The format of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is to string together some of the classic cartoon frames from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip and then add original music which isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, Vince Guaraldi-esque.
This episodic approach led me to Google some of the comic strips which are depicted in the show. I shared them with my kids, ages 15 and 12, and came to the realization that they have grown up without comic strips.
As a comic strip, Charlie Brown was much more than just amusing. Doctoral dissertations about Charlie Brown have been defended. Charles Schulz was an everyman’s Dostoyevski who wove an existential thread through a comedic group of average-to-mediocre character types.
If my kids have grown up without comic strips, what exactly have they grown up with?
That’s right. With the decentralization of humor, the 20 or so authors who used to be the only source of comic strips have been replaced by billions of memes about any and all subject matter.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That’s not relevant. The fact is it’s a thing, and comic strips aren’t.
Interestingly, if we consider The Far Side comics by Gary Larson, we can see the embryonic form of the meme. A meme is an image and a caption. Is that not exactly what The Far Side was?
Yes, and no. The central fact of decentralization is the removal of all barriers. There are no editors turning down “inferior” material. There are no editors turning down material based on their personal senses of humor and decorum. There are no editors, period.
The upside is that everyone has a chance. The downside is that there’s a lot of lazy, boring humor out there. Don’t get me started on the quality of humor on the Tik Tok app.
Will there be a future musical based on memes? I hope not. However, nostalgia is always an easy sell. I can imagine that when my kids reach adulthood they will be hit with wistful monetized memes from yesteryear.
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown runs at OB Playhouse through Sunday, May 12.