Comic Strip: The Far Side
Classic single-panel Newspaper Comic
by Gary Larson. Running from 1980 to 1995, it featured numerous talking animals, most notably cows, and frequent depictions of heaven
, along with various other stock settings.
The strip was also known for its use of scientific jokes and puns. A story Mr. Larson quotes in one of his anthologies tells of a science teacher who had Far Side
cartoons mounted on a bulletin board. As his students learned more and more, they laughed at more and more of the jokes. This is pretty much the essence of The Far Side
— witty, educated, nerdy humor that dealt with the world of animals and plants far more so than the mundane reality of cities and towns.
As a result of The Far Side
's popularity, two species of animals have been named after Mr. Larson - an owl louse (Strigiphilus garylarsoni
), and an Ecuadorian butterfly (Serratoterga larsoni
), which Larson humorously admitted was the best someone like him was ever going to get. In addition, the distinctive tail spikes of Stegosaurs are called thagomizers
in reference to one of his cartoons.
As an additional note regarding the strip's presence on TV Tropes
: Due to our policies regarding copyright laws
, the vast majority of Far Side
strips cannot be used for page images. Also, Mr. Larson has requested that his work not be displayed online.
The Far Side has named the following tropes:
- Cow Tools: The strip in question is Actually Pretty Funny in its own unique way. It led to a lot of fuss, as people tried to figure what the tools were, while the joke was simply the idea of cows making any.
- "Far Side" Island: A frequent setting, usually featuring one or more guys with scruffy beards.
- Offscreen Inertia: Formerly "Tethercat Principle". Named for an infamous cartoon that featured two dogs playing tetherball with a cat on a rope. In The Prehistory of the Far Side, Larson speculates that one reason so many people were outraged was because, due to the static nature of the cartoon, the dogs never stop playing tethercat. You walk away and come back, they're still playing tethercat. You look at it a week later, yep, they're still playing. This is in contrast to the slapstick violence in animation, where Sylvester the Cat can be shot or stabbed, but a few seconds later is completely fine.
It also provides examples of:
- Abnormal Ammo: The "Dobie-o-Matic" gun.
- Absurd Phobia: Anatidaephobia: The fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.
- Also Luposlipaphobia: The fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly waxed floor.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: One cartoon is captioned "Midget westerns", featuring audiences watching Hang 'Em Not So High. They actually did make a midget western.
- And You Were There: The final newspaper strip had Gary Larson wake up in bed next to all his family and friends, who happen to resemble a lot of the strip's more popular subjects. Of course, given that this is The Far Side, this probably came as a surprise to nobody
Gary: And Aunt Zelda all the women looked like you and Uncle Bob all the cows looked like you and Ernie there were cavemen that looked like you and there were all these nerdy little kids like you Billy and there were monsters and stupid-looking things and animals could talk and some of it was confusing and... and... Oh, wow! There's no Place like home!
- Animated Adaptation: Really! Unsurprisingly, it was shown on Cartoon Network late night on Halloween. It also made one and only one appearance on CBS. Reaction from reviewers to the Zombie Ranch? Not good (the video release dubbed in a wacky travelogue voiceover to make the scene more lighthearted and less morbid).
- Anticipatory Breath Spray: Rusty makes his move (with a can of Dog Breath spray).
- Apocalypse Anarchy: From 1986. Two fishermen look at mushroom clouds in the distance, one says "I'll tell you what this means, Norm — no size restrictions and screw the limit."
- Arrows on Fire: "Hey, they're lightin' their arrows! ...Can they do that?"
- Arson Murder And Jay Walking: A section of Hell has rooms for murderers, terrorists, and "people who drove too slow in the fast lane."
- Art Evolution: The art started out a bit more grotesque. Larson also had a habit of not filling in all of the backgrounds in earlier strips (like a bulls-eye patterned rug that mysteriously vanished halfway across the panel) - he admitted that he preferred to "touch up" older strips to fill in half-completed background elements when they were published in collections.
- Artistic License – Biology: Larson pointed out in the commentary for a strip that showed a mosquito husband returning home to his wife and quipping "I must have infected half the city with malaria!" that he got letters from irritated biologists informing him it's the female mosquito that bites. Larson's response...
"I knew that. Of course, they have no problem that these mosquitoes also wear clothes, live in the suburbs, speak English, etc."
- Artistic License – Paleontology
- Another quip from The Prehistory of the Far Side: "There should be a special confessional where cartoonists can go and say things like 'Bless me, Father, for I have sinned — I have drawn dinosaurs and hominids together in the same cartoon.'"
- In a weird inversion, paleontologists actually use the term "thagomizer," which Larson coined, to refer to the spikes on a stegosaurus' tail.
- Ascended Meme: The "Thagomizer", a joking name for the spikes at the end of a stegosaurus' tail provided by "the late Thag Simmons", is now an official scientific term... because scientists realized years later that it didn't have a name.
