In-House Humor

Genre: Humor, Slice of Life
Schedule: T

Minimalism is deceptively difficult. In formal art, the purpose is to focus on the pure, unadulterated elements of art stripped to the core, which is why it's so hard to do. If you're going to strip, you better have something worth looking at, otherwise you get a room full of disappointed and disgusted viewers. Minimalistic webcomics do the same thing, simplifying the comic to the most basic requirements to qualify as a comic, leaving us to focus on the writing (also, I imagine not having as much to draw is a perk). And in the case of In-House Humor, what we're left with is nothing but bland, boring panels about a bland, boring person doing bland, boring things off panel, resulting in a comic that is boring. As well as bland.


The comic is about Todd, a character that either stays at home or goes out on errands. The comic is based around the various annoyances or observations that he has while at home or out and about. Occasionally, he has neighbors over or goes to anime conventions, but that's about it.

Normally, I have a lot more to say about the plot, but I am seriously straining just to come up with even this much summary of the comic. Even in a slice of life or gag a week comic, there would at least be more to say about the cast or any interesting story arcs, but really, there's not much here. Even the first page has trouble saying anything about Todd that couldn't describe pretty much anyone. And the jokes are equally as generic. He goes shopping, but forgets the toilet paper. He laments that new MP3 players come with built-in rechargeable batteries because it was easier to swap out AAA batteries. And he thinks that gas prices are too high. Ironically, creating a character that is so generic that their life and problems could literally be anyone's problems results in a character that is impossible to care about.

That's not to say that he doesn't have any unique qualities. He's from Minnesota and it's implied that he lives in the South or Southwest based on the climate. He's an otaku, and he wears glasses. He's a fan of Jennie Breeden, the author of the webcomic The Devil's Panties. And he likes football more than most people do. I wish there was more scenes like these because there can be humor that can be drawn from cultural differences or making light of things the author knows well enough to make targeted okes about. And people can see themselves in facets of the characters, creating a more relatable character than a random ball on a stick that makes bland observational jokes that could all replaced with one panel of them saying “What's up with [X], amirite?”

The comic might as well be Todd standing in front of a spotlit brick wall with a mic in his hands, because that would make more sense than the current premise, which is Todd mainly staying at home or in a car by himself and narrating his every thought. Realistically, people don't narrate everything that happens to themselves because they can tell what's happening to themselves based on sensory information. From a narrative standpoint, this self-narration is a clear example of “Tell, don't show,” and is a weak way of conveying information, especially in a visual medium like comics. And from a comedic standpoint, it makes more sense to have two people in a conversation that takes a comedic twist than one character monologuing. There's a reason why the Straight Man and Wise Guy trope is so pervasive. There's a rhythm and a pattern of setting up and breaking expectations in exchanges between two characters that you can't get with one. And honestly, Todd trying to constantly make weak jokes about the inconveniences of his life to himself comes off as depressing. It's like reading Garfield Minus Garfield except that making the author of this comic isn't trying to make his character sound crazy on purpose.


The art looks like pixel art, so definitely digitally illustrated. The author recycles sprites such as houses, cars, people, and panels over and over and there's usually very little detail or variation between panels. Everything is done in a long shot from a side view, so there's no real emphasis on anything that's happening in the strips. This is the other reason why Todd has to do running commentary of everything he does, because everything happens in the house or in the car and we can't see inside. It's also why there aren't a lot of recurring character, because from this distance the characters are all circles on sticks.

If the writing was good enough, such as Dinosaur Comics, where the same pictures are used every comic but the author takes advantage of the template format to come up with new conversations that complement the action of the panels, or xkcd, in which the art is stick figures but the author varies panel sizes, shots, and can step up in the art department when the occasion calls for it, it could be forgivable. If the art was being used for some intentional purpose reinforced in the writing, such as trying to convey emotional distance with literal distance, I could forgive that. But in this case, the art is handicapping the author since the writing makes it clear that there's something we should be seeing, but can't because of restrictions. Even incredibly simple changes, such as making the windows green in this strip, tinting the windows and then making them white for this strip, or drawing some random piece of junk in this strip would make these jokes work better and cut back on the wordiness, but everything is so by the numbers copy/paste that we don't even get that.


Aside from some glints at characterization, In-House Humor is a completely bland, forgettable comic, with lazily copy/pasted art assets and awkwardly monologued jokes in the head of a character who barely leaves the house. I imagine something like this could be funny, but in this case, it's a completely lackluster comic.


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