[[quoteright:191:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/pearls_logo_2797.png]]
[[caption-width-right:191:Clockwise from the top: [[{{Jerkass}} Rat]], [[WideEyedIdealist Pig]], [[GoldfishPoopGang Larry]], [[KillerRabbit Snuffles]], [[PintsizedPowerhouse Guard Duck]], [[OnlySaneMan Zebra]], [[NoRespectGuy Goat]], and [[AuthorAvatar Stephan Pastis]].]]

-> ''He asked me to ask you for a, uh, continuance.''
-> ''What for?''
-> ''He's [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_Nowak traveling cross-country in diapers to kill someone]].''

A newspaper comic drawn by former lawyer Stephan Pastis about the lives of Rat, Pig, Zebra and Goat, anthropomorphic suburbanites operating freely in a human world just ''slightly'' off-plumb from our own. They are, [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin naturally]], a rat, a pig, a zebra, and a goat. The strip serves partly as a chronicle of their amusingly surreal adventures, partly as a satire of modern American society, partly as a meta-commentary on the state of the modern American comic strip (not surprisingly, it isn't impressed)...and partly--some suspect mostly--as an excuse to let off [[IncrediblyLamePun really, really awful puns.]]

Pig is a perpetually cheerful innocent who sails through life just barely aware enough to survive. His best friend and roomie Rat, a wannabe author, is a cynical, totally unrepentant {{Jerkass}} and DeadpanSnarker constantly on the lookout for a quick buck. Their neighbor Goat is much more intelligent and well-read than the other characters; thus his default expression tends to be "Why do I put ''up'' with these morons?"

Another neighbor, gentle, sensitive Zebra, was originally intended to be a one-shot character but was soon [[AscendedExtra elevated to star status]]. He was originally determined to save his herd from becoming prey to lions, either through schemes to thwart them (such as dressing in costumes...unfortunately, they dressed up as gazelle) or attempts to communicate with them (but the lions tend to respond to his moving letters with "Yu taste gud!")

Later in the strip, crocodile fraternity Zeeba Zeeba Eata moved in next to Zebra, and their idiotic attempts to capture and eat him have become one of the most popular aspects of the strip. The crocs' horrible grammar is about the most offensive thing about them.

Peripheral characters include Pig's pet Guard Duck, who calls his master "Sir," patrols the neighborhood with a rocket launcher and occasionally declares war on Venezuela; Zebra's cat Snuffles, a truly evil little ball of cute fluff who among many other things hid the [=WMDs=] for Saddam Hussein; Pigita, Pig's sometime girlfriend - "sometime" because he takes romantic advice from Rat; Wee Bear, the strip's resident social issue obsessed male SoapBoxSadie; Farina, Pig's sister, who lives inside a plastic bubble and is the only person Rat ever loved; Junior, the young vegetarian crocodile; and Andy the creatively optimistic little dog across the way, who never fails to make the best of being chained up in his yard and forgotten.

Pastis himself makes [[AuthorGuestSpot frequent appearances]] in the strip, usually to announce/explain changes in the strip or be chewed out by Rat - or both.

Has a developing [[Characters/PearlsBeforeSwine character sheet]].

----
!!Tropes include:

* AffectionateParody: Pastis often cameos characters from other comic strips, particularly Family Circus, subjecting them to Pearls' dark humor. Commentary in the anthologies reveals that he would let them know beforehand, and that Bil Keane asked for originals of some of the strips.
* AliceAndBob: [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVGlgOZjjg4 The lovebirds.]]
* AmusingInjuries: Pig suffers these in the last panel of many strips, usually at Rat's hands.
** Quite a few involving the Zeeba Zeeba Fraternity's futile zebra eating attempts.
* AnimalJingoism: Partly subverted by Zebra's conciliatory attitude toward his predators...used in full when he gets shot down at every turn.
* AnimatedAdaptation: There are animated versions of several strips by Ring Tales Animation.
* TheAnnotatedEdition: The treasury collections contain annotations from Pastis which try to elaborate on where ideas came from and detail reactions to the more controversial strips. And tell us which things he found impossible to draw.
* AnvilOnHead: Rat stopped a pun strip by bringing this trope upon Pastis.
* AprilFoolsDay: ''Pearls'' did the same punchline involving a Ouija board as ''FoxTrot'' and ''GetFuzzy''.
* ArchiveBinge: In-universe in [[http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2014/02/18 this strip]].
* ArtShift: Went through one during the first week of June 2014. At the end, it was revealed that that the strips were the work of [[CalvinAndHobbes Bill Watterson]], which is a ''[[ReclusiveArtist very]]'' [[http://stephanpastis.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/ever-wished-that-calvin-and-hobbes-creator-bill-watterson-would-return-to-the-comics-page-well-he-just-did/ big deal]].
* ArtisticLicenseBiology: [[WhiteSheep Junior]] decides to [[CarnivoreConfusion become a vegetarian]]. Crocs can't digest plant matter. Of course, they also cannot speak or stand on their hind legs, so this is probably justified.
** In one of the treasuries, Pastis makes a reference to Goat's antlers. Goats have horns, not antlers.
* AttendingYourOwnFuneral: In the [[http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2013/01/29#mutable_881486 strip for 1-29-13]], Larry the crocodile (who was thought to be dead) attends a memorial dinner for him. He told the guests that he was a ghost and that if they didn't give him food he'd haunt them forever.