- Ass in a Lion Skin: One strip had a polar bear with a Paper-Thin Disguise — a penguin's beak — pretending to be a penguin. Also, the cover of the book collection The Chickens Are Restless depicts a duck with a false chicken comb among the mob of chickens.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: As vikings are storming a castle, one is trying to call their attention to gold fish in the moat. Larson admitted that was pretty much him on the bridge.
- Author Appeal: Science, bugs, and jazz music.
- Bad Humor Truck: One strip shows neighborhood kids hiding from a "Liver and Onions" truck, and another features the "Vaccination Van" making its rounds. Also, the failed marketing ploy "I Cuss, You Cuss, We All Cuss For Asparagus!".
- Balloon-Bursting Bird: One comic had a pair of aerial balloonists staring up in horror at a woodpecker about to burst their hot-air balloon.
- Beehive Hairdo: Standard, along with cat-eye glasses, for women in his strips.
- Beach Bury: One strip has a kid burying his father with the following (paraphrased) caption: "Billy, the tide's coming in... Billy, unbury Daddy now... You don't want Daddy to get angry..."
- Black Comedy:
- In The Prehistory of the Far Side, there was a strip that had a snake inside a baby's crib, and a gigantic bulge in the middle of the snake (presumably the baby) rendering the creature unable to exit the crib, with the snake looking rather annoyed. Immediately following, Larson says "You didn't see this. Turn the page."
- Another example from Prehistory of the Far Side was a strip of crocodiles 'Bobbing for poodles' (with that as the caption, and the inside of the bucket thankfully obscured). Larson's comment for it was along the lines of "Thank goodness I didn't go with my original caption of 'Bobbing for babies'."
- The strip with a mother having just given birth. The doctor cuts the umbilical cord and the baby deflates and flies all over the room like a balloon. Larson mentions that he didn't even try to submit this one after he had finished it, and that he was originally going to add written sound effects before his sanity prevailed.
- One that did get published had ants carrying a (live) baby. According to Larson, he originally submitted a version where the ants were carrying an elderly man, but that was rejected, and the baby version was published.
"You idiots! We'll never get that thing down the hole!"
- Another has a pair of spiders who built a web at the bottom of a playground slide.
"If we pull this off, we'll eat like kings."
- Yet another one has a pair of crocodiles sitting, stuffed among the remains of a team of explorers.
"Some cheesecake would be good right now."
- Bottom of the Barrel Joke: Played for laughs with at least two strips captioned "It was late and I was tired."
- And one where the caption was a mock-interview with the cartoonist about whether it's tough to come up with ideas ("Sometimes")... and the strip itself being a flock of ducks yelling "Chicken!" and ducking out of the way of a chicken thrown over their heads.
- Bowdlerize: Larson submitted one cartoon with a mammoth examining a flattened caveman on the bottom of his foot, with the caption, "Well, what the... I thought I smelled something." The version that made it to the newspapers was, "Y'know, I thought I heard something squeak."
- Bowel Breaking Bricks: One strip showed a spider dropping silk after a fright.
- My Brain Is Big
- One comic had the cops rushing into the villain's headquarters — which had your typical My Brain Is Big guy as well as some huge-bodied, tiny-headed mooks — and shouting, "Who's the brains of this outfit?"
- In another strip, Larson inverted it, by having a student with a head half the size of everyone else asking to be excused from class because his "brain was full".
- And in another inversion, a stegosaurus lectures other dinosaurs:
"The picture's pretty bleak, gentlemen. ... the world's climates are changing, the mammals are taking over, and we all have a brain about the size of a walnut."
- Brick Joke: One strip had Santa threatening to turn his reindeer into venison if he heard any more complaints, and a later strip showed him at a typewriter printing up "9 Ways to Serve Venison".
- The Butler Did It: One strip shows a murdered butler at an international butlers' convention, and a detective complaining that he hates to start a week like this.
- Another strip shows a detective accusing the butler of goring and trampling a man to death as he sits next to the literal Elephant in the Room.
- But What About the Astronauts?: "Well, what about this Mr. 'We won't have time for board games in space'?"
- Caps Lock, Num Lock, Missiles Lock: A man on a plane is about to flip a switch from "Wings Stay On" to "Wings Fall Off" while trying to recline his chair.
"Fumbling for his recline button, Ted unwittingly instigates a disaster."
- Captain Obvious: A cartoon depicts two Bedouin on camels in the middle of the desert, and the caption is "Hold still, Omar. Now look up. Yep, you've got something in your eye all right. Could be sand."
- Chased by Angry Natives: Inverted in one strip show a tribesman carrying a TV while fleeing from a band of angry suburbanites.
