Wednesday, May 13, 2009



Behind the Words

At first glance, one might think the above comic is a pretty straightforward reconstruction of a humorous fight in an ailing marriage. But you'd be wrong. You see, through the magic of subtext — by reading between the lines, watching their body language and evaluating just where the conversation goes against where it could go — we can deduce that this is actually an argument between brother and sister, and it's much more gross than it is funny.

Lately, I've been paying more and more attention to my interactions with people, and I've really started to notice how little I concentrate on what they are actually saying. Instead, I get my conversation cues almost entirely from subtext. And so, while before I'd place most of the blame for my poor conversation skills on my tendency to be easily distracted, I now have to admit that this near-total reliance on subtext is probably just as responsible.

Par example, here's a conversation between two normal people:

Rutherford: What a most fantastical day out today, hmmm?
Lexington: Oh rather! Why I believe I spotted a bluebird.
Rutherford: You don't say? Building a nest? Scarfing worms?
Lexington: Haha — no, this fine fellow was just resting on a branch, singing his little avian heart out.
Rutherford: Mating season, don't you know?
Lexington: Quite!
Rutherford: Quite.

Now, replace one of these people with me and you get:

Rutherford: What a most fantastical day out today, hmmm?
Kevin: (thinking Oh, he's trying to talk about the weather - that means he wants to talk but doesn't really know anything about me so he has to talk about something safe. Well, maybe I should mention something interesting about myself) I once broke my thumb while I was in a cast for a broken arm.
Rutherford: Oh... my... well... that's unfortunate.
Kevin: (thinking Uh oh. This seems to have made him uncomfortable. Maybe he's hurt himself before and it was traumatic, and now I've dredged up terrible memories. I better change the subject to something more lighthearted) You know what I enjoy? A nice bath.
Rutherford: Yes, well... a bath can be terribly exhilarating. Invigorates the constitution. Weather too.
Kevin: (thinking Aha! He seems to like baths! We can talk about baths!) You know the only problem with a bath is when you need to rinse your hair and you don't want to dunk your head in the water because it's all filthy so you have to put your head under the faucet but you can't bend forward very well so you end up hitting the back of your head on the faucet. Don't you hate that?
Rutherford: Oh, hum — quite. Ah! I believe I see my good friend Lexington. Tah!

Heheh... that was actually a pretty fun exercise... Hey! Let's replace Rutherford with another me!

Kevin: Hi Kevin! How was your day?
Kevin: I met a guy named Rutherford. He likes baths.
Kevin: Hey — don't forget you have a doctor's appointment at noon today.
Kevin: Ughh... You know what I hate about the doctor?
Kevin: Yes. So this Rutherford guy... how'd you meet him?
Kevin: We were in a comedy sketch together. I made him uncomfortable.
Kevin: The back rubs?
Kevin: NO. I don't do that anymore.
Kevin: Well... good. We can't afford another settlement.

Okay - now let's replace one of me with a Tyrannosaurus Rex:

Kevin: Hi—

Haha! That was grody! Anyway... where was I? Oh yes. Subtext.


I forget how this was supposed to finish.

Okay, this time, we'll put Rutherford back in, but make the Tyrannosaurus six-inches tall:

Rutherford: What a most fantas—
Tinyosaurus Rex: CHOMP!
Rutherford: I say... you're a cheeky little fellow, aren't you?

Comments on this Article

There are currently 37 comments.

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Is that you Rain Man!?

This seems like a good exercise to try on my wife today. I better hide the phone, keys and medication first.


All I can say is, brilliant! Thanks for making me laugh and brightening up my afternoon :-)


Where have all the Rutherford's gone these days? You know — aside from the one that's being slowly nibbled to death via the tiny t-rex.



but really the worst thing about baths is when all you really want to do is lay back and relax, but when you slowly lean back and that icey cold porcelain that seems like it would even make a polar bear shriek like a little girl is right there anxiously awaiting your skin.

So then I end up getting into some huge debate on how much do I REALLY want to lean back, and before you know it my entire body looks like a prune, and I haven't even begun applying soap.

A solution for washing your hair is to jsut take a bucket with you in the tub, and use the bucket to rinse your hair.

glindon marten

(Thinking hmmmmm. This is a clever comic, but I'm always complementing Kevin... that's just boring, I wonder how he likes being insulted?) Soooo, Kevin, having conversations with yourself, eh? I think you're finally starting to go insane. INSANE!!! (There you go Glin, niiiiice.)

Diane Faye Zerr

I imagine Rutherford is the sort of fellow who uses words like boulderdash.

I seriously laughed so hard when reading this article I nearly started crying. One of those laughs when you say, "Aw, I needed that"...


LOL! Sounds familiar.