* AuthorAvatar: Libby was one for [[ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes Bill Watterson]].
* AuthorFilibuster: When Pastis isn't punning on Sundays, he's using the extended format to ''really'' lash out at whatever bugs him.
* AuthorGuestSpot: Pastis' AuthorAvatar.
* AuthorsSavingThrow: [[invoked]] Lampshaded with a vengeance [[http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2012/03/10 here.]]
* AxCrazy: Guard Duck and Snuffles.
* BabysitterFromHell:Rat. See the MassiveMultiplayerCrossover entry below.
* BadassAdorable: L'il Guard Duck.
* BadHumorTruck: One Sunday strip has Pig getting hit by an ice cream truck. Rat explains to Goat that this happens every Sunday, and that when Pig comes to he just tells him that he won the Super Bowl.
* BeatPanel: Mostly when Rat realizes that he has made an IncrediblyLamePun.
* BewareTheNiceOnes: In a strip where Goat convinced Rat to relax and stop worrying about everything, [[spoiler:then whacked him on the head with a frying pan as soon as he dropped his guard]].
--> [[spoiler:'''Goat:''' I've been waiting ten years to do that.]]
* BigDamnHeroes: Guard Duck is ''made'' of this trope.
* BitingTheHandHumor: Pastis does not shy away from mocking [[ComicStrip/{{Dilbert}} Scott Adams]], who helped popularize the strip. Similarly, Rat is ''never'' above mocking Pastis, his creator.
** At one point, Scott Adams let Stephan Pastis draw a Dilbert strip. He drew the titular character dead in a coffin.
* BlackBeadEyes: Some of the animal characters.
* BlackComedy: And how; Pastis comments in his treasuries that even he underestimates just how "dark" his material is. He recounts the story of a telephone call between himself and fellow cartoonist Darby Conley (''GetFuzzy'') about an idea for a strip wherein Pig falls in love with a doomed female pig at a slaughterhouse. Darby's side of the conversation was mostly long silences.
** In another he tells a story about his family going for a hike at a ranch and being thrilled at finding a cow skull that still had some bloodstains on it. They ended up taking it home "Because that's the kind of family I have."
* BreakTheCutie: Pastis once said in a treasury that if a character expouses unbridled optimism and faith in humanity, something bad will inevitably happen to them.
* BreakingBadNewsGently
* BrickJoke: When Rat hijacked the strip while Pastis was on vacation, [[http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2009-11-01 he mentioned that week's strips were supposed to be about Guard Duck and some cows]]. Guess what the arc was about [[http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2009-11-09 a week later]]?
* BritishStuffiness: Goat, apparently. It's not referenced in the strip, but in the official animated shorts he has a British accent.
* ButtMonkey: Pig.
** And [[CreatorCameo Pastis]] [[TakeThatMe himself]].
* CarnivoreConfusion: Pig got kicked out of a pig brotherhood because he enjoys [=BLTs=].
* CatchPhrase: "You dumb [[PhraseCatcher pig]]." and "Hullooooo, zeeba neighba." Also, people tend to say "Please don't [do whatever {{Jerkass}} behavior you are engaged in]."
--> '''Goat:''' CheckPlease.
* CatsAreMean: Played ''very'' straight, possibly to the point of satire, with Snuffles, who has at times moonlighted as a Nigerian scammer, a mercenary and a spokesperson for Al Qaeda.
* CensoredTitle: The sixth treasury, ''Pearls Freaks The #%*# Out''.
* CharacterFilibuster: Goat's specialty... albeit frequently doomed in the face of Rat's pragmatism.
* CharacterizationMarchesOn: Pastis acknowledged this in an arc where Rat starts selling "Beef Babies," and Pig decides to one-up him by selling "Tuna Babies." He admitted that he wrote the arc in 2001 before the characters were as defined, and ended up using this notably OutOfCharacter moment for Pig when the arc finally printed in 2004.
* CheckPlease: Used constantly by Goat, as well as many of the diner's other patrons.
* ChuckCunninghamSyndrome: Rat and Pig's roommate Leonard. Several other characters come and go, in part because Pastis simply runs out of good material for them. He acknowledged that this is why he got rid of Leonard.
** Eventually, we get a strip in which Stephan phones Pig to tell him he's writing Leonard out of the strip, adding that "I'm a little busy right now, so I asked Rat to look into some scenarios that are final, yet dignified and respectful." Rat then comes in to announce that [[DroppedABridgeOnHim Leonard got his head stuck in the toilet and drowned]].
** Angry Bob has been gone since 2009, and Elly Elephant and Danny Donkey are just barely still in the strip.
* ComicallySmallBribe
* ComicTrio: Rat is the {{Schemer}}, Pig is the follower, Goat is the NoRespectGuy.
* CompletelyMissingThePoint: When taking a literature class, one of the crocodiles seems to think that the moral of ''TheGreatGatsby'' is that green is his favorite color.
* ConvictionByContradiction: Parodied [[http://joshreads.com/images/08/01/i080113pbs.jpg here.]]
* CrapsackWorld: Played for laughs.
* CreatorCareerSelfDeprecation: There's no shortage of jokes at the expense of cartoonists, comic strips, cartoon characters, and the comics industry. Even Pastis' own AuthorAvatar is basically a ButtMonkey for [[TakeThatMe abuse from his own characters]].
* CrossOver: [[FamilyGuy Stewie Griffin]] appears to deliver the trademark pun at the end of one particular Sunday strip.