- Chekhov's Gag: In Tales From The Far Side I, there is a 15-second "Meanwhile... back in Egypt" segment that consists of a desert marketplace full of locals who eventually stop and wave at the viewer before going about their business. Unlike the rest of the special, there's no weirdness whatsoever. But in the sequel, there's a segment with amoebas at a party that's abruptly interrupted when their "world" goes sideways. The camera cuts to a man putting down a mostly-empty water glass... then pulls back to him and his family exiting the same exact Egypt scene (sans waving) from the first special.
- Chicken Joke: One strip shows a chicken looking across a road at a sign that reads "THE OTHER SIDE. Why do you need a reason?"
- Circling Vultures: The subject of several gags, one example being a depiction of "the perils of improper circling": two of the vultures bonk heads in mid-air.
- Closer Than They Appear: In one cartoon, a car's outside rear-view mirror shows the angry eye of an unspecified but huge creature. At the bottom of the mirror it says, "Caution, objects in mirror closer than they appear."
- Clucking Funny: Including a cartoon where a farmer returning home from collecting eggs in the chicken coop passes a chicken returning to the coop after collecting the farmer's infant child...
- Comically Inept Healing: One strip had a husband trying to practice home surgery on his wife using a Time-Life book and complaining that she's thrashing around too much.
- Complaining about Shows You Don't Watch: Larson apologized for the "Hell's Video Store" comic after actually watching the movie Ishtar, because he had not seen it at the time he did the comic and had only used it because of its reputation. He later admitted that the movie was funny.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: "Mr. Thingy." This also counts as Buffy Speak.
- Crazy Cultural Comparison: In one strip, a farmer unwittingly dooms humanity when he tries to shake hands with an alien visitor whose head has an unfortunate resemblance to a human hand.
- Crazy Enough to Work: A real life example. It's almost impossible to find pirated copies of Far Side books online, partly because Gary Larson put out an open letter asking people not to distribute it illegally.
- Curb-Stomp Battle:
- "Toby vs. Godzilla"
- The Pillsbury Doughboy vs. a paving contractor
- God trouncing someone in a game show. The other man hadn't even scored once.
- Larson later said he felt bad for giving the contestant a zero score, but realized that if he had given the guy even 1 point, he'd be sure to get hate mail from people who couldn't take the joke of a normal person beating God to the answer buzzer.
- The aftermath of a fight between a chicken and a cowboy. The chicken was shot, but the cowboy got nothing except some egg on his face
- A Jeopardy! episode featuring Einstein, Edison... and some random guy who barely scored 100. In his defense, though, he was pretty sure his buzzer was broken.
- Dada Comics:
- Had it going on on occasion, but in Prehistory of the Far Side Larson notes a couple of incidents where newspapers mixed up captions or edited the image which made no sense. A particularly funny one shows a Dennis the Menace comic where Dennis tells his mother that he sees her "tiny, petrified skull, labeled and resting on a shelf somewhere" (the caption coming from a Far Side with a caveman visiting a psychic. After the mix-up, the psychic was shown telling her client, "If I grow up to be as big as Dad, won't my skin be too tight?").
- Another example involving Dennis the Menace: the Far Side panel showed a family of snakes at the dinner table with a bowl full of rodents with one saying "It's a good thing I learned to make peanut butter sandwiches or we would've starved to death by now," and the Dennis the Menace panel showed Dennis and a friend eating sandwiches and saying "Not hamsters again!" Larson maintains that both were vastly improved by the error.
- An accidental mix up featuring a comic with slugs worshipping a giant salt-shaker meant that the caption reading "Eenie-oonie-wanah! Eenie-oonie-wanah!" appeared on a comic only featuring humans.
- Darkest Africa: Essentially presented a la Tarzan movies.
- Dead Guy Puppet: In one strip, a bear entertains his cubs by making two human skulls ask each other if there are bears in the cave.
- Desert Skull: One uncaptioned cartoon shows a pair of oxen pulling a covered wagon across the desert, turning their heads as they pass a bovine skull.
- Directionless Driver: One comic had an elderly couple driving on the surface of the moon. The wife exclaims "Oh, for heaven's sake - NOW look where the Earth is! Move over and let me drive!"
- The Dinosaurs Had It Coming: Smoking killed the dinosaurs.
- The Dog Was the Mastermind: Parodied in one strip when a cow suddenly leaps up in a courtroom and proclaims, "All right, I confess! I did it! That's right! The cow! Ha ha! And I feel great!"
- Don't Eat And Swim: One strip had a young snake with a large lump in his belly attempt to go swimming at the beach. His mother tells him to wait a whole week before going in.
- Don't Explain the Joke:
- The infamous "Cow Tools" cartoon.
- A cartoon has a cat with two wooden front legs sitting in a pet shop next to a fish bowl containing a piranha. Larson says he tried multiple times to come up with a good caption, before realizing the visual gag stood on its own.
- Door Dumb
- Door Stopper: The Complete Far Side.
- Down on the Farm: Pretty much all the strips with cows and/or chickens.
