51st Chicago International Film Festival Screening #12: “Very Semi Serious” (U.S.)

“Very Semi-Serious” (U.S.)
Directed by Leah Wolchok


I was never a fan of comic books…nor did I ever read the funnies in the paper. I only had two experiences of comics as a child…Mad Magazine and The New Yorker. I was a huge fan of Mad Magazine and its frenetic use of parody and insanity. But I eventually outgrew its childish clowning as I became an insufferable, pseudo-intellectual adolescent. As a young Jew growing up in Long Island, however, I invariably scanned the single panel jokes that populated the New Yorker magazine which found its way on to our coffee table each week. My parents have had a subscription for as long as I can remember, which means I’ve been chuckling since I knew how to read the captions. It’s not a stretch to declare that those one-liner panels taught me how to infuse my sense of humor with irony…which I continue to utilize (most would say without success) today.

“Very Semi-Serious” is a wonderful documentary that examines the history of the genre, as well as outlining the process by which the cartoons are chosen and placed in each issue. By following artists (both veteran and rookie) and the managing cartoon editor, we get a warm & fuzzy, yet realistic picture of what it means to be “cartooning”. The results, as you would imagine, are hilarious. And extremely illuminating – not just about the main subject – but about the nature of recognizing funny, how this affects our reaction to tragedy, and the communal need to look at the everyday in a sometimes sideways manner.

It was recently acquired by HBO Docs, and will premiere on the pay service December 7th (a day that will live in infamy – speaking of irony). It’s very well worth the time investment.

The following trailer was the kickstarter video from 2013 and almost none of what is contained therein made it in to the finished product…which should give you an idea of how good it actually is:

Written 10/27/2015

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