** Other CrossOver victims include ''{{Cathy}}, ComicStrip/BabyBlues, GetFuzzy, TheFamilyCircus,'' ''FoxTrot'', ''SallyForth'' and ''{{Mutts}}''.
** On July 28, 2011 PBS crossed both ways with ComicStrip/DennisTheMenaceUS. The DTM strip took place in a comic book convention. After his father tells Dennis that Pastis "draws a famous comic strip", Dennis says, "But what does he do for a living?" The PBS strip had Pastis invite Dennis over to help make Pearls into a family friendly strip, only to find him pouring gas into Pastis's office saying "Hope you have insurance on this @+#$@#+ dump". As Pastis's office starts to go up in flames, Rat observes that Dennis "looks like he's past the slingshot phase".
-->'''Dennis the Menace''': And Remember, Blame those @+#@;#+ ''FamilyCircus'' Kids!
** In acknowledgment of the author of ''{{Cathy}}'' retiring, there was a one-week arc when Cathy's soul gets stuck in the Pearls Before Swine diner. Instead of going straight to Comic Strip Heaven, she eats all the [[TakeThat cheesecake]] she can.
** In the [[http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2013/06/12#.UvGQb_ldXh4 June 12, 2013]] strip, [[ComicStrip/BloomCounty Steve Dallas]] show's up as the lawyer to bail most of the gang out of jail (who were put in for various contrived reasons).
* DeadPersonConversation
* DeathAsComedy: All the freaking time. Countless crocs have died off, and then there're Hy and Hy, the hyena brothers that operate a funeral home... just to get the dead animals that hyenas feed on.
* DiggingToChina: Pig digs a hole to "Kukistan." This was originally going to be a ''literal'' dig to China, but he changed it to a fictional country to avoid offending anyone. Anyone not speaking Swedish, at least.
* DinnerOrderFlub: One strip had Guard Duck on a date with Maura, ordering "The chateaubriand, cooked medium well, and a glass of your finest pinot noir". Although the actual strip wasn't an example, Stephan Pastis said this about the strip in the ''Pearls Sells Out'' commentary:
-->"I really don't know what chateaubriand is. It just sounded like something fancy you'd order in an expensive restaurant. I'm hoping it is actually a type of food." (For the record, chateaubriand ''is'' a type of food. It's a kind of steak.)
* DisproportionateRetribution: [[http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2010-08-23/ Never let your library book go over ten days overdue.]]
* TheDitz: Pig. He's so very sweet-natured about it, though, that his shallowness almost twists back around to depth.
-->'''Rat:''' What is true happiness?...How does a dumb pig like you answer a question like that?
-->'''Pig:''' I think happiness is finding an extra couple of french fries at the bottom of the bag.
-->'''Rat:''' ...Pig made sense. The apocalypse is upon us.
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything: In one StoryArc, one of the crocs is jealous over the size of the other's tail.
* ADogNamedDog: Pig, Zebra, Rat and Goat, of course.
* DressedToPlunder: In one strip, a stereotypical pirate cries at the FBI's [[DigitalPiracyIsEvil anti-piracy warnings]]. The same pirate is also seen [[http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2009/08/24 running a dry-cleaning service.]] (He's not very good at it.)
* DroppedABridgeOnHim: Played for laughs.
* DumbassHasAPoint: Someone will occasionally be worried when Pig makes a good point.
** More like Jerkass Has A Point: Goat is also unnerved by how much sense Rat makes occasionally.
---> '''Rat''': It's best to love your family as you would a Siberian Tiger - from a distance, preferably separated by bars.
* EarWorm: [[invoked]] In one strip, Rat starts singing "Take Me Home, Country Roads" just to get it stuck in everyone's head.
* ElephantInTheLivingRoom: [[http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2009-01-13/ Literally.]]
** CheckPlease
* ElmuhFuddSyndwome: Initially, the crocs of Zeeba Zeeba Eata had a case of this, but they now pronounce their "R's" normarlly.
* ElSpanishO: Pig tries to write a love letter to Pigita, but is stuck for romantic ideas. Rat then suggests that Pig ''italicize'' the letter. Pig takes Rat's advice... and promptly starts adding -O to every word.
* EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep: Everyone calls her Christmas Tree Girl.
* EverythingsBetterWithMonkeys: Stephan Pastis has noted more than once that monkeys are comedy gold.
* ExpressiveHair: Pig's ears.
* FamilyUnfriendlyAesop: In-universe. The children's books Rat writes usually have morals like "luck and timing are more important than hard work" and "if you can't improve yourself, make everyone else worse".
* FanDisservice: [[http://i36.tinypic.com/2ly4xhx.jpg Larry the crocodile]] dressed as [[Literature/AlicesAdventuresInWonderland Alice]].
* FantasticRacism: The croc-dad is prejudiced against [[http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2012/05/29 amphibians]].
* {{Feghoot}}: Happens all the time.
* FireAndBrimstoneHell: [[http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2009-07-31/ Pig and Rat's basement]]
--> '''Rat''': I think I know why our air conditioning bill is so high.
* FirstLawOfResurrection: WordOfGod confirms that characters can "un-die."
* FluffyCloudHeaven: Seen in one arc in which Pastis decides he needs to kill off major characters to boost circulation...namely, himself and Rat. It's OK, though; turns out God is the head of their syndicate, and there are stuffed animal sales at stake.
* FourPhilosophyEnsemble: Pig - Optimist, Rat - Cynic, Goat - Realist, Zebra - Apathetic.