- Dude, Not Funny!: Invoked. Larson has a friend with a very strange sense of humor, so whenever he called and said "I loved today's strip!" Gary figured, "I've offended half of America."
- Eskimo Land: On several occasions.
- Everything's Better with Cows: To the point that Larson even joked about renaming the strip The Cow Side.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: Used occasionally, but no more so than any other animal.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: "Conducting a little more 'research' with that Jane Goodall tramp?"
- After this particular comic saw its share of controversy, Larson was worried that he'd offended Dr. Goodall herself, and was intensely relieved to find out she loved it. She even wrote the foreword for a Far Side collection. He in turn visited Gombe Stream National Park and got bullied by a chimp.
- Fire and Brimstone Hell:
- "Ok, sir, would you like inferno or non-inferno?...Ha! Just kidding. It's all inferno, of course-I just get a kick out of saying that."
- "HEY! Who keeps turning down the thermostat?!?"
- Nerds in hell: "Hot enough for ya?"
- One in which people are being marched into hell via a cavernous hall with one of those hand-knitted plaques saying "Today is the first day of the rest of your life," which they all eye nervously.
- Said to one demon by another as the two watch this one clueless idiot of a man whistle merrily as he toils away in the mines of Hell: "You know, we're just not reaching that guy."
- Scotty in Hell.
- "Oh, man! The coffee's cold! They thought of everything!"
- For musicians in particular: "Welcome to hell. Here's your accordion."
- "Hell's Video Store" (only carries Ishtar) Larson later apologized for this one, having only heard of the film's dismal reputation when drawing the strip. Not that having an infinite number of copies of the same movie to watch for all eternity isn't a punishment either.
- Charlie Parker's private Hell is a room in the traditional fire and brimstone Hell where nothing but New Age music is played.
- Devils in an office are laughing at the submissions pulled out of their suggestion box.
- "Watch out! These plates are hot!"
- "Hell's library" only has books of story problems.
- "Bowler's hell": Whoa! Another split?..What a bummer!
- "Aerobics in hell": Three more, two more, one more, okay!..Five-million leg lifts, right leg first!..Ready, set!..
- A painter has just painted "999" on Satan's office door in hell. Satan doesn't look happy, and the painter says he "must have been holding the dang work order like this!"(ie: upside down).
- "C'mon, c'mon - it's either one or the other" choice between two doors, labeled DAMNED if you do and DAMNED if you don't.
- Fish People: Show up in a few strips. Two of the strips have essentially the same gag. In one, a diver is taking a huge fish out of the ocean and notices a fish man taking a captive woman into the ocean. A more lighthearted one features a guy carrying a surfboard running towards the ocean to catch some waves. Then he notices a fish man carrying a wagon running out of the ocean to catch some hills.
- One of the more amusing ones has a fish man rising out of a swamp, with a battered-looking frog telling him, "Go get 'em, brother".
- Flock of Wolves: "Is anyone here a real sheep?"
- Fluffy Cloud Heaven: "Wish I'd brought a magazine."
- There's even one for dogs, where, every hour on the hour, a truck made entirely of pressed ham lumbers its way through the clouds... and the dogs can choose whether or not to join in the chase.
- The human Ernie accidentally gets sent to "Hog Heaven".
- Fly In The Soup:
- One comic inverted it. A giant fly is seated at a table, with a bowl of soup on his head. A human, sitting at the same table, exclaims, "Waiter! What's this soup doing on my fly?"
- Another has a fly who's fallen into a soup bowl, while another shouts to her from the rim: "Tread soup, Deborah! I'm going to get help!"
- Follow the Leader: Since the early 1990s, plenty of one-panel, gag-a-day strips have cropped up, including The Dinette Set, Bizarro, Close to Home, Argyle Sweater, Real Life Adventures, etc. Some are pretty good in their own right; others aren't.
- Freudian Couch: Used often, sometimes with cows on them. In one instance, it was a disembodied eyeball (who was suffering from incredible hostility to the outside world), which was nearly invisible in the newspaper versions.
- Funetik Aksent:
- Parrot mimicking, "Hey boid! Shaddup! Hey boid! Shaddup!" to a gangster loading a gun.
- A meeting of the bird mafia: "Have all the boids arrived?"
- With dolphins:
Scientist (with headphones): We're getting another one of those strange 'aw blah es span yol' sounds.
- Funny Animal: Not to mention funny plants and funny protozoa ("Humor at its lowest form").
- Furry Reminder: While most of the animals are anthropomorphized, many strips with animals rely on those animals' characteristics. Like a bunch of snakes who can't let their friend in because they can't work the doorknob.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: An unintentional example; Larson once sent out a cartoon showing a dog sitting on an overturned car and howling titled, "When car chasers dream". The intended meaning was the dog's fantasy of catching and "killing" the car, but much to Larson's and his editor's surprise, a ton of people thought that it looked like the dog was humping the car.
