Stephan Pastis

“You never know when the good ideas will strike.

“Sometimes it’s in the car, sometimes it’s in the bathroom, and sometimes it’s when you’re walking by your strange neighbor’s house.

“But if you’re a cartoonist responsible for coming up with 365 new ideas a year, you write it down. Because if you don’t, and you forget it, it’s never coming back. It slips into the void. The Comic That Never Was.

“What makes it especially painful is that you are able to remember how funny it was. You just can’t recall the joke. And since I can’t turn in blank panels with the note, ‘Man, did I have a great idea yesterday. You’ll just have to believe me,’ it’s not much help.

“So you grab whatever you can and you write it down. On business cards, napkins, receipts, parking stubs, paper towels, brochures, the borders of newspapers, and when all else fails, the back of you hand. Sometimes, when I’m driving on the freeway and can’t stop to write something down, I’ll tell it to my son in the backseat, who will write it down with a crayon or pen in the white space of one of the books he is reading. (I should admit here that the book he is usually reading is Garfield, a sad irony given the amount of time I spend making fun of it in Pearls. I’d call him a traitor and kick him our of the house, but I’d feel bad. He’s only seven.)

“I also make sure to always keep notepads in key places, like in the drawer by the side of the bed. That notepad is key, because for some reason, ideas like to strike just as you’re falling asleep. I think they do it to taunt you. They make you choose between sleep and a career. It’s not kind. You begin to doze off, the idea hits, and you think, ‘Ahh, I’ll remember it in the morning,’ but you won’t. So you sit up, and you get out the notepad and you write it down the best you can. In the dark. Semiconcious.

“Remarkably, this system usually works. In the morning, I see the note and it makes total sense to me. All I need is a few words of the joke and I’ll remember the rest.

“But then there was…

“The Strip.

“You see, one night about two years ago, as I was fading into sleep, I stumbled upon a comic strip idea. And not just any idea. It was, if I may say, a great idea. So I got up, and there, in the dark, I wrote it down. And as I drifted off, I remember thinking, ‘This is the best Pearls strip I have ever written.’ Better than ‘Box O’ Stupid People,’ better than anything. It was truly… The Strip.

“And so in the morning I awoke. And grabbed the piece of paper.

“And this is what I saw:

Pastis' Note

“That semilegible scrawl says, ‘Comet at full speed.’ And that’s all it says. Just ‘Comet at full speed.’

“I stared at it. Dumbfounded. ‘What the hell does this mean?’ I thought.

“Hours went by. And still, nothing. I tried and tried. Nothing. ‘This can’t be,’ I thought. ‘Think, Stephan, think.’ I agonized. Comets. At full speed. Why full speed? Why comets? Which comet? Halley’s comet? The Hale-Bopp comet? Those guys who died in that big house with Nikes on waiting for a comet? Spaceships? Aliens? ‘Comet’ the bathroom disinfection? Oh, Lord, please. No, no, no. Please. Come back. Please. Please. Please. And yet, nothing.

“I could not remember the joke.

“The greatest Pearls strip ever written had slipped into the Darkness. The Void. Never to be seen or heard from again. The Jimmy Hoffa of comic strips.

“Sometimes, pathetically, I will get out the note above and just stare at it. A shadow of a joke. A ghost of what might have been. A tragic keepsake. Forever haunted by a phrase.

“‘Comet at full speed.’

“In closing, I can only say that the joke hidden in the bowels of that phrase was, is, and always will be, my Funniest Joke Ever.

“Of this there can be no doubt.

“You’ll just have to believe me.”

– Stephan Pastis (transcribed from the introduction of

The Ratcolution Will Not Be Televised, a Pearls Before Swine collection, dated March 2006)

Stephan Pastis is known to kill a man who spells his first name with two ‘e’s. Other known factoids about the man? He’s a successful cartoonist of the syndicated Pearls Before Swine.

Why Pastis gave up a his attorney position for writing a daily comic strip about a pig and a rat engaged in double entrendes, we will never know?

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~ by croatoa on June 29, 2007.

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