The shellfish gene

This week's food cartoon started as a B&W Monday-morning discussion about the similarities between pisatchios and mussels, despite their very different food groups. My children clearly see a likeness - they believe that a pistachio that hasn't opened will give you food-poisoning, the poor fools.

Having noted the affinity, we needed to turn this simple observation into a gag. What if a pistachio and a mussel fell for each other? An odd, slighty disturbing scene emerged, with everything but the post-coital cigarette.

It needed a line, but we felt sure it would work, and took it to the next stage (ink drawing).

Now we were less convinced (a horrible feeling once we've relaxed into the idea that the joke works).
The scene felt a little bit too graphic; it posed more questions about the logisitics of inter-special sex than could possibly be answered. Added to which we would always rather have a single speech bubble, if the comeback isn't essential to the joke, which it wasn't here.

So I got re-drawing. We decided the central observation, that they had visual similarities, had got lost; they needed to look as alike as possible for the joke to carry. For reasons I have forgotten, we felt the hotel keys by the bedside were an important detail - perhaps they helped create a sense of an illicit affair.

We still had a worry that the 'point' of the joke wouldn't carry - we had perhaps moved the story on too far, as we sometimes do when dealing with a 'fighter'. I remembered a favourite New Yorker cartoon on a related theme, which I thought might hold the answer …

It's a deserved classic. We didn't want to use the same joke, of course, but I was struck by the fact that the line on the Gross cartoon didn't leave the reader to make any connections themselves (something we often deliberately do), and that the gag was no worse for that. In fact, if the line was "I think I'm in love", leaving the reader to work out the reason, I don't think it would be quite as funny.

Pascal and I were intrigued by the fact that this cartoon seemed to benefit from hitting the nail squarely on the head (see how I resisted putting an (s) in front of the nail there?), and we tried a similar approach with our final line.

This quelled our concern that it would confuse; but was it, is it, funny? It had certainly lost most of its sheen by being run through our rigorous joke-killing procedure, and we had lost all perspective in the process; so we released it into the wild, filed it and hoped that when we saw it afresh three weeks later it would be OK.

All I can say for sure is that neither Pasc nor I (and, I suspect, anyone reading this) will ever again feel the need to consider the similarities between the pistachio and the mussel … JB