- There's also one that features an amoeba multiplying, with the caption being "Amoeba porn flicks". Apparently, the editor had no problem with this, and it caused no controversy whatsoever.
- Portrayed as a big guy with long white hair, robes and a beard. Has a good sense of humor. According to Mr. Larson, this is "the way most of us are pretty sure he looks."
- In one strip he has the Earth in a pot and is holding a jar on it that says "Jerks" and is thinking, "...and to make it interesting..."
- God (thinking of the Earth He's taking out of the oven): "Something tells me this thing is only half-baked..."
- Making snakes out of clay, God muses "Man, these things are a cinch!"
- Another has him thoroughly trouncing the current champion of a game show, on which Larsen noted that he was careful to make it clear that the champion had never once beaten God to the buzzer, as someone doubtlessly would have gotten upset.
- However, Larson's version could still dial the wrong phone number.
- God at his Computer. It has a 'Smite' key.
- He even had a cartoon depicting God as a small boy, standing amidst the aftermath of a child's chemistry set explosion, feathers everywhere, and the caption "God as a kid tries to make a chicken in his room."
- Going Down with the Ship: Except the Captain convinced the ship's cook that it was his duty instead.
- Hall of Mirrors: "But which of us is the real duck, Mr. Frischberg, and not just an illusion?"
- Hard on Soft Science: Averted. Larson's favourite branch of science seems to be biology, but he's also fond of anthropology, and besides everything from physics to psychiatry gets lampooned at some point or another.
- Horny Vikings
- I Drank What?: One cartoon had a crowd of scientists gathered around a cup with one of them saying, "What's this? Lemonade? Where's my sample of amoebic dysentery?" while another scientist on the other side of the panel is drinking from a glass with an Oh, Crap expression on his face. Larson received letters from a few peeved scientists who wanted Larson to know that eating in a science lab is strictly forbidden (Larson knew that, but did it for Rule of Funny).
- Intellectual Animal
- Interspecies Romance: Dog to sheep: "Confession time Mona: I've led you astray."
- A relationship between a wolf and a sheep fizzled because the wolf's pack wouldn't stop heckling him and the sheep just ate the flowers he gave her. The original caption for this one was simply "Predator/prey relationships," but Larson became intrigued by the way the wolf was looking over his shoulder and decided to dig a little further into their relationship.
- It turns out that chickens fantasize about sex with ducks.
- "Dang it, Monica! I can't live this charade any longer! I'm not a telephone repairman who stumbled into your life - I'm a Komodo dragon, largest member of the lizard family and a filthy liar."
- In one strip a woman is kissing a maintenance technician when her husband (a bipedal rhino) comes home early. She warns him that her spouse's eyesight is poor, but his hearing and smell are very good.
- "It's this new boyfriend dear... I'm just afraid one day your father's going to up and blow him away." The boyfriend is a humanoid deer (and a bit of a loudmouth), and the girl's father is an avid (and annoyed looking) deer hunter.
- Another one has a woman dancing with an anthropomorphic crocodile. "I'm originally from the shores of the upper Nile, and... say, did anyone ever tell you your pupils are round?"
- In The Local Tongue: The Lone Ranger discovers that "kemosabe" is an "Apache expression for a horse's rear end".
- Inventional Wisdom
- Invisible Anatomy: The "Down at the Eat 'n Slither" strip, with snakes sitting at a bar, eating breakfast and reading the news. Larson himself lampshaded it in The Prehistory of the Far Side:
"I have no idea how those snakes are holding up those newspapers..."
- Ironic Hell:
- Satan leading a symphony conductor to a room full of hick-looking types holding banjos.
- Jazz musician Charlie Parker being forced to listen to New Age music for eternity.
- In one of the Far Side of Science strips, a physicist is led into a room full of astrologers.
- It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: During the siege of the Alamo, a would-be entrepreneur is trying to sell T-shirts that read "I kicked Santa Anna's butt at the Alamo" and commemorative mugs. He's had to reduce the price from 3.95 to one dollar.
- Kangaroo Pouch Ride: Hannibal's first attempt at crossing the Alps involves riding kangaroos along the narrow ledges. It is implied to not have worked very well.
- Kick Me Prank:
- One time a bear had a "Shoot Me" sign on his back.
- Another featured a flower with a "Weed me" sign on its back.
- Two painters with one painting "I carry cash" on the back of the other.
- Kids Prefer Boxes: One cartoon has two scientists squabbling over who gets the cardboard box that their Polaris missile came in.
Your kids got the last one!
- Killer Rabbit: Many "cute" animals are dangerous in this strip.
- In a quite literal example, one strip had a couple of guys being threatened by rabbits with guns.
- Or the one where a hiker encounters a bunch of little happy forest animals, but notices that they are looking a bit too happy...
- A group of poodles discussing their owner: "On the other hand, if we kill her, then the pampering will stop."
- Night of the living dead chipmunks.