* FourTemperamentEnsemble: Pig (Sanguine), Rat (Choleric), Zebra (Melancholic), Goat (Phlegmatic).
* FourthWallMailSlot: Rat reads letters from readers on occasion. The letters are mostly fakes, although some are based on actual fanmail.
* FourthWallPortrait: In answer to a fan question, Pig was once shown as an actual pig, with Rat saying he needed hours of "cartoon makeup" each day.
* FunetikAksent: The male crocs. Although it's not entirely clear what their accent is supposed to ''be''. Creator Stephan Pastis says that he hears the crocs' standard opening line ("Hullo, zeeba neighba...leesten...") as Russian, but finds his own belief strange: "You wouldn't expect to find many crocodiles in Russia. Mostly, they're meant to sound dumb." Albeit, although Junior is a very smart little croc and thus speaks normally, he ''still'' refers to Zebra as "zeeba neighba."
** [[http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2011/02/01 This comic]] from February 2, 2011, may hold the answer....
* FunnyAnimal
* FurryConfusion: Maura the non-anthropomorphic duck. Oddly enough, she starts acting more humanlike later. There are also the recurring cameos by Chuckie the Non-Anthropomorphic Sheep, who for some bizarre reason stands on his hind legs.
* GameShowAppearance: One of the crocs manages to get on ''Series/{{Jeopardy}}'' and amazingly does well due to subconsciously absorbing information from TV shows in his sleep. Unfortunately for him, they don't accept "Zeeba" as a final Jeopardy! response, which he put all his winnings on...
* {{Garfunkel}}: Is now a verb!
* TheGhost: For a considerable amount of time, despite constantly being referred to, lions were never shown in the strip. When Pastis learned to draw them, they started showing up.
* GoldfishPoopGang: The crocs. Their half-witted schemes are much more apt to kill themselves than have any effect at all on Zebra.
* GoodAngelBadAngel: Subverted; Rat has two devils.
* GroinAttack: Rat punishes Pig's ignorance by belting him in "[[UnusualEuphemism the Oompa Loompas]]."
** Or Rat's idea of something [[http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2011-04-03/ "new and funny"]].
* GuestStrip: In June 2014, Pastis got [[ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes Bill Watterson]] to draw the middle panel of a week of strips for him.
* HappyPlace: Pig has at least one, where it rains Gummy Bears.
* HeadphonesEqualIsolation: Played with in [[http://www.fatheadsweb.com/pix/PearlsBeforeSwine11042007-2.jpg this strip]].
* HeelRealization:
-->'''Christmas Tree Girl''': This is a nice place.
-->'''Rat''': It is. Of niceness. Yes.
-->'''Christmas Tree Girl''':You know...why do you get so nervous when you talk to me?
-->'''Rat''': Beacause you keep staring into my eyes like you see straight into me and that worries me because it's not a nice place in there.
* HornyVikings: Averted. "The Vikings" act more like preteen girls.
* [[HostileShowTakeover Hostile Strip Takeover]]: Rat hijacks the strip for a week while Pastis is on vacation, turning the strip into an ''Literature/AlicesAdventuresInWonderland'' parody in which he, as the Raterpillar, eats everyone in the strip and is about to move on to the characters in ''ComicStrip/TheFamilyCircus'' before Pastis intervenes.
* {{Hulkspeak}}: The male crocs.
** The lions also used this in their letters to Zebra, although this was oddly dropped once they began actually appearing in person.
* HumansAreBastards:
* HurricaneOfPuns: The Sunday strips, famously, often consist of nothing more than long, elaborate setups for some IncrediblyLamePun, usually delivered by one of the innocent characters to Rat, who usually then appears in the last panel insulting (or, in extreme cases threatening) Pastis. The reader comments the strip receives on comics.com often result in this as well.
* HyperspaceMallet: Rat once had a "Mallet o' Understanding" which he used on the other characters.
* HypocriticalHumor: Zebra is pursued by two different sets of predators but [[spoiler:still enjoys a good lobster.]]
* IdeaBulb: Parodied. Rat pretends to come up with an idea when a real bulb burns out and he's all out.
* IncrediblyLamePun: Suspected by many of being Pastis' favorite type of gag. Frequently lampshaded.
** [[http://www.nat.sg/post/35998403/please-dont-help-my-mama-bomb-a-osama-obama Here's one.]]
** [[DefiedTrope Defied]] [[http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2010-11-21/ here]], when Rat sees the pun coming and drops an anvil on Pastis before he can deliver the punchline.
* InsaneTrollLogic: Guard Duck decides cattle are terrorists, because terrorists are [[DirtyCoward cowards]] and "coward" starts with "cow".
* InsistentTerminology: "(Something) o'(Something)"
* InterspeciesRomance: [[http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2013/05/19/ Elly Elephant dates humans.]]
** Rat has also dated Farina, Pig's germophobe sister.
** Pigita one went on a date with Donny the Dung Beetle, though he'd claimed he was a scarab. And also apparently slept with Tiger Woods.
* IronicEcho: In one arc, Pig's tiny ego gets physically stepped on by Rat's much larger ego, who says "I think I just stepped on a doody." Later on, Rat's ego withers to a minimal size after Farina dumps him; Pig steps on the shrunken ego and says, of course, "I think I just stepped on a doody."
* {{Jerkass}}: Rat.