I have a habit of starting stories and then half way through realising "Oh my. This story doesn't really have an end and/or is rubbish. In a minute I'm going to finish and their will be an embarrassing silence."

Of course, that thought distracts me further, causing my telling of the story to deteriorate even more.

I then think "Should I make something great up to save this situation?", but that only confuses me more, causing long pauses and muddled word-use.

I usually opt for saying to the unfortunate listener (mid sentence) "so then ... oo! What's that?!"

Listener turns to where I'm pointing. I scarper :P

Barry Jones

Absolutely fantastic! Thanks for brightening up my otherwise boring day.

But this is the reason I like pubs so much, there is even less to worry about. When they pick up their pint it's your turn to talk and after a while any conversation goes.


I love it when you descend into madness

Hugh G.

Man, I love the way your brain works. I bet you spend most of your day laughing quietly to yourself.

William Stewart

I too have found the best way to end a conversation is to roar and then bite someone. It seems like my hunger always precedes the need for meaningful dialog.

Terry T.

This is a fun exercise! I've taken the liberty to replace Rutherford with myself ::
Me: Hey! Kevin! Hey!
Kevin Oh… Hi! I met a guy named Rutherford. He likes baths.
Kevin: Well… sure, but not if it's all filthy, as baths go.
Me: I like turtles.
Kevin: Can we stick to the bath portion of the conversation?
Me: Do you feel dirty inside, again?
Kevin: I can't do this anymore. Don't talk to me.
Me: I'll email you!


Glindon - That's not an insult! You should have told me my butt looks big. That's a homerun!

Kev - Yeah... I'll often start a conversation and bail out early once I realize... yes, well... there you go.

Barry - Not every conversation... the "I spit in your pint" one is usually difficult to swallow.

Hugh - So... by the subtext here, you're saying that's a healthy thing! Goodbye pills! *tossss*

Terry - It's not that I don't like turtles too, I just think it gets in the way of us talking about the real issue: why we're taking this bath together.


I like eggs - make of it what you will.


You could possibly be certifiably insane, Kevin.


So, where can I get a six-inch tall T-Rex?? Show and Tell would never be the same!


The funny thing is, when Rutherford and Lexington were first talking, I was positive that Rutherford was a manic-depressive closet homosexual trying to work up the nerve to proposition his friend. Perhaps it's a manifestation of the artistic temperament to invigorate boring conversations with drama. I love where you took it, Kevin.

Jonathan Wagener

Brilliant... I love this one, it made me laugh out loud - thank you.

@kuzushisan Tim

I so love it when I get to read articles about us Tasmanians.

Take this next line as a compliment from a Tasmanian (alright, Australian, if you insist, though they all live on the Big Island)...

You're a mad b@stard, brilliant but mad, in fact a Brilliantly Mad B@stard...


Kevin: Hey buddy!
Mojo: eh!
Kevin: I SA-ID, 'HE-Y, BU--DDDY!'
Mojo: eh!
Kevin: eh?
Mojo: eh, eh!
Japanese tourist: eeeeeh....?


I remember that weekend. Niagara Falls was beautiful!


I really like your hand gestures in this strip. All of the creepy watching people from afar you did has really paid off. Well, at least with your illustration skills, perhaps not with the ladies....


Hahah :D Thanks, Gerren ;)

Jason Evers

I've followed your banter on Twitter for ages now and have just stumbled across this gem of a site. I shall now begin a humor marathon until I can't breathe. Thank you. CHOMP!


Wow - I assumed I'd drive people to twitter from the site but I never thought it would work vice-versa! Hoorah!

Alice Grey

about dipping your brush in your coffee...I have this nasty habit of mistakenly drinking from my dirty water jar instead of my coffee cup! Have you tried that it instantly awakens the artistic senses....

Dianne M. Alexander

You just awakened my input sensors!


i love you... i don't know how this happened... it just did.


A well done turn around. : )


I dig this.

Dr. Sakuya, PhD

I love you.


What's a witty bon-mot? Is that like a quip?

I once saw a 6" tyrannosaurus taking a bath with an Englishman, but it wasn't as interesting as you'd think.


Love this! Though if I tried this myself I worry I'd never see the light of day again and quickly become one of those scary people who chatter on to themselves...

vipul vivek

Godot tripped over a bear-skin rug?


You're funny Kevin :) I dunno what I liked more, the strip, your interpretation of the strip, or the dribble that followed which was on a whole different level of funny! thumbs up! ROAR!


It's interesting, but I've looked at it a couple times and I still don't get it. Maybe I'm not good at reading between the lines or something. I wouldn't have a clue if you hadn't told me so.


Wow, unlike the previous Joe before me... you, Kevin, think pretty much exactly like me. The conversation between you and the fancy dude is exactly how I talk. It's actually weird.

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