- Another one has an old lady feeding birds at the park. One of the birds asks his friends "Who here has seen Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds?"
- As noted above, ducks are evil.
- A subtle one simply shows a man tumbling off a building ledge. Closer inspection reveals a small bird with him on the ledge with its foot extended, implying that the bird kicked the man off the ledge.
- Large Ham Title: "The Names We Give Dogs/The Names They Give Themselves" implies this.
- Let's Meet the Meat:
- A chicken being served chicken soup by his wife when he has the flu. "It's nobody we know!"
- A chicken baking a cake takes a long hard look at her eggs...
- A cow grilling burgers: "You're sick, Jessie! Sick, sick, sick!"
- Another cow eating a steak (possibly on a dare) while his buddies look on: "Interesting... interesting... I'd say we taste a little bit like chicken."
- Non-food variant: a calf wearing leather. According to his parents, he's only doing it for the shock value.
- A more subtle example is one strip with a dolphin busy canning tuna in her kitchen while another in a police uniform is saying "Just a few more questions about your husband's disappearance and then you can get back to your canning."
- Lighter and Fluffier:
- Lightning Reveal: Subverted in Gary Larson's Tales from the Far Side (a one off animated adaption). The dangerous animals surrounding the dancing couple turn out to be stuffed... as does the male partner when the police drag the woman out of 'Bob's Taxidermy'.
- Implied in "Scene from The Return of the Nose of Dr. Verlucci."
- Look Ma, No Plane!: Inverted. A flock of geese are keeping pace with a passenger jet, and one looks over and sees another goose riding in comfort in the plane, making faces at the others through the window.
- Mad Scientist: Lots.
- Maximum Capacity Overload: In one strip, we see a man on an elevator with several elephants, and he watches in horror as one more tries to get in. The max. capacity is shown as several thousand pounds.
- Medusa: In "Medusa Starts Her Day" featuring one of his dowdy, bespectacled women showering, wearing a shower-cap through which a snake has poked its head.
- Mr Muffykins: Actually subverted in one strip where the dog's owner, a rather large old lady, is seen getting her dog to run into a wall. He then notes in the commentary that the reason these dogs get so much hate may be partly due towards their owners' mannerisms.
- Mobile Fishbowl: One strip has a fish using a frogman suit with a line attaching it to a fishbowl.
- Moral Guardians:
- Oh god, the Moral Guardians. Larson faced opposition from several groups who just couldn't let his "unique" brand of satire slide, especially if religion or torture was involved; several newspapers were sent letters from upset readers threatening to cancel their subscriptions. Fortunately for Larson, the editors rarely caved.
- Interestingly, Larson himself conceded that some of these groups, such as Amnesty International, made very good points in their criticism and complaints. Also, he himself said that people's misinterpretation of the infamous "When car chasers dream" cartoon was his own fault.
- On the other hand, the "that Jane Goodall tramp" cartoon aroused some outrage until Goodall herself finally publicly said that she thought it was Actually Pretty Funny.
- Morally Ambiguous Ducktorate: Practically The Trope Codifier.
- Mouse World: A setting for many cartoons, ranging from rats and goldfish all the way to amoebae living in a miniature environment not unlike human civilisation.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: One strip features two men and a woman trapped on a desert island. A meteor takes out one of the men. The other is delighted.
- Never Live It Down: Two cowboys and their stagecoach are held up by rabbits with guns. "This ain't gonna look good on our record, Jake," says one to the other.
- Noble Savage
- Noodle Incident: Lampshaded by Larson about a particular strip:
Duck: "So, Professor Jenkins, my old nemesis! We meet again... but this time, the advantage is mine!"
- Also, an elephant wearing a jacket and hiding in an alley:
Elephant: "Remember me, Mr. Schneider? Kenya. 1947. If you're going to shoot at an elephant, Mr. Schneider, you better be prepared to finish the job."
- And an old man who somehow managed to survive having his head removed from his body:
Grandmother: "For heaven's sake, Henry, tell the kids a pleasant story for once - they don't always have to hear the one about your head."
- Not in Front of the Parrot:
- Including a caveman's parrot... saying "Grunt, snort... Grunt, grunt, snort."
- The leader of a group of gangsters insists on having his mob repeat the address of their new safehouse aloud a hundred times so as to not forget. Said gangsters are hiding out in a pet shop full of parrots.
- Another one with a lone gangster polishing his gun, and his parrot alternately whistling and saying "Hey boid, shaddup!"
- Another with a very full python in a pet store, with the parrot repeating calls of distress.
- Oh, Crap: The scientists at a carcinogennote research building have one of these reactions when they accidentally drop a sample out the window into an open city street.
- Opaque Lenses: Any person in glasses.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: See the "Ass In A Lion Skin" entry.
- One comic has a boa go to a cobra party with a cardboard hood on his neck that slipped off.