* JerkassHasAPoint: The August 1, 2012 strip:
-->'''Goat''': Well, guys, I'm off. Today is my family's annual potato sack race. It's sort of a tradition.\\
'''Pig''': What's 'tradition'?\\
'''Rat''': Tradition is the reason for doing something you can no longer think of a reason for doing.\\
'''Goat''': I hate it when I agree with you.
* JerkWithAHeartOfGold: Stephan Pastis appears to be this in RealLife.
* KangarooPouchRide: Rat's attempt to conserve energy.
* KillerRabbit: Guard Duck, especially in his earlier appearances.
** Snuffles the cat, who was eventually found to be harboring terrorists.
* LampshadeHanging: All over the place, most notably whenever someone (usually Rat) calls out a particularly lame pun or plot device.
* LiesDamnedLiesAndStatistics: As it turns out the [[NineOutOfTenDoctorsAgree Fifth Doctor]] is TheRuntAtTheEnd.
* LionsAndTigersAndHumansOhMy
* LiteraryAllusionTitle: "Pearls Before Swine" comes from a passage in Literature/TheBible.
* LopsidedDichotomy: In "Pearls Freaks The #%*# Out", one strip taking place in a supermarket had about three box-things lying on a shelf in the background. Pastis comments "Either the store had a huge run on that particular item, or a cartoonist I know got tired of drawing them.".
* MassiveMultiplayerCrossover: a week of strips in which Rat is hired as the babysitter for the [=MacPherson=] family of ''ComicStrip/BabyBlues'', a decision the family ends up regretting by the end of the strip for [[BabysitterFromHell obvious reasons]]. He makes Zoe (age 9) and Hammie (age 6) drive to a convenience store to buy him more beer, and the two accidentally run over Jeremy Duncan, the main character of ''{{Zits}}''. (Both strips are partnerships involving author Jerry Scott, which is how Pastis got permission to pull it off.)
** There were also a fair number of crossovers during the week of {{Blondie}}'s 75th birthday party, involving Pig and Rat slumming with those other comic-strip characters who ''hadn't'' been invited. And when ''FoxTrot'' went to Sundays-only, members of the Fox family made a few cameos on weekdays, looking worse for wear from being "unemployed."
* MediumAwareness: The characters are very conscious of living in a comic strip and play with its conventions constantly, at one point ending up with misprinted strips due to Rat's "feud with the layout guy," and at another experimenting with "panel-walking" along the tops of the segments (leading to [[TakeThat hilariously tragic results]] over on ''TheFamilyCircus''). One strip was deliberately printed upside down, with Rat claiming [[ComedicUnderwearExposure he could see up]] {{Blondie}}'s dress from there.
* MisanthropeSupreme: Danny Donkey, one of Rat's creations, hates people. All 6,000,000,000 of them.
* MistakenForGay: Played for laughs at the conclusion of an arc that finds Rat in bed, planning to just stay there because he's tired of the world. Eventually Pig decides to join him. Before Rat can get Pig to leave and avert this trope...
-->'''Goat:''' Hi Rat the door was open so I.... ''ohhhhhhhhh myyyyyyyyyyyyy''.
-->'''Pig:''' Oh my...
-->'''Rat:''' NO NO NO! NO 'OH MY'S! THIS IS ''NOT'' AN 'OH MY' SITUATION!!
* MoodSwinger: Pigita
* MorallyAmbiguousDucktorate: Guard Duck.
* NegativeContinuity: In the treasuries, Pastis mentions that the RuleOfFunny is much more important to him than continuity, leading to characters getting jobs that are never mentioned again, or a character's UnexplainedRecovery. This last was lampshaded during a softball arc, in which Rat asked Pastis how a deceased character could be playing outfield: "Uh...he un-died."
** Possibly also a nod at the RunningGag of Rat's "Angry Bob" series of novels, that always end with the titular character's horrible death just as he had found happiness, only for the next novel to begin with "Angry Bob un-died..." Pastis claims to want credit if "un-died" ever goes into the dictionary.
* NietzscheWannabe: Rat.
* NoFourthWall: The characters are well aware that they live in a comic strip. Rat frequently uses it to lampshade a horrible pun or demonstrate [[SelfDeprecation his author's]] [[WhoWritesThisCrap incompetence]]. It's also their excuse to [[MassiveMultiplayerCrossover frequently reference and/or include characters from other strips]].
** Another combination lampshade-hanging and fourth-wall destruction, with a dash of ShrugOfGod: When Zebra asks a croc what dialect they speak, the croc answers, "We ees speeking (white blob)." Cut to Pastis at his desk, saying, "Stupid Liquid Paper."
* NoNameGiven: This has been the most common approach to the constant deaths of the crocodiles.
* NoodleIncident: Pig once became [[HurricaneOfPuns enemies with a sea anemone]].
* NowILayMeDownToSleep: Done with Larry the Croc and his son.
-->"Now I lay me down to sleep.\\
Mow da zeebas down like sheep.\\
Give dem to me nice and dead.\\
Me no happy 'til me fed."
* ObnoxiousSnarker: Rat, who also often slides into DeadpanSnarker.
* OddCouple: Rat and Pig.
* OddFriendship: Rat and Pig, being a negative, cynical, mean DeadpanSnarker and a positive, friendly WideEyedIdealist, respectively.
* OneSteveLimit: Subverted with its endless supply of "Bobs" in addition to Neighbor Bob and the fictitious Angry Bob. Pastis says he [[RuleOfFunny thinks the name's funny]].
