The Laugh-out-Loud Cats Sell Out
By A. Koford
For better or worse, we live in the age of the meme. In some form or other, the concept has existed since the beginning of recorded history, but, given the modern ubiquity of the Internet, culture is being disseminated at a dizzying pace, spread through blogs and Websites and e-mail, becoming ever more fragmented and ephemeral. In fact, it should be regarded as something of a marked success for those pop-cultural Internet touchstones capable of remaining in the public conscious for longer than a week or two.
By that measure, the Lolcat is downright canonical. One of the most persuasive Internet memes of the decade, the concept is something of a critical mass the Web’s love of silly animal pictures with its devotion to forced misspellings and malapropism, marrying the two into works that seem to imply, among other things, that if cats could indeed speak, they would likely do so poorly. Love it or hate it, the Lolcat shows no sign of slowing. In fact, if one can indeed predict the meme’s downfall, it will likely be from cannibalization on the part of the many sub-memes it’s spawned.
This, however, is not a category in which I would lump Adam Koford’s Laugh-out-Loud Cats. While he strip was unquestionably born out of a riff on the popular meme, in doing so, the artist has managed create something that seems ever increasingly rare in this age of instantly disposable expression: a piece of art that possesses self-contained merits, which, arguably surpass the meme from which it was initially born.
In the creation of the strip, Koford, an artist clearly intimately familiar with the golden age of the Sunday funnies, hit upon a genuinely inspired idea, a marriage of Lolcats’ grammatical atrocities with that original misspoken feline, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat. Koford carried the conceit to its logical conclusion, constructing a false history for the popular Lolcats as the Internet-era descendent of an early 20th century syndicated strip, The Laugh-out-Loud Cats.
The strip, oft championed by the always meme-hungry weblog, Boing Boing, began to tackle Internet phenomenon on a panel-by-panel basis, grounding each concept in the constructed reality, in much the same way that the original Lolcats were, in his mind, two tongue-tied hobo cats named Kitteh and Pip. The felines play with threads, cook rams, and reboot their footwear. It’s a variety of humor often based on fairly simple puns, but Koford’s abilities as a gag writer keep the concept fresh for most of this collection’s 150-odd pages, occasionally deviating from Web-based humor, such as with one strip’s particularly inspired homage to E.C. Segar, another clear influence on Koford’s work.
The strip is also kept afloat by Koford’s clear talents as an artist, drawing with a style that simultaneously channels some of the aforementioned comics pioneers, whilst staying decidedly modern. It’s a style that lends itself particularly well to the train-hopping exploits of the strip’s hobo cats. Koford clearly derives joy from drawing adorable anthropomorphic animals sporting elbow batches and plaid bindles.
Ultimately, however, memes have inherently short shelf-lives. It’s a side effect, for better or worse, of the culture which first spawned them. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine most of the strips contained in The Laugh-out-Loud Cats Sell Out remaining relevant—or even comprehensible—to readers too far down the line. It also begs the question of how much longer Koford will be able to utilize Kitteh and Pip, at least in their current form.
This ephemeral nature begs the same question raised by the recent spate of blogs-turned-books—is this manner of work best confined to the Web where it originated? This beautifully packaged volume, complete with an intro by the ever-hilarious comedian, John Hodgman, makes a pretty strong case for a spot on your bookshelf as well.