Writing Gags

Writing Gags: Transformation

I love playing Pokemon Go, where you spend time walking from place to place holding your cell phone, finding virtual creatures to hit with a virtual ball, all with the intention of catching enough to be able to evolve them into new creatures, thereby earning points. Once when cruising the internet, I found a little two panel gag about a couple of creature nostalgic about their lost arms, somehow removed in the act of evolution. My own strip, The Goth Scouts, always relied on transformations for humor, so I thought, what a great prompt for a simple lesson in gag writing.

Goth Scout Strip that Appeared in the Great South Bay Magazine 2012

I drew up the following two gags for the classroom. The first is a straight up Pokemon transformation of a Squirtle into Blastoise. The second is geared more for the girls in the class, rifting on the traditional Princess and the Frog theme.

Transformation Gag:  Squirtle transforms into Blastoise
Transformation Gag: Squirtle transforms into Blastois

Setting up the gag is very simple. The first panel is the unevolved characters in whatever setting. The second panel is the actual transformation accompanied by a glib and hopefully funny comment.

The little princess kisses the frog.
The little princess kisses the frog.
Owen's gag
Owen’s gag

My students by and large did well with this lesson. Owen’s gag about the grownups totally made me laugh out loud. At eleven, he’s one of the oldest kids in the class. Eight year old Annabelle had a little difficulty. I told her to exaggerate the relative sizes of her animals by giving them a context, namely a background. This way she made the animals super giant in the last panel. I thought she ended up with a fantastic cartoon.

Penguin and Fox
Penguin and Fox

Finally, another really young student, Lucas, put together something way cool. When I see artwork like this by a young kid, I get really excited. The design is so dynamic that it’s fun to look at. The hope is that as his small motor skills get stronger, he maintains his natural sense of design. After class, he told me he wants to draw Pokemon. I am thinking next week, we might work on trading cards.

Evolving characters
Evolving characters