The Piranha Club (formerly Ernie) is an American newspaper comic by Bud "Bo" Grace. Started in 1988, it focuses on loser Ernie Floyd and the various eccentric and sketchy characters around him in Bayonne, New Jersey.
Earning only moderate success in its native US, Ernie has become very popular in Scandinavia, particularly Sweden, where it runs in several large newspapers and has its own comic book since 1996. Two runs of collections have been published, as well as a video game.
The strip ended on February 3, 2018, after 30 years.
This strip provides examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Used frequently. Doris to Ernie (at the start), Arnold to Doris, Effie to Sid...
- Angry Guard Dog: When Sid needed a recording of an angry barking dog for his home security system scam (the original tape with a barking chiuaua didn't exactly impress the customers), he asked the owner of the local junkyard if he could record the man's dog. The owner agreed, since "Old Satan hadn't had much fun lately". Sid wisely decided to hire some extra help, with mixed results.Enos: Did it work?Sid: No, all you can hear on the tape are Arnolds screams.
- The Alcoholic: Duane, who is constantly out to get people to buy him a drink or two with the help of his trusty frog.
- Alien Abduction
- Alien Among Us: Zerblatt the alien was left behind by his people due to going off on a drunken bender and ended up assimilating into human society.
- The Alleged Car: Ernie's '57 DeSoto.
- Ambulance Chaser: "Wild" Willie O'Haberman as well as Enos Pork, MD. Literally.
- Author Appeal: Squids and tentacles, not in a sexual context ,but Grace has stated that he enjoys drawing things like this due to a drawing by Basil Wolverton of MAD fame he saw when he was a kid.
- Acquired Poison Immunity: One storyline involves a tribe of South American natives attempting to murder Sid and steal Earl. They give him a drink made from 27 mushed-up toxic leaf frogs, which amazingly has no effect. It's then revealed that years of Effie's cooking has left Sid essentially immune to poison.
- Another storyline revolves around Sid and Elvis having a pie eating contest, with everyone expecting Big Eater Elvis to win. It then turns out that Sid had Effie make the pies for the contest, allowing Sid, who's used to her food, eat at a leisurely pace and win, while Elvis can only soldier through about 3 bites, while violently vomiting the whole time.
- Big Eater: Elvis Zimmerman and Ernst.
- Brotherhood of Funny Hats: The Piranha Club perform their secret rituals in piranha hats.
- Broke Episode: One storyline involves Sid trying to get out of an audit by the IRS by pretending to be completely destitute, complete with operating a "business" out of an abandoned car in the junkyard, where he has recruited Arnold as a partner/live-in car alarm. This actually works, as the IRS agent ends up putting Sid on financial aid rather than tossing him in jail for his comprehensive list of taxation fraud.
- Blind Without 'Em: Doris, before switching to contacts.
- Back-Alley Doctor: Enos Pork does operate out of a seemingly legit Head/Nose/Throat clinic, but he is a textbook example of this trope. His medical degree is from an unaccredited school in South America, he uses his surgical tools as kitchen utensils, and he's been seen more than once offering sidewalk medical services.
- Cats Are Mean: Almost every appearance of Doris' cat Bobo ends with a trip to the ER for Ernie.
- Catchphrase: Reverend Bob has "I've got to get a new parish" and "Give me strength." Duane has his ever-reliable "Shee thish frog?" and variations thereof. "Geeze!" is a series-spanning one.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: This comic is full of them, but particularly Effie (especially in early strips).
- Coat Full of Contraband: Pops up from time to time... Most often in restaurants. With the "contraband" in question being stomach pumps...
- Conman: Yes. An entire club full of them. Fortunately most are Stupid Crooks, and they spend most of their time conning each other.
- Corrupt Church: The evangelical church run by televangelist Reverend Bob.
- Diet Episode: The second half of the "Cheese Of the Month Club" arc, with Ernie trying to lose the weight he gained due to the first part.
- Dog Latin: The Pretentious Latin Motto of the Piranha Club is In Hoc Signo Piranha note
- Drop the Cow: Whenever a joke or storyline has been going on for too long and there is no satisfactory resolution in sight, the usual prodecure is to turn the madness up a notch and follow it up with cut-away gag to Bud being escorted away from his desk by people from the insane asylum — quite often while wrapped up in a straitjacket.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Bud Grace gives everyone one of these◊ for the final Sunday strip.
- Elvis Impersonator: One storyline involves Duane showing off a cockroach he claims is a reincarnated Elvis, complete with guitar, rhinestone suit and singing ability. Ernie accidentally kills the cockroach and ends up in court, accused of having murdered Elvis. When he angrily blurts out that he killed an Elvis impersonator, the judge immediately drops the charges and invites him over for dinner.
- Another storyline has Sid getting Arnold to embark on a career as an Elvis impersonator. This ends rather abruptly when Arnold attempts to wiggle his hips like the original, and his tight pants explode, hospitalizing both him and several fans.