** Larry was a common name for one-note characters before Larry the Crocodile was introduced. Zebra's doomed cousin Larry being an example.
* OneTwoPunchline: Used frequently, especially in pun-based strips.
* OnlySaneMan: Goat and (usually) Zebra.
* OverlyPrepreparedGag: A common feature of Sunday strips, usually setting up an IncrediblyLamePun or SublimeRhyme.
** See [[http://www.agtimes.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=67782&sid=d4e48e10b07beb1dc057abfdb7963e48 this]], for example.
* PaintingTheMedium: The crocs' and lions' dialogue is rendered in mixed-case.
* PaperThinDisguise: Exaggerated with the killer dolphins.
* PersonAsVerb: When Rat tries to introduce the phrase "pulling a Pastis" into the lexicon:
--> "[[SelfDeprecation To fail, to fall on one's face, to turn one's own life into a gross abomination of all that is wonderful]]."
* PetTheDog: Every once in a while Rat is given one of these moments towards Pig.
* PintsizedPowerhouse: Guard Duck tends to become one of these [[YouWouldntLikeMeWhenImAngry when angered]]. Rat sort of fits this trope too, as does Dickie the Cockroach in Rat's comic strips.
* PoliticiansKissBabies: It made a parody of this. Rat was trying to win the election, but he couldn't come to a baseball event, so he sent Pig in his place to kiss a baby and throw a baseball out to the field. This cost Rat the election, because Pig kissed the baseball, and threw a baby out to the field!
* ThePollyanna: Pig. Making him the perfect foil for Rat, of course.
* RageAgainstTheAuthor: Rat once held the strip hostage to his demands, and as noted once led a general strike. More often he's just displaying generic hostility towards Pastis, usually due to the did-we-mention-they-are-''really''-bad puns.
* ReallyGetsAround: Farina, much to Rat's dismay.
* RealMenWearPink: The Vikings.
* RecursiveReality: Pig pokes himself in the eye by pointing to himself on Atlas' globe.
* RefugeInAudacity: To quote from the first compilation: "It's not often that you can get the topics of cannibalism, marijuana, and the perils of jail life into one comic strip."
** Once, Pastis snuck four breast references into one strip...wherein Pig accidentally got breast implants.
** The 2004 Election series, oh so much. For example, Rat wants to bomb France, and at a baseball game, Pig kissed baseballs, and...[[spoiler:threw babies.]]
* {{Scandalgate}}: [[http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2010-12-05/?Page=3 Gatesgaitgategate.]]
* SelfDeprecation: Almost any strip with Pastis in it. Also used with Pig.
* SeriousBusiness: Never let your library books go overdue.
** The strip often points out how people in real life consider comic strips to be SeriousBusiness.
* ShamefulShrinking:An arc had Rat and Pig discussing the differences between their egos. Pig's ego was as tiny as a mouse, while Rat's ego was even bigger than any of the characters, showing that Rat has a {{Small Name Big Ego}}. However, at the end of the arc, Pig's [[{{Terrified Of Germs}} germophobic]] sister Fantina shows up and tells Rat that she's leaving him for ComicStrip/{{Dilbert}} because he's a much better man than Rat. This causes Rat's ego to shrink down to the same size as Pig's ego, as Pig steps on it.
* ShoutOut / {{Homage}}: Lampshades are often shown having the same zigzag pattern as Charlie Brown's trademark shirt from ''{{Peanuts}}''. [[WordOfGod Pastis has said]] that this is an intentional tribute to ''Peanuts'' creator Charles Schulz, whom he actually met and was able to show some of his early work to before Schulz' death. (In 2011, Pastis co-wrote the DirectToVideo film ''Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown''.)
** Several of his strips also use the style of some of his favorite strips, like ''TheFarSide'', as an homage to them.
** ''Webcomic/GarfieldMinusGarfield'' [[http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2009/03/16 gets a direct Shout Out]].
** The second panel of the ''ComicStrip/DennisTheMenaceUS'' Double CrossOver mentioned above was drawn smaller than the other two to imitate DTM's one panel format, with Dennis's lines written under the panel instead of in a speech bubble.
* ShownTheirWork: In a sense, anyway. Pastis frequently references species characteristics he learned about from watching Animal Planet. Notably, the orca character attempts to fool his prey by covering the spots on his face, only to be caught when the seals are aware those aren't his eyes.
* ShowWithinAShow: Rat's [[StylisticSuck crudely-drawn]] "Danny Donkey" and "Elly Elephant" books, and his "Angry Bob" stories.
* SignOfTheApocalypse: Rat, when [[DumbassHasAPoint Pig Has A Point]].
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVsCynicism: Cynical and proud of it.
** With the occasional slide towards idealism, especially in [[CrowningMomentOfHeartWarming Pig strips.]]
* TheSmartGuy: Goat, albeit nobody ever listens to him, least of all Rat.
** Surprisingly Larry, who went on Jeopardy! and got ''every'' question right. He says that this is because he uses various educational channels to put himself to sleep, thus gaining knowledge unconsciously. [[spoiler:Unfortunately for him, "zeeba" does not count as an answer on the last round. Which he put all his winnings on.]]
* SmallNameBigEgo: The Crocodile fraternity and Larry think they're excellent predators, but they're just morons
** '''RAT'''
** Played with in a Sunday strip in which Pig assumes a fellow dinner guest will be wowed by his basic Internet user skills: "Yeah... I'm the guy that writes that blog."
