The Decline and Fall of The Simpsons: Rape jokes in Springfield

140 characters is usually enough

simpsons family guy crossover

Picture the scene. A beloved cartoon character, one pretty-much recognised the world over, re-enacts one of their most recognised routines for the benefit of a character from a newer show, a show which is entirely founded on ripping off the original. The other character responds by making a joke about rape.

Actually, you don’t need to picture the scene. If you have a mind, (or better again, half a mind,) you can go to YouTube and watch the trailer for the forthcoming “The Simpsons/Family Guy” crossover.

Bart Simpson and Stewie Griffin prank-call Moe’s Tavern, something Bart has done for a quarter of a century or more now. It’s one of the most familiar routines on TV at this point. Bart phones Moe Szyslak, asks for a customer with an unusual name and gets Moe to shout that “name” to the amusement of the patrons of his seedy bar. Moe then goes…

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Commedia dell”arte Day 2: the 1st vecci, Pantalone

 Here’s a look at the first of the vecci, the old men, Pantalone. Sometimes he is also called Il Magnifico 

“The Miserly Old Man”

Vecci (1st) – Pantalone

The top of the social ladder. His design is that of the Renaissance Venetian merchant; a long black coat and tight fitting jacket and breeches, with a fit cap and slippers. He called his breeches his ‘pantalones’. His name has several possible originations, but a prevalent one is in the old saying of ‘pianteleone’, or to plant the lion of Venice. This saying referred to the merchants of Venice traveling the Mediterranean Coasts, “planting the lion of Venice” wherever they would sell their wares.

Pantalone is a lover of the bottom line, the net worth of something. Though his first love is profit, his heart is always ready to sacrifice anything for his children.

He is sometimes married, but is often chastised or cuckolded if he is not a widower.



A strong nose, sometimes adorned with a white mustache. A definitively profile mask, with strong wrinkles.



Old man feet, with a deep bend in the knee. His lumbar is bent opposite that of zanni, but still retains a straight torso. Pantalone should never have a hunched back. That is reserved for Pulchinella.

His feet and hand movements are small and quick. The hand moves as if he is counting money, even when there is nothing there at all.



He is generally father to one of the inamoratti, He is a wrench thrown into the cogs, the old ways of thinking impeding the new ideas and ways of thinking of the younger generation. He has no problem throwing his financial weight around (even if he in actuality is bankrupt). 


Signature Props

A cane/staff – this is a symbol of status more than a walking aid

A coin purse, resting comfortably in his crotch



A stork, or a vulture.


Modern Pantalone

The Professor – Futurama

Ebenezer Scrooge – A Christmas Carol





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Commedia dell’Arte day 1: The Warm Up

A little while ago I posted about , with the promise of more CdA themed posts in the future. Well, this is the first in the series, and it focuses on the physical and vocal warm-ups my Theatre Company does for all of our CdA shows. This is the minimum group warm up, and most of the troupers prefer to add their own personal regiment into this.

There is a second part to our mask warm ups which we call “dropping into” the mask of the character, but we can have a separate post about that some other time.



Commedia dell’Arte Warm-Up Regiment

Below are some general warm ups for your body and voice when getting ready for mask acting. By all means, if there is something more you like to add to your regiment, do so. This is simply a guideline of the bare minimum one should do for a warm up.

18th century engraving of CdA performers

18th century engraving of CdA performers


Neck roll down on a 50 count, to where torso is hanging from pelvis.

