Family life comic about 6 year old Ruthie Lombard, her 8 year old brother Joe, and their parents and grandparents. Unlike most comics, a generally realistic portrayal of what kids are actually like and how they actually talk (at least, it used to be that way). Primarily focuses around Ruthie, but the rest of the Lombard family has their own quirks.
Much of the comedy comes from Ruthie simply being a kid and misinterpreting the adult world, or doing things that come naturally to kids but surprise adults. The rest is all realistic yet entertaining slices of life. More of a light-hearted portrayal of everyday life than a laugh-out-loud comic.
One Big Happy provides examples of:
- Clever Crows: A crow follows Ruthie around. At first she was frightened and annoyed. Now she calls him "Crowy" and he's kind of her semi-independent pet.
- Express Lane Limit: A strip had a twist, where a man asked if he could cut ahead of Grandma because he only had one item. She said yes, and he proceeded to pay with a check, causing Grandma to scare him off by ramming him with her basket. The cashier says she's shocked, not because of what Grandma did, but because she didn't do it sooner.
- The Faceless: Buggy Crispino, a little kid who "seduces" any female he can (i.e. he repeats things he must have heard teenagers say and tries to talk just like them), never has his face shown. Usually, his body is never shown either.
- Malaproper / Mondegreen: Ruthie is very well known for this.
- Most Writers Are Adults - Mostly averted in the earlier strips. The writer had a great idea of how kids actually talk and act and what they care about, and captures it very well for the most part, although a good deal of the dialog is exaggerated for the sake of the punchline. It was, however, mostly realistic, though in recent years it's been falling more and more into this problem as it drifts away from believability and more towards "cartoon dialog".
- Multigenerational Household: Ruthie and her brother Joe live with parents Frank and Ellen, as well as Frank's parents Nick and Rose.
- Strictly speaking, they live in two separate houses next door to each other, but with all the visits and time spent together, it's basically the same thing as if they shared the house.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: sort of. The author has said that his family will tell him stories to write into the strip.
- Shout-Out: In a recent strip, Ruthie and Joe are supposedly about to travel back in time, when Ruthie comments about the food they packed, "Won't the popcorn turn into corn on the cob, then into corn stalks? And the orange juice will turn into oranges before our very eyes!" Joe then comments that he would have been better off with a stuffed tiger as his copilot.
- Something Completely Different: Every September 11th since 2002, the comic strip runs a touching tribute to 9/11. Much like Curtis and its Kwanza strips, these are usually the high point of the strip.
- Sound Effects Bleep: During one argument, Joe's bad words were suddenly covered up by a strange ringing. Ruthie is amazed, and believes God must have bleeped him. Her mom doesn't feel like admitting that the sound was their car's seat belt signal.
- Sibling Rivalry: Ruthie and Joe fight like any sister and brother would. They also play together like sister and brother too. Very realistic.
- Slice of Life: Basically what it's about.
- T-Word Euphemism: One strip has Ruthie tattle on Joe about name-calling, except that the letters used as euphemisms aren't the usual suspects so the parents aren't sure what the uncensored words are supposed to be. Joe still gets sent to his room.