Only a few things are so professionally compelling that they will induce a cartoonist to cut short a vacation. One is a once-in-a-lifetime news event. Second is a call from the Pulitzer committee. And a third, I submit, is underpants.
Newspaper cartoonists who are on holiday right now -- still recovering from all that spiked eggnog, and still looking forward to all that New Year's Eve joy juice -- face a dilemma. As a general practice, political cartoonists who wish to keep their staff jobs do not joke, josh or make light of terrorism. Except, of course, when: (a) the terror attempt is heroically foiled or goes awry in a flurry of inepititude; (b) blame can also be laid at the steel door of Homeland Security; and (c) the media soon dub the would-be attacker the Underpants Bomber.
Having myself just survived a cross-country flight on which very few underpants were exposed -- save for one diaper and one particularly ill-advised thong -- I raise a matter that that many of all have surely contemplated: Isn't getting through airport security checkpoints a lengthy enough process now? How much more so if -- should our undergarments raise the remotest of suspicion -- we are sequestered by electric-wand-waving security workers, so as to inspect our skivvies, girdles and Spanx?
Some cartoonists, like hounds on a satiric hunt, are beginning to sniff out the possibilities here. The Underpants Bomber -- and the concomitant international terror issues his attempt raises -- is a dire and serious concern. But the speculative upshot involving would-be new security steps -- well, that is fair game for comical darts.
We grow tired of Tiger jokes. The Salahi gags have wearied a wee bit. But laughter at the expense of a Nigerian "Captain Underpants" -- or yet even closer to home, at the expense of ourselves and our security measures -- might just carry us into the new year.
So come on, cartoonists: Take your best shot. "Fruit of the Looming Terror Gaffe"? "Is that a rocket in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?" Or perhaps even: "Victoria's REAL Secret"?
We await many cartoonists' imminent return from vacation, perhaps even a few days early, Because professional humorists realize that from Mark Sanford to David Letterman to Tiger Woods, 2009 was a year we were way too overexposed to the shenanigans within other people's underpants. And for a satirical sendoff to the year, the Nigerian Barney Fife proves, irresistibly, to be the perfect capper.
JOE HELLER / Green Bay Press-Gazette (cagle.com)