    • Hang here for 10 seconds, take a deep breathe into your back, and release slowly, giving a deeper stretch to the back.
    • Bend your knees and slowly roll up on a 50 count

Stretch for 15 seconds/each:

  • Shoulders/arms
  • Legs – hams, quads, shins
  • Wrists

Ankle rolls

30x crunches

10x push-ups (20 for men)

50 high knees

30 Jumping Jacks



Vocal slide from top of register to bottom

            Repeat from bottom to top, then back down once again

P-T-K-F / B-D-G-V

Budda-guddah up and down scale

Tongue Twisters

  • I’m not the pheasant plucker, I’m the pheasant plucker’s son, and I’m only plucking pheasants till the pheasant plucker comes
  • He thrust his fist against the post, and still insists he sees the ghost
  • Unique New York, you need New York, you know you need unique New York
  • Red Leather, Yellow Leather. Good blood, bad blood.
  • Toy Boat
  • Minimum Aluminum, Liniment Cinnamon
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Winter is (Still) Coming

Hey there everyone! How’s that March/April/Siberian weather treating you? Michigan is just splendid, having hit between 20 and 56 here in Grand Rapids while I’ve been out and about today. We had snow this morning, everyone was wearing winter jackets and hats…and now everything is melted, and everyone is either in a light spring jacket or sweater. I went with a rider’s cap and woven Henley, myself. 

You Just Me strip ‘Cold Spell’



The entire strip was inked with a brush pen using India ink, and some of the smaller details were with art pens, ranging from a 005 for hatching to 08 for the lettering. Colors are a mix of Prismacolor and Copic watercolor markers, colored pencils, and believe it or not some of my son’s Crayola crayons. The snow was achieved by taping paper towel to shield the other panels, then having some fun with my white out. The same technique can be used for blood splatter or other chaotic effects (use blue “painter’s tape” because it won’t damage the paper when you remove it). Some of the vibrancy of the colors was lost in scanning, but I’ll see if I can adjust it and update the post later.

Until next time ~ keep your wings to the wind!    

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Theatre, Mayhem, and Masks

A Brief Preface 

This past Tuesday, February 25th, marked the 5th year of the celebration of Commedia dell’Arte Day. If you’re a theatre buff, or have taken an arts or theatre history course you have had at least a brief elbow brush with the theatrical style of CdA. I could run on for a multi-piece post about Commedia, which I will be starting after this one is posted.

the event poster for the worldwide event, 2014.

the event poster for the worldwide event, 2014.

It’s a style I came across a little over 10 years ago in high school, and it was love at first sight.

Given my flair for cartoons, a performance style that is more or less a cartoon on stage was something I took to quite quickly.

Here’s the Elevator Pitch: Commedia dell’Arte is an improvisational form of comedy that utilizes stock characters, half-masks, comic bits, and a character web that is the predecessor for all modern comedy.

Check it out, seriously. If you’re in the Midwest/Michigan area, check out my theatre company’s website. We do a lot of CdA style shows. We actually have one coming up in May:

our logo *(fancy, non?)

our logo *(fancy, non?)

Hole in the Wall Theatre Company

And Now, The Adventures of HITW in the world of 24 Hour Theatre

Rewind 4, to February 2010 – 24HrTh parte un, “Picolette’s Pickle”

Through some form of social media, I had gotten wind of a world-wide event that was to be happening on February the 25th. This was an opportune date, because the theatre department had just closed a show the previous week that a majority of the company was in. Our schedules were open, all but 2 people in the cast had been practicing CdA regularly.

The school was letting us use the Black Box on campus, gave us run of the scene shop, costume storage; the school newspaper did a front-page story on us. For the performance we had to add seats because of how many people showed up. It was nuts, more than anyone could have hoped.

The following year we didn’t manage to get the troupe together to do a CdA show.

In 2012, we staged a fully-rehearsed scenario titled The Whole Vine Yards. That’s for another post, another time.

Fast Forward 3 Years, February 2013 – 24HrTh parte deux,“Who Are You? Do the Play!”

This time around, we performed at a space just down the street from the University, a local music venue called the Flint Local 432. Though it was almost exclusively a venue for bands, they wanted to start expanding into putting on plays. So, we put on their ‘inaugural’ theatrical performance there.