- Evil Uncle: Sid to Ernie. Greedy, manipulative and a fraudster through and through.
- Everything's Deader with Zombies: Zombies make an occasional appearance, most notably Bob The Zombie and his voodoo mistress, as well as a zombie Elvis Presley along with a zombie Colonel Parker.
- Extreme Omnivore: Ernst, the Piranha Club mascot and Sid's pet piranha, to the point where Sid uses him as a garbage disposal. He can even devour non organic material like car tires and metal with no problem. He still refuses to eat broccoli though.
- Fake Charity: The Piranha Club often promotes various charity drives for their Fund for Orphans and Widows. Said orphans and widows often look suspiciously like club members in bad costumes.
- Fan Disservice: As mentioned below, Bud Grace tends to take advantage of the lack of censorship in Swedish media by drawing nude characters you do NOT want to see nude, such as Enos Pork's mother in law, and Arnold's equally ugly sister.
- Fell Off the Back of a Truck: Most of Sid's "wares" come straight out of trashcans and containers.
- Gonk: Arnold. He's fat, short, pimply and has ridiculously stripy hair. He's quite often mistaken for some obscure breed of dog/goat/possum/muskrat/mongoose thing.
- Henpecked Husband: Enos Pork, who is routinely abused by both his wife and his step mother.
- Honest John's Dealership: Elvis Zimmermann who'd sell a decrepit trashcan of a car to his own mother... In fact, he did.
- If It Was Funny the First Time...: Bud Grace used to love making jokes about Doris being overly eager to get married (they often ended with a frightended Ernie running away to the Antarctic, China, etc. to escape her). Word of God suggests that these jokes would have continued indefinitely if it wasn't for Executive Meddling... In fact, it sort of has, but is more common between Sid and Effie these days.
- I'll Take Two Beers Too: Ernie had a Sunday strip showing the local football team invading a bar where Ernie and Sid are drinking. It goes something like this:Cannibal #1: Give me eleven pitchers before I snap your neck!Cannibal #2: I want eleven pitchers too!(etc.)Cannibal #3: He said he was a halfback so I ripped his arm off and said "I'll take this half!"Ernie: So, do you come here to party after the game often?Cannibal #4: It's only halftime!Sid: Careful, Ernie. It's the Bayonne Cannibals, the world's most dangerous football team.Cannibal #5: We're not the team, we're the cheerleaders!
- Knows a Guy Who Knows a Guy: Sid can't get a date even with a Mongolian immigrant just off the boat because she knows a chain of people the last one of whom dated him in 1968.
- Lethal Chef: Effie Munyon, who notably is never seen eating her own food. She IS capable of cooking decent food, but seems to end up making hideous concoctions out of some misplaced desire to seem unique.
- Meatgrinder Surgery: Anytime Enos Pork gets someone under the knife.
- Moment Killer: If Doris and Ernie are sitting on a couch, trying to have a romantic time, expect Doris little brother Spencer to be standing by the end of the couch, staring at them. Ernie tried to bribe him to leave the room once, only for Spender to keep watching through the window.
- Money Fetish: Most of the Piranha Club members, but Sid especially.
- More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Pretty much any member of the Piranha Club out to make a deal... Honestly, their salesmen smiles look more like Slasher Smiles than anything else. They call themselves Piranhas for a reason.
- My Beloved Smother: Sid's elderly mother came to visit for quite a while during one story (Sid had put an ad in the Bayonne newspaper, hoping to scam lonely mothers who lost contact with their kids, only for his own mother to show up, even though he hadn't put his actual name in the ad), and quickly showed she didn't care that her son was well into late middle-age, constantly lecturing him on his cheating and boozing.Ma Ferniwilter: It's 2 AM! I bet you've been with your buddies, cruising up and down the street, whistling at girls, and... *sniffs* you've been drinking!Sid: Mom, I'm 52 years old!!
- Never Mess With Mother Packer: Seriously. Don't. She has a Hair-Trigger Temper and the only reason why she isn't the World's Strongest Man is because she's the World's Strongest Woman. Perfectly exemplified in one storyline where she beat the snot out of MIKE TYSON.
- Nice Guy: Ernie is the most decent, upstanding and honest guy you can find in Bayonne, which makes him a frequent target for Sid's and the Piranha Club's scams. Arnold might count, too, but given the frequency he's suckered into being Sid's unpaid cohort, his niceness is more oftenly played up as a naively misplaced sense of trust and general stupidity than anything else.
- Not Wearing Pants: Subverted in an early strip. It's not a dream, though Sid takes advantage of Ernie thinking it is. Ernie eventually ends up in jail for indecent exposure.
- Perpetual Poverty: The Piranha Club meets in a dilapidated building they haven't paid rent for in years and the various furnishings inside are falling apart, this mainly due to the fact that none of the members pay their membership fees, and Sid embezzles the clubs funds at every turn.