- Parodic Table of the Elements: One comic has the caveman table, consisting only of the element "Dert" (De).
- Polar Bears and Penguins: Again, see "Ass In A Lion Skin".
- Public Domain Character: Pretty much everyone listed on that page has shown up at least once.
- Rain Dance: The strip where the Native chief is consulting a book called "101 Rain Dances" to figure out what the hell kind of dance he was doing ... while it's raining eggbeaters.
- Rapid Aging: In one strip, Dick Clark's age suddenly catches up to him on live broadcast.
- Readers Are Geniuses: Part of the strip's long-lasting appeal. This was discussed at length in the foreword to the 2nd Far Side Gallery by a PHD (specializing in slugs), who explained how most of the jokes work on multiple levels. For example, "Cape Buffalo Fear" is a play on the animal coupled with the then-recently remade movie - but this is made far funnier when the reader knows about the animal's propensity for getting revenge, to the point that they're the most deadly of the "Big Five" African animals.
- Real Men Wear Pink: A recurring gag was having cowboys act like prissy socialites.
I just can't go in there, Bart. Some fellow in there and I are wearing the same hat!
- And subverted in another, where one cowboy chastises another for crossing his legs at the thigh.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent:
- Played with in one of Larson's very early strips, with a hugely fat and very ugly couple looking at a small snake, and the woman screaming, "Egad, it's hideous!"
- Another has a very ugly boy chasing his equally ugly sister around with a snake with the caption, "And for the rest of its life, the young reptile suffered deep emotional scars".
- Played straight when a reptile-house keeper suffered an attack of 25-years' worth of "the willies".
- Rerouted From Heaven: One cartoon has a man and pigs in Fluffy Cloud Heaven, captioned "Through an unfortunate celestial error, Ernie is sent to Hog Heaven".
- Running Gag: Larson put out a few strips involving obscene phonecalls. One was the Three Little Pigs with the wolf huffing and puffing on the other end, the second was a cow chewing cud, and the third was an "obscene duckcall".
- Saint-Bernard Rescue: Two cartoons toy with the idea:
- One with a guy in an outhouse in the middle of nowhere, yelling for help, cutting to a Saint-Bernard with a roll of toilet paper around its collar (The caption is "Far away on a hillside, a very specialized breed of dog heard the cry for help.").
- Another is "Common rescue animals", featuring among others: a Saint-Bernard with a keg of brandy, a dolphin with a pair of swim trunks, a rhinoceros with car keys.
- Sand Necktie:
- One cartoon features two cowboys buried like this by Indians. One is gloating about the shadow cast by his partner's hat. "Sure is nice in the shade, yessiree."
- Another features two Indians dragging a cowboy overlooking several different anthills, each with neon signs advertising their cowboy-torturing skills.
- Another features two Indians having buried a cowboy up to his neck by an anthill, one of the Indians calling the other one an idiot because he brought mayonnaise instead of honey.
- And another featuring "Charlie Brown in Indian country."
- Overlapping with Beach Bury, one has a kid burying his father with the following (paraphrased) caption: "Billy, the tide's coming in... Billy, unbury Daddy now... You don't want Daddy to get angry..."
- Sapient Cetaceans: This comic takes a few jabs at dolphins; the ones that immediately spring to mind is the dolphin whose husband is missing (dolphin cop: "We're going to let you go back to your canning in a minute...") and the dolphins who are trying to communicate with scientists (on blackboard: kay pas-uh; aw blah es span yol).
- In another strip a whale starts singing "I'm Just Singing in the Rain" to scientists recording whale song.
- In the original version, the whale's song was "Louie, Louie". "Singing in the Rain" was used for international releases, and Larson admits it was quite possibly a better song choice.
- Scandalgate: In one cartoon, a caveman impresses the rest of his tribe with his invention of fire — except the fire in question is just a wooden cutout, painted to look like flames. The caption notes that he was exiled from the tribe over "the Firegate incident".
- Serious Business: The aforementioned Jane Goodall strip drew an angry letter from the Goodall Society, upset at someone making a joke at the expense of their founder. Larson did some asking and learned that Goodall herself was amused by the strip, and things were sorted out. Larson lent the cartoon to t-shirts that supported the Goodall Society; Goodall invited Larson to visit her Chimpanzee preserve and even wrote the foreword to a collection of Far Side strips. In this foreword, Goodall implied that she fired the representative who sent the initial angry letter.
- Severed Head Sports: Played for laughs in a cartoon about the invention of headhunting — cavemen are gathered on a volleyball court, and one of them notes that no one brought a ball, and one of the bystanders has a round, bulbous head...
- Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: A four panel comic, depicting a woman on a park bench serenely feeding pigeons. The pigeons swarm in number...and ultimately leave the former occupant's clothes draped empty on the bench.
- Six Is Nine: In one cartoon, a painter has just painted "999" on Satan's office door in hell. Satan doesn't look happy, and the painter says he "must have been holding the dang work order like this!"(ie: upside down).