* SmokingIsCool: Pastis doesn't smoke in RealLife, but his AuthorGuestSpot avatar does, to make himself look more like a "degenerate loser" ([[WordOfGod or so he claims]]). Judging by the letters he receives advising him to stop smoking, [[MisaimedFandom it's not working]].
* TheSocialDarwinist: Rat tries to stop people he considers stupid from reproducing.
* SomethingCompletelyDifferent: The strip of December 28, 2003 dispenses with the characters, and the comedy, to show a television set from which a news report is airing about a bus bomb that went off in Jerusalem, killing six children. That one's also a TearJerker.
** The strip from Memorial Day 2003 has a detailed rendering of Pig visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
** A Sunday strip from Memorial Day 2006 shows various places (a living room, a wall, etc.), empty of characters and shrouded in darkness; the last panel features a caption reading, "A moment of silence in honor of the American men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan."
** A strip referencing the Sandy Hook school shooting merely shows Rat and Pig staring solemnly up at a night sky, against which the names of the 20 young victims are written in stars.
* SomethingSomethingLeonardBernstein: Invoked when Rat and Pig sing along to the TropeNamer.
* SorryBillyButYouJustDontHaveLegs: Reccuring character Andy, who frequently tries to fulfill his dreams of seeing the world, despite being a dog on a chain attached to a stake in his owner's backyard.
* SoundEffectBleep: In addition to the usual SoundEffectBleep, the ''Only The Pearls'' iPad app has plenty of this. One video commentary is composed of roughly 3/4 of beeping.
* SpeciesSurname: Hilariously lampshaded.
--> '''Pig:''' They call me Pig... because I'm a pig.
** Also, Goat is said to be using a "stage name." His real name is Paris.
* SphereEyes: The human characters and even some animal characters.
** Also, most of the main animal characters have these eyes when excited or surprised.
* SpoofAesop: At one point, Rat dies (the first of four times) and is notified by Saint Peter that he isn't allowed in Heaven due to his various misdeeds and selfishness. After he manages to be brought back to life, he concludes that death is something to be avoided.
** Or almost any of Rat's "Angry Bob" stories. For example, in one, Bob is reading a woman's magazine, only for a really beautiful woman to happen to stop and talk to him. Embarrassed to be seen reading it, he tries to eat it but chokes and dies, but then it turns out the woman in question was related to the publisher and would have been overjoyed to find out that men had started reading it. Rat's moral? "Always chew your food carefully."
* StayingAlive: Pastis's approach to the frequent deaths of his characters. (In ''Pearls Sells Out'', Pastis says he used to keep a list of the dead crocs, but once it got to 40, he gave up.)
** In '''Pearls Falls Fast''', he reveals the current tally of croc deaths (as of July 16, 2012) :636.
* [[StrawCharacter Strawman Political]]: Rat is a Strawman Conservative.
* SubvertedKidsShow: ''[[Series/MisterRogersNeighborhood Mr. Rat's Neighborhood]]''.
* SuicideAsComedy: [[DudeNotFunny Fans didn't react well]] to Alphonse The Depressed Porcupine.
** In particular, [[MoralGuardians anti-suicide groups]] didn't react well.
* SustainedMisunderstanding: In one anthology, Pastis wrote that Pig "is rather easy to write for. He just needs to misunderstand everything said to him, and then when it's explained to him, he needs to misunderstand that too." The strip he referenced had this exchange:
-->'''Pig''': If this player can win a World Series, he'll finally get the donkey off his back.
-->'''Rat''': Monkey.
-->'''Pig''': Get the donkey off his monkey... that's one strong monkey.
* SymbolSwearing: All the #$@&!* time, usually from Rat.
** As shown above, guest [[ComicStrip/DennisTheMenaceUS Dennis Mitchell]] symbol swore twice in one strip.
** Averted when a character said the word "crappy". How did ''that'' get through?
* TakeThat: Usually against "legacy" strips, the ones that have been going on for decades only because the writer has changed (''FamilyCircus'' is probably the most frequent target). ''{{Garfield}}'' and ''Cathy'' are also prime targets, on grounds of just not being that funny anymore. Or possibly, y'know, ever. One notable arc showed the aforementioned family as so out of touch with modern America that they treated Osama Bin Laden as a house-guest. This would later get them sent to Guantanamo Bay.
** Another strip featured a ''Slylock Fox'' parody with the following trivia question: "Which one of these comics was around when Hitler invaded Poland? a) {{Blondie}}, b) Barney Google, c) PrinceValiant, d) Mary Worth or e) All of the above? Answer: [[spoiler:e)]]" Although the ''Slylock Fox'' parody was definitely more of a ShoutOut than a TakeThat, as Bob Weber not only gave his approval, but has used Rat and Pig in his own strip.
** In yet another strip, Pastis reproduced a ''Jumble'' puzzle, with the final-word clue being, "What the comics are since ''CalvinAndHobbes'' ended." The answer: [[spoiler: N-O L-A-U-G-H-I-N-G M-A-T-T-E-R]].
** On the other hand, there was a Sunday strip where Rat had a nightmare about all forms of entertainment closing down because nothing new has been made for at least fifty years. When he wakes up, Pig tries to cheer him up by giving him the newspaper's funny page section...with predictable results.
** A series of strips in November 2011 had Rat crusading against "banjo fatalities". In the treasury Pearls Falls Fast, [[WordofGod Pastis]] states "At the risk of offending some of you, I have to agree with Rat. I just can't stand the sound of banjos."