- Playing Pictionary: Literally. On a double date/game night with Doris' insufferable roommate Felicia, Doris completely fails to guess Ernie's drawing ("An omelet! An amoeba! Ecstacy! A SCUD missile!"). Crosses over into Terrible Artist, since nobody else manages to identify it either, even after being told what it is. note Meanwhile, Felicia's Insufferable Genius boyfriend Basil produces perfect renditions of the Sistine Chapel and Rembrandt's Night Guard in under 15 seconds.note
- The Prankster: Spencer Husselmeyer makes Bart Simpson look like a saint. Common pranks include greasing Ernie's toilet seat, putting tacks in Ernie's shoes, shoving raw fish down Ernie's pants, greasing Ernie's doorknobs, terrorizing Ernie with his slingshot and making Ernie eat salt.Ernie: Why, Spencer? Why!?
Spencer: I didn't want you to get bored.
- Relationship Upgrade: After decades of dating, Ernie and Doris finally got married, and had a daughter.
- Redheads Are Uncool: The syndicate suggested Ernie should have red hair, to fit this trope.
- Running Gag: People deciding to go to some far off, unhospitable place whenever the prospect of marriage comes up. Also people mistaking Arnold Arnoldski for a dog. Also, in the early strips, the corpse of Jimmy Hoffa turning up in unexpected places.
- Serial Escalation:
- Played with in one strip, where Bud Grace (the author/artist, who regularly appeared in the comics for behind-the-scenes tomfoolery) was told by a frustrated editor that his comics were getting weirder and weirder — which was around the time the martian Zerblatt had become a recurring character and had fathered dozens of froglike kids with a supermodel.
- In an interview, Grace admitted that his comics were getting increasingly more and more bizarre, likening it to eating a lot of spicy food — after a while it doesn't seem as spicy anymore, and then you want something spicier.
- Shady Real Estate Agent: Sid's main form of income; he runs a fradulent investment firm, where one of the offered investments are real estate. Said estates tend to be worthless land plots where you're lucky if they're only flooded with water, houses not even rats would want to live in, and farms located in swamps or on the bottom of the ocean.
- Shoddy Knock Off Product: Anything Sid sells that isn't flat-out falling apart.
- Shout-Out: On a double date/game night, Felicia's Insufferable Genius boyfriend Basil produces a perfect rendition of the The Night Watch.
- Sleazy Politician: Bert, a member of the Piranha Club and salesman of the infamously tacky aluminium siding building material, runs for Mayor of Bayonne in one storyline, and actually manages to win, though this doesn't seem to take much of his time away from hanging around the club.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: After a while, Uncle Sid pretty much took over as the main character of the strip. Eventually this made "Ernie" too much of an Artifact Title, and the name of the strip was changed to Piranha Club.
- The Stoic: Provided he's not dealing with his wife or step mother, the most reaction you'll see out of Dr. Enos Pork is the changed angle of his cigarette. It's surprisingly effective at conveying his current state of mind.
- Stealing from the Till: Sid has been the Piranha Club Treasurer for decades, and in all that time, the club has mysteriously kept going deeper into dept.
- Stupid Evil: More like stupid stingy, but Sid would rather freeze in the dark than to pay his electricity bill. Not because he doesn't have the money, but because he refuses to use them on anything non-hedonistic.
- Stylistic Suck: An early Sunday page purportedly drawn by Grace's neighbor's dog, Sheba.
- A series of strips supposedly drawn by Bud's brother-in law.
- Too Hot for TV: Like most cartoonists, Bu Grace has a sizeable amount of strip sketches he never intended for publishing due to raunchy content. Interestingly, due to Sweden's much more relaxed publication standards, the Ernie comic book there often publishes both these, and specials Grace draws just for Scandinavia, containing both nudity and sexual situations.
- Pro Wrestling Episode: One storyline revolved around Arnold becoming a pro wrestler under the name the Masked Slapper, with Sid as his shifty manager.
- You Wanna Buy A Watch?: Many of Sid's less sophisticated schemes amount to this, ranging from fake Rolexes, to fake Picasso paintings.
- Why We're Bummed Communism Fell: Parodied in one storyline where the fall of communism reduced the entire CIA to following the world's last practicing Communist around, a Russian immigrant named Boris who relocated to Bayonne when the USSR collapsed. They desperately try to keep him alive and Communist, because if he dies, the CIA will be forced to resort to massive layoffs. He eventually abandons communism as well and begins selling "sexy lingerie", which turns out to be husky-sized surplus sets from the former Soviet blocks. His only customer? Effie.
- Yet Another Christmas Carol: The strip used this as a Christmas storyline with Sid as Scrooge, Enos as Jacob Marley, Ernie as Bob Cratchit, Doris as Mrs Cratchit and Spencer as Tiny Tim.
- You Can Keep Her!: One storyline has Mother Packer being kidnapped by a pair of bumbling crooks. Of course, Dr. Pork had no intention of getting her back. Eventually they let her go after Mother Packer beats the crap out of them, who then proceeds to go after her son-in-law...