Cow Tools: Why is Gary Larson So Funny?

I have always loved The Far Side. I think Gary Larson is an insane comedic genius. Yesterday, while I was helping my wife re-organize some boxes, I came across a Far Side collection I forgot I had and became very distracted.

The collection I was reading was called The Prehistory of The Far Side: A 10th Anniversary Exhibit where Larson comments on some of his cartoons and gives background information like what was going on in his mind when he wrote it, why he thought it was funny, and some readers’ responses to them.  I find it absolutely fascinating. And laugh-out-loud hilarious.

He mentions his famous cartoon titled “Cow Tools.” In the early 1980’s, I read, this cartoon stirred a response Larson had never imagined. People wrote him begging for the meaning behind it, saying they had asked everyone they knew to try and identify its punchline, but to no avail. Gary Larson says he regretted writing the cartoon afterward, saying that it wasn’t funny; it was pointless. For months after “Cow Tools” he wanted to hide under his desk and avoid people seeking answers. He also feared he might lose his job as a cartoonist. Nevertheless, later, he acknowledged that all the outcry “Cow Tools” created actually bolstered his career.

Here’s the cartoon:

A blogger said:

What do you make of “Cow Tools?” Questions beckon.

The cow itself is very zen, very much in the moment. This is an in-your-face, right now cow. He looks at you directly, confronting you straight on with his own goofy existence as if to say, “Here I am, a being that makes no sense, yet here I am. Deal with it.”

Read the whole thing here. It’s pretty good.

My question: Is “Cow Tools” funny to you? If so, why?

For all the Gary Larson you can handle: The Complete Far Side 1980-1994 (2 vol set)

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