- Smart People Wear Glasses: One strip has some cavemen gathered around a fire with expressions of agony on their faces as they roast their food with their bare hands. One points to another caveman wearing glasses, who is using a stick to roast his food. "Hey! Look what Zog do!"
- Snake Charmer: One strip has a snake-charmer's cobra poking his head out of his basket wearing a pair of Groucho glasses, with the charmer thinking "I'm going to kill him."
- Space Is Noisy: Discussed in an early strip that had a balding, lab-coated scientist jump up in the middle of a crowded cinema shouting "Stop the Movie! Stop the Movie! Explosions don't go 'BOOM!' in a vacuum!"
- Starfish Aliens
- Two strips had aliens that resembled crosswalk signals ("Our agents are posted at every corner, this world will fall swiftly!") and fire hydrants ("'Take me to your leader', I said...and then the most horrible thing happened!"note ).
- A farmer dooms the Earth when he encounters aliens with heads that resemble human hands. In an effort to be friendly, he grabs their leader's head and shakes vigorously.
- The first living thing a bunch of visiting aliens who look a bit like giant rear ends meet is a billy goat. The caption: "When worlds collide".
- An unusual alien lands his Flying Saucer near a person, punches him out, and flies off. "Frank never knew what hit him."
- Cactus-shaped aliens are emerging from their ship, as witnessed by two Eskimos. "They look like nothing I've ever seen!"
- Stopped Clock: In one cartoon, police are investigating a shooting at a clock store. The place has been shot to pieces, all clocks are reading the same time as each other, and the detective is wondering "Now if only we could determine the time of death...."
- Take That, Critics!: In The Pre-History Of The Far Side, Gary Larson offers a response to the people who complain about his strip by drawing a cartoon version of himself sticking his tongue out at the viewer.
- Talking Animal: Every now and then.
- Tank Goodness: Psycho 3
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: female members of all species can generally be identified by their Beehive Hairdo and cat eye glasses.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Several, but one notable example of two ancient Chinese warriors standing upon the newly completed Great Wall; one of them boastfully states "NOW we'll see if that dog can get in here!"
- The "The" Title: The collections with indexes feature sections for each letter of the alphabet. However, every letter but "T" is blank, as each comic is identified as "The one with the [x]".
- Things That Go Bump in the Night: Because they hit their heads on the door frame.
- Time Travel: An occasional theme, i.e. "Disaster befalls Dr. Fitzgibbon's cleaning lady when she mistakes his Time Machine for a new dryer."
- Another one had a scientist travel back to the age of the dinosaurs and gets stuck there because his machine just ran out of gasoline.
- Cavemen visit the future riding their newly invented "Time Log".
- Or when two scientists get stranded in the past by setting their time machines to the exact same coordinates.
- One time travelling palaeontologist brings an enormous thermometer with him to settle warm-blooded/cold-blooded debate once and for all.
- Totem Pole Trench: In a strip three dogs do this to make an attempt to catch a cat they were chasing who went up a tree. The dogs disguise themselves as a woman and have the fire department get the cat down for them.
- Torture First, Ask Questions Later: One strip has a cowboy shooting a man and then asking him random trivia questions. Another cowboy reprimands him for shooting first and asking questions later.
- Torture Technician: "You know, Sven, you're great at your job... You can make a guy beg for mercy in nothing flat... but I'll be darned if you don't make a really lousy cup of coffee." Every time Larson set a strip in a torture chamber, he would get letters from Amnesty International a few days later.
- T-Word Euphemism: One strip talks about "the D-word" in a Mensa convention. It's "duh".
- Überwald: An occasional setting.
- Understatement: A nerd says "hot enough for you?" to a fellow prisoner in hell.
- Useless Spleen: "Having explored the heart of the jungle, the intrepid explorers now entered the spleen."
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Some of the jokes are pretty scientific and/or obscure.
- Wallpaper Camouflage
- When Trees Attack: One strip has a bunch of trees grabbing a logger and arguing about what they should do to him (such as cut him in half and count his rings).
- William Telling: Another one that got Larson in trouble, it depicted William's less fortunate son Warren, who is shown to have a ludicrously large head; the trouble came when some assumed he was making fun of hydrocephalus.
"So what do they think about Charlie Brown?"
- Word Schmord: One strip has several characters saying some variant of the phrase: Neanderthals Schmeanderthals (mammoths), Indians Schmindians (Custer), Huns Schmuns (castle guards), etc. The caption is "History Schmistory".
- Wrong Parachute Gag: One cartoon shows a skydiver with a piano and an anchor coming out of his backpack.
"Murray didn't feel the first pangs of real panic until he pulled the emergency cord..."
- You Must Be This Tall To Ride: Parodied in one strip. A giant monster encounters an even taller sign which states "You Must Be This Tall to Attack the City."