email it to you.

  26. To be honest, I only discovered this site recently when someone linked to this a day or so ago and I wanted to know why on Earth anyone would not like Achewood. I’m certain that just indicates how far out of the loop I am rather than anything about the site’s level of cosmic importance. If you had another talk on Achewood I’d certainly listen, but I’m not sure how much time you want to spend talking about any one comic, even if that comic happens to be my very favorite. I did have a bunch more thoughts on this, though.

    Daku, think of it like number-color synaesthesia. Some people when they see some numbers or letters in black ink perceive to be tinted a color. For example, when a synesthete sees a black ‘5’, they might see it tinted as yellow. A black ‘2’ might be appear blue. What’s more, although synesthetes don’t report exactly the same color-number matchings, there is some tendency for some numbers to appear certain colors. What’s more, these colors are actually processed visually–when handed a field of numbers in which 5s form a triangle in a field of 2s, synesthete’s discover the triangle way faster than non-synesthetes.

    So you might intellectually perceive the field of numbers, and even detect the triangular pattern of digits, but you and I aren’t going to see the colors that the synesthetes perceive. It’s not a matter of one form of perception being better than the other but we see different stuff.

    Moreover, the synesthetes could arrange fields of number to create art that you or I could only detect intellectually.

    You’re absolutely correct that Achewood isn’t intellectually difficult to follow. It’s not like a Pynchon novel where you have to actually know stuff about history and chemistry to make sense of what’s going on–the history of Achewood is completely imaginary and involves cartoon animals looking completely ridiculous in a stylized past, you don’t actually know how to cook or even eat any of the foods to get the jokes that involve them. There’s no “Herculean task of intelligence to complete it”, and I’ve never felt that way about it, and I doubt very many of Achewood’s readers feel that way either. It’s not all like when I tried to read Gravity’s Rainbow and got to the last page feeling like the stupidest person in the world for not getting what the hell Pynchon is talking about and being able to solve his damn crossword puzzle novels–it’s not about IQ or education at all. It’s not as obscure and random as a David Lynch movie–heck, it’s not even as obscure as “Lost”.

    You don’t have to know anything about Mark Twain to know that his story arc ( http://achewood.com/index.php?date=08202003 ) is absurd. You don’t have to cook anything to know that an al Qaeda cookbook is ridiculous ( http://achewood.com/index.php?date=02272007 ).

    I like the way Jake put it–“realistic absurdity”. The absurdity is obvious. Where the realism comes from is the depth of the characters (this is why the later strips are better than older ones, because the characters grow deeper as the comic progresses), and the stylistic realism. The al Qaeda cookbook is ridiculous, but it looks exactly like an al Qaeda cookbook should look! The untranslatable idioms, black cover, and conspiratorial tone says al Qaeda, the wood-cut-like images and odd font make it look like an old lady forgot it at her church bake sale.

    That’s an important part of Achewood-yes this is absurd, but if it existed it would look exactly like that.

    I don’t know anything about Onstad (he is Pynchon-esque in his privacy at least), but just from his comic and his fictionalized blog I get the feeling that he’s got a graphic design background, and people who spend time worrying about stuff that most people only perceive subconsciously like whether your font’s serifs match your x-height will tend to grow highly sensitive stylistic absurdity detection systems in their heads. Designers have to worry about stuff like if Helvetica’s usage by the federal government especially for tax returns colors people’s subconscious feelings about your own documents in Helvetica.

    The imaginary histories and recipes (“commercials” as you put it) exist because history and recipes–even fake ones (I can’t cook, but some of them look pretty ludicrous) have a subconscious effect on the way we perceive the characters and plot. Like the coding that Roast Beef does–it never makes sense in any technical User Friendly kind of way, but it makes sense in the way it *feels*, or at least the way it would feel if Roast Beef did it. This is the way these characters, these plots, these foods, these web pages, these products, these songs (Pynchon liked fake song lyrics too), and these historical events would be if they were real–even though they’re absolutely ridiculous. Not realistic in a CGI sense, but realistic in stylistic, cognitive, cultural way. The Great Outdoor Fight is an insane idea, but if it had a poster in 1943 it would definitely look exactly like this ( http://achewood.com/shop/rsrc/img/poster_gof_lg.gif ).

    Wow, LaBove’s reaction sounds like the way my sister reacts to my 1986 AMC Eagle. It’s like some people see it as harmonious (Achewood, not the Eagle), some people it as painfully discordant, and some people see it as uninteresting, monotonous static. Now, I’m sorry, but if someone manages to make something that effects people in such visceral yet vaguely undefinable ways–even if not all of them are comfortable with those ways–you have to admit that he’s on to something. He’s managed to discover an island of the cognitive landscape that hasn’t really been explored before. Onstad and his fans aren’t just making it up to look cool (for God’s sake, do not go into comics to look cool!), they actually and genuinely perceive something. Once upon a time we accused synesthetes of just putting on act or being crazy. But we know better than that now.

  27. One thing about the art–the art is especially detailed when he’s drawing some kind of product, the logo of a product–something that’s manufactured or designed–sometimes hilariously badly designed, or out of place in it’s simple environment.

  28. Achewood makes me laugh. I discovered it sitting alone in the dark of my old basement apartment in a city where I had no friends. There was no windows in the apartment. It wasn’t a hip scene.

    Before the livecast, I read Achewood because I thought it was funny. Now I read because I just discovered that I am hip. This post now became hip. Hippity-skippity.

  29. http://www.achewood.com/index.php?date=01172005

    Onstand has your number, bitches!

    Seriously, the only difference between achewood and most webcomics is that achewood’s humor is subtle. I guess if you’re the sort of person who resorts to using Ninjas as the punchline of your first strip, you won’t “get” achewood.

    Saying that achewood is obviously some huge postmodern joke is simply to admit that you’re a braindead moron who can’t appreciate the finer things in life. Though, really, it’s not as if achewood’s humor is particularly highbrow. Saying that achewood is too hifalutin’ and pretentious is sort of like finding toaster strudels too “fancy” compared to pop tarts because you have to manually apply the frosting.

  30. don’t know if any of the guys who are defending their right to liking achewood, or stamping on Scot Kurtz realise but in life people like different things and thats what makes life so rich. I don’t give a damn about you opinions and probably no one else does so arguing your point by childishly attacking someone with a different opinion is a waste of yours and everyone elses time. By the way don’t both writing anything insulting back to this as I’ll never be back to read it.

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