* TakeThatCritics: Rat took a pointed jab at TheComicsCurmudgeon, although given that it's Rat, and he claimed to be using it to slam Pastis himself, who knows ''what'' was actually being jabbed.
* TeamRocketWins: The Crocs finally knocked Zebra's wall down.
* TertiarySexualCharacteristics: Female characters inevitably are distinguished solely by the little bow atop their heads.
* TitleDrop: Saying it was lampshaded doesn't quite cover it. Think Groucho Marx and ''Series/YouBetYourLife''...
* TooDumbToLive: The crocodiles. [[http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2006-09-10/ Pretty much literally]]. This is taken UpToEleven with Biff, who has to be chained up in Pastis' yard because he's literally too dumb to take care of himself.
** Averted once; Rat was playing the role of a pied piper, luring stupid people out to a lake to drown them. Obviously, the crocs were dumb enough to do this, but once Rat began to gloat about it, one of the crocs angrily pointed out "We can sweem." [[http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2009-07-03/ See it here.]]
* TrueArtIsAngsty: [[invoked]] Uh-huh! Stephan Pastis knows it! One set of episodes makes a {{Parody}} out of ''MisterRogersNeighborhood'', with Rat as Mister Rogers. First the trolley to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe comes in, carrying the beer bottles that Rat likes so much. Then at the NOMB, Rat witnesses a Muslim terrorist puppet named Jihad Jerry pump King Friday XIII full of lead, and then tell Queen Sara Saturday to wear a burka, despite Rat urging Jerry to be as democratic as possible. Finally, Rat appears wearing a burka himself, explaining that JJ has taken over the show, but things will stay the same...only for a mooing camel to appear in place of the trolley, which Rat makes sell oil at ridiculous prices. Pastis is just that kind of guy!
* {{Tsundere}}: Pigita.
* UndignifiedDeath: Often used for comedic value.
* UnexplainedRecovery: "Angry Bob un-died."
** In a strip where crocs try to kill Zebra by planting mine in the backyard, Larry steps into one of them and dies. The situation is quickly forgotten and never mentioned again.
* TheUnintelligible: Snuffles the Cat.
* UnnamedParent: All the known parents of Rat, Pig, and Goat, but averted with Junior's parents, Larry and Patty.
* TheUnSmile: Rat's smile causes him to explode.
* UnsoundEffect: [[http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2006-05-19/ May 19, 2006]] used "hula hula hula" to indicate Pig dancing the hula.
* UnsympatheticComedyProtagonist: Rat.
* UnusualEuphemism: As noted above, several references to being hit right in the "Oompa Loompas."
* VerbalTic: The crocs, again. "Hullooooo, zeeba neighba!", "Peese shut mouf. Me no want lecture." Pastis says in one of his treasuries that "Peese shut mouf" is his favorite crocodile line.
* WaxingLyrical: Some of the {{Incredibly Lame Pun}}s, including one of the earliest Sunday puns:
--> '''Rat:''' [[Music/TheRollingStones You can't always get what you won, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you knead.]]
** Possibly reaches apotheosis in a later Sunday strip:
--> '''Pig:''' [[{{Evita}} Dunk rye for me, Arch and Tina!]]
* WhatsAHenway: Not quite as common as the puns, but you can find some.
-->'''Justin''': I'm Justin... from Chicago.
-->'''Pig''': So you just got here?
-->'''Justin''': Actually, I've lived here for about six months now.
* WhatTheHellIsThatAccent: Most of the crocodiles have the same bizarre accent.
* WhipItGood: [[http://www.icoolen.com/sites/default/files/u6/20041029P.gif What happens when you take the title of a political discussion show at face value.]]
* WhiteSheep: Junior
* WhoEvenNeedsABrain: The storyline where Pig's brain gets tired of him and takes off. It's implied that this has happened to a lot of people. ("Explains a lot, doesn't it?") Strangely enough, while Pig is dumb, his brain is quite smart and makes a living winning ''{{Jeopardy}}''.
* WhosOnFirst: Done with letters of the alphabet.
** In another strip, Rat bought two parrots to keep him company, "Anika" and "Peev" resulting in a lot of confusion when Rat tells Pig not to eat a donut because "It's one of my pet Peev's" (say that out loud).
* WhoWouldBeStupidEnough: Pig, frequently.
** In one strip, Rat points out how unnecessary a warning not to hit yourself in the head with a hammer is. Cue the crocodiles noticing the warning too late.
* WhoWritesThisCrap: Almost word for word.
* WhyDoYouKeepChangingJobs: Because Stephan has a short memory.
* WhyDontYouJustShootHim: Subverted; Larry and another croc ''did'' try to just shoot Zebra once. Unfortunately Larry, as usual, wound up killing the other crocodile instead. After that, they went back to their more outlandish plots.
* WideEyedIdealist: Pig.
* WindmillPolitical: Rat once ran a political campaign based on the dangers of rainbows.
* WorldOfSnark: Just about everyone save for Pig is snarky at every turn.
* WorldsShortestBook: In one strip, Rat writes a book about what men want. There is one single page with the word "SEX" in all caps.
-->'''Rat''': "It would have been shorter, but I included a paragraph about beer."
* YankTheDogsChain: Literally. Poor, poor little Andy.
* YiddishAsASecondLanguage: An entire storyline in which Rat teaches himself Yiddish specifically because it's a great language to insult people in. Even the crocs pick up on it.

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