We had an entirely new cast this time, mostly students from the school. They had done a CdA  style show that Fall and the buzz in the department to do more was still strong. Though we were off campus, there was granted access to some of the school’s properties and set pieces. The theatre was in such close proximity to the scene shop that the tech crew carried the set pieces down the streets of downtown Flint and through the stage door of the Local.

Being off campus hurt attendance this time, but a majority of the students really pushed the word about the play and we had about half house.

Fast Forward 1 year, to February 2014 – 24HrTh parte trois, “Dead Serious”

Here is the show poster for 'Dead Serious'

Here is the show poster for ‘Dead Serious’

And then, we come to this. The 2014, 24 Hour Theatre à la Commedia dell’Arte. To reference Murphy’s Law would seem almost trite to convey the magnitude of what this 24 hours became. My friend Ryan and I arrived at the Local at the 7:00 call time. I had assumed that there would be few to no people there immediately at 7.

I arrived to an empty theatre, save for the Building Manager who left us the keys to stay the night, and a reporter from the school newspaper who was staying with us for the night to do a piece on us for the MTImes. Ryan and I figured with the cold weather people would be arriving late. So we unloaded my Escape and began setting up the space for the night. It starts to approach 7:30, the time for us to commence constructing the play.

Ryan and I had talked briefly about the idea for the story. Earlier in the 24th the great Harold Ramis passed, and basically his entire body of work is an inspiration to me. The top of that list, personally, was Ghostbusters. My proposal to Ryan (and those who would join us later) was to do a Ramis-inspired show, inspired largely by Ghostbusters. This offered a wide gamut of possibilities for the actors, and allowed us to pay tribute to a wonderful artist.

Do Not Gentle into that Good Night...and Slimer

Do Not Gentle into that Good Night…and Slimer

Then at about 7:45, my fellow board member Sarah arrived at the theatre, bringing our bodies to 4. Sarah and I had planned on writing and directing, not acting, and we were far from asking the girl from the newspaper to undertake something like Commedia. We tried to reach out to multiple people who had expressed intense interest, but for one reason or another everyone couldn’t make it. This included ALL of the technical theatre people, and their access to the props, costume, set pieces, as well as all of the equipment that would allow us to build a set of our own.

So there we were, three performers and a reporter.

Sarah, “well, I have to work the next day.”

So, there we were, two performers, a co-director, and a reporter.

“Alright. A two man Commedia show…we can do this, right?”

While Sarah and I hashed out the details of what we could possibly do for this show, unbeknownst to us Ryan was upstairs writing what would eventually become the scenario we would use for the event. A process that usually is thought out amongst a handful of writers for two-three hours was done by a greenhorn actor within the span of about 40 minutes. Granted, it wasn’t Hamlet, but it had a clear beginning, middle, and end, and allowed for character development and improv from the actors.

But we needed at least 3 people for the most rudimentary incarnation of Dead Serious.

But, there we were 2 actors, a co-director, and a reporter. SO we took to the phones, contacting any/all theatre contacts we had in the area. As luck would have it, a friend, Katie, whom we had gone to school with was in town visiting her family. She agreed she could do it, despite having an audition the next day before the performance.

So there we were: 3 actors, a co-director, and a reporter.

Each actor took 2-3 roles for the performance and utilized the ever-helpful quick change to keep the pace of the show up.

So, the night carried on:

Dottore and Scaramouche discuss the size of donuts

Dottore and Scaramouche discuss the size of donuts

Katie just couldn't keep her mind off me ;D

Katie just couldn’t keep her mind off me ;D

Zanni 2 and our female vecci, Doris, talk the merits of Arlecchino's "spirit stick"

Zanni 2 and our female vecci, Doris, talk the merits of Arlecchino’s “spirit stick”

We concluded around 3:00 am, as Katie and Sarah needed sleep, while Ryan and I drove to Grand Rapids. We arrived in GR t approximately 5:30am. Ryan went on to study through the early morning for an exam he had at 10 in the morning. We reconvened at his apartment after his exam, and returned to Flint, pulling into town around 4:30pm. Katie was there before her audition, and rehearsed with us until 5, when she had to leave. She’d be back basically as the show was beginning.

