The Family Circus

I think a fair comparison would be to say that the Family Circus is like road kill -- no one really enjoys it but a person can't help but look at it. In the 1999 movie Go, characters played by Timothy Olyphant and Katie Holmes have a conversation that perfectly summarizes what is likely the most common perception of the Family Circus:

Claire: What do you have against the Family Circus?
Todd: Okay, you sit down to read your paper, and you're enjoying your entire two-page comic spread, right? And then there's the Family f*cking Circus, bottom right hand corner, just waiting to suck. And it's the last thing you read, so it spoils everything you read before it.
Claire: You could just not read it.
Todd: I hate it, yet I'm uncontrollably drawn to it.

As Olyphant's character explains, a fan of the daily comic pages cannot go through all of the daily strips and then skip the simple one-panel comic in the corner. After reading the Family Circus, the reader is often left with a sour taste in his mouth and an eager curiousity as to how a comic lacking any form of humor can continue to be published on a daily basis. Considering the fact that the Family Circus remains in publication, I suppose it is safe to assume that there is an audience out there that at least cracks a smile at the site of these children's stupidity.

I will admit, however, that as a kid, I loved the Family Circus. Being a kid who loved the comic pages from top to bottom, I often found myself reading Family Circus books at the local IGA while my mom did some grocery shopping. Occasionally this even led to the purchase of one of these books (cover price usually ranging from $1.95 - $2.25). After the A-Team and E.T. books, you're probably wondering if I lived at the grocery store book rack. It may seem that way but as an adult, I applaud my mother for finding a great way to keep me occupied while she bought groceries.

Either way, I wound up with eight Family Circus books on my shelf...

I'm regularly amazed by the nonsense I remember from my childhood. These books remind me of yet another such example. It is thanks to the Family Circus that I learned the term "c'mon" in its written form. It was in one of these books where I came across a strip using this term and I was confused as to the meaning of "cee-mawn." Eventually I realized that this was to be pronounced phoneticly and I got a grip on a new way to write "come on." Brilliant, I know.

In the late 1970's and early 1980's, three animated Family Circus specials were produced -- A Special Valentine with the Family Circus (1978), A Family Circus Christmas (1979), and A Family Circus Easter (1982). I don't remember which title, but a local video store had one of these in stock when I was a kid. I remember being fascinated by the idea of watching these characters move and talk after being limited to only seeing them in print up to that point.

As my collection of audio and video recordings from my youth has grown in my adult years, I have come up with copies of all three of these out-of-print specials. Yeah, I know. But I'd bet you've got some crap in your collection, too.

In recent years, others who have come to realize the ridiculous nature of the Family Circus have taken the time to mock this comic is an often offensively humorous way. If you're interested in finally getting a laugh from the Family Circus, I highly recommend you take a look at The Free-Floating Dysfunctional Family Circus Archive (although at the time of this post, it appears that the images on this site are not working).

Finally, as can be seen in an October 14, 2009 letter to the editor of a nearby newspaper, people's distaste for the Family Circus is not going away.

I truly don't understand how the Family Circus can be appealing in any way. Maybe the humor in these comics is actually some form of higher entertainment that the average person is not able to grasp. Either that or, as Timothy Olyphant so eloquently stated, it just sucks.

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