The next two hours would be devoted to building some semblance of a set. We built a set in two hours. Three actors built a set in two hours. If you’re not in the theatre, the perhaps you don’t realize how amazing and terrifying that statement is.

A small audience attended, and Katie arrived with 5 minutes to spare before curtain. The performance was a success, despite everything we faced through the 24 hours. The cast/crew/writers/production staff enjoyed a well-deserved beer afterwards.

…and that was how I decided I will not do 24 Hour Theatre for at least 5 years.



If you like the masks, check out our maestro’s website and order some for yourself!

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On Life Getting in the Way

So I haven’t posted something since September, which is almost a full two seasons.
Soooo, my bad on that. Between doing the single parenting thing, finding work (then consequently going to work, cuz y’know, I like eating), working on actual artwork, or doing business through my Theatre Company, it’s been hard to get to the blog.
“But TJ,” you may ask, “is it really so hard to scan pictures you draw and post them in a wordless blog just to keep people reading?”
To which I respond: “That is correct. All my free time has been devoted to an unfruitful romantic venture, which had a glorious Hindenburgesque climax on Christmas, and the ashes from which I’ve been slowly picking myself up out of.”
TMI? Compared to what a lot of people post on their blogs? Not really. Just uncharacteristic for this one.

Anyways, here are some sketches for you. Enjoy! Happy New Year! Merry Christmahannukwanzika!

Pen sketch

Strip for someone special

Added pages to chapter 1 of Jeminar to round out the story and introduce the other main characters in the 1st chapter.

He’s just adorable. I’m being that parent now.

My son has gotten really into the “Bone” comic series by Jeff Smith

Oh yeah, I adopted 2 kittens by the way

Until next time, keep your wings to the wind!!


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Painting with Delan, a Parent’s Transition

My Son is Turning 5
This has been an interesting transition for myself and Lo, Delan’s mom. What I mean when I say that is, our son has changed from being a toddler to becoming a little boy.
His interests have changed. He actually has interests. He has his own opinions, not just repeating what he has heard an adult say.
Instead of reading a Sandra Boynton or Clifford book for bed he wants to read his Sonic the Hedgehog comic books (he still likes the other books, don’t worry grandparents)! Both myself and Lo make the character voices when we read. It’s a nerdy family thing, but it’s fantastic.

20130907-104459.jpgFYI for all the fellow nerds out there, they just did a Sonic/Mega Man crossover called ‘Worlds Collide’

As a comic artist myself it makes me extremely excited and proud that he has become very much into his own drawings and other artwork. He’s not just scribbling random colors anymore, he’s making characters and telling stories with them. I gave him one of my old sketchbooks a few weeks ago and he’s already filled it up. Lo and I had to go out and get him two more!
On our way to the art store near us I hear a little voice from the backseat ask “Mommy, do you have something for me to draw with?”
I felt like I was having an out of body experience with my 5 year old self. I look back and see him, sitting there, with a small steno pad, eagerly awaiting an illustrating implement.
Heart = melt.

20130907-104638.jpgthis is Angel Man

20130907-104729.jpghere is Ninja Man attacking a Bad Guy Ball

It’s great to see his personality develop and grow and see him become a little person. As I’m writing this he’s working on making a giant poster of dragons, much like this one we made a few weeks ago:

aside from the details he asked me to add on the long, blue ‘Sky Dragon’, he made everything on there, and they all have their own names and story

And with his first stroke, a new adventure in imagination begins!

Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I have been commissioned by Delan to make the body and face of his dragon.

Until next time – keep your wings to the wind!


here’s where he’s gotten in the 5 minutes or so since I posted the picture of him making that first blue mark. The rocks in the middle are its eggs that it has wrapped up around with its tail to protect. He’s working on the head now

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