Gary Larson

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Gary Larson
Born (1950-08-14) August 14, 1950 (age 69)
Tacoma, Washington, U.S.
Occupation Cartoonist (retired)
Notable works The Far Side

Signature Gary Larson.svg

Gary Larson (born August 14, 1950) is an American cartoonist. He is the creator of The Far Side , a single-panel cartoon series that was syndicated internationally to over 1,900 newspapers for fifteen years. [1] The series ended with Larson's retirement on January 1, 1995. His twenty-three books of collected cartoons have combined sales of more than forty-five million copies. [1]

<i>The Far Side</i> comic strip by Gary Larson

The Far Side was a single-panel comic created by Gary Larson and syndicated by Chronicle Features and then Universal Press Syndicate, which ran from January 1, 1980, to January 1, 1995. Its surrealistic humor is often based on uncomfortable social situations, improbable events, an anthropomorphic view of the world, logical fallacies, impending bizarre disasters, references to proverbs, or the search for meaning in life. Larson's frequent use of animals and nature in the comic is popularly attributed to his background in biology. Reruns are still printed in many newspapers.


Early life and education

Larson was born and raised in University Place, Washington, in suburban Tacoma, [1] the son of Verner, a car salesman, and Doris, a secretary. [2] He graduated from Curtis Senior High School in University Place and from Washington State University in Pullman [1] with a degree in communications. [3] [4] During high school and college, he played jazz guitar [5] and banjo. [1]

University Place, Washington City in Washington, United States

University Place is a city in Pierce County, Washington, United States. Its population was 31,144 at the 2010 census.

Tacoma, Washington City in Washington, United States

Tacoma is a midsized urban port city and the county seat of Pierce County, Washington, United States. The city is on Washington's Puget Sound, 32 miles (51 km) southwest of Seattle, 31 miles (50 km) northeast of the state capital, Olympia, and 58 miles (93 km) northwest of Mount Rainier National Park. The population was 198,397, according to the 2010 census. Tacoma is the second-largest city in the Puget Sound area and the third-largest in the state. Tacoma also serves as the center of business activity for the South Sound region, which has a population around 1 million.

Secretary occupation

A secretary, administrative professional, or personal assistant is a person whose work consists of supporting management, including executives, using a variety of project management, communication, or organizational skills. However this role should not be confused with the role of an executive secretary, who differs from a personal assistant. In many countries, an executive secretary is a high-ranking position in the administrative hierarchy. In fact in Pakistan, federal secretaries are dubbed as the most influential people in the country.

Larson said his family has "a morbid sense of humor", [1] and that he was influenced by the "paranoid" sense of humor of his older brother, Dan. [2] Dan played pranks on Gary, for example by taking advantage of his fear of monsters under the bed by waiting in the closet for the right moment to pounce. Dan "scared the hell out of me" whenever he could, [1] Gary said, but Dan also nurtured Gary's love of scientific knowledge. They caught animals in Puget Sound and placed them in terrariums in the basement, and also made a small desert ecosystem. [2]

Puget Sound sound along the northwestern coast of the U.S. state of Washington

Puget Sound is a sound along the northwestern coast of the U.S. state of Washington, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, and part of the Salish Sea. It is a complex estuarine system of interconnected marine waterways and basins, with one major and two minor connections to the open Pacific Ocean via the Strait of Juan de Fuca—Admiralty Inlet being the major connection and Deception Pass and Swinomish Channel being the minor.

Terrarium Glass container that can be used to keep plants or animals without the need of water

A terrarium is usually a sealable glass container containing soil and plants, and can be opened for maintenance to access the plants inside. However, terraria can also be open to the atmosphere rather than being sealed. Terraria are often kept as decorative or ornamental items. Closed terraria create a unique environment for plant growth, as the transparent walls allow for both heat and light to enter the terrarium. The sealed container combined with the heat entering the terrarium allows for the creation of a small scale water cycle. This happens because moisture from both the soil and plants evaporates in the elevated temperatures inside the terrarium. This water vapour then condenses on the walls of the container, and eventually falls back to the plants and soil below. This contributes to creating an ideal environment for growing plants due to the constant supply of water, thereby preventing the plants from becoming over dry. In addition to this, the light that passes through the transparent material of the terrarium allows for the plants within to photosynthesize, a very important aspect of plant growth.


Early cartoon work

According to Larson in his anthology The Prehistory of The Far Side , [6] he was working in a music store [5] when he took a few days off, after finally realizing how much he hated his job. During that time, he decided to try cartooning. In 1976, he drew six cartoons and submitted them to Pacific Search (afterwards Pacific Northwest Magazine), a Seattle-based magazine. [5] After contributing to another local Seattle paper, in 1979 Larson submitted his work to The Seattle Times . Under the title Nature's Way , his work was published weekly next to the Junior Jumble. [6]

<i>The Prehistory of The Far Side</i> book by Gary Larson

The Prehistory of The Far Side: A 10th Anniversary Exhibit is a book chronicling the origin and evolution of The Far Side, giving inside information about the cartooning process and featuring a gallery of Larson's favorite Far Side cartoons from the 1980s.

Seattle City in Washington, United States

Seattle is a seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. It is the seat of King County, Washington. With an estimated 744,955 residents as of 2018, Seattle is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. According to U.S. Census data released in 2018, the Seattle metropolitan area's population stands at 3.94 million, and ranks as the 15th largest in the United States. In July 2013, it was the fastest-growing major city in the United States and remained in the top 5 in May 2015 with an annual growth rate of 2.1%. In July 2016, Seattle was again the fastest-growing major U.S. city, with a 3.1% annual growth rate. Seattle is the northernmost large city in the United States.

<i>The Seattle Times</i> newspaper

The Seattle Times is a daily newspaper serving Seattle, Washington, United States. It has the largest circulation of any newspaper in the state of Washington and in the Pacific Northwest region.

To supplement his income, Larson worked for the Humane Society as a cruelty investigator. [1]

The Far Side

Larson decided that he could increase his income from cartooning by selling his Nature's Way strip to another newspaper. While on vacation in San Francisco, he pitched his work to the San Francisco Chronicle and, to his surprise, the Chronicle bought the strip and promoted it for syndication, renaming it The Far Side. [5] Its first appearance in the Chronicle was on January 1, 1980. A week later, The Seattle Times dropped Nature's Way. [6] Unlike Charles Schulz, who resented the name imposed by his publisher ( Peanuts ), Larson had no such qualms, saying, "They could have called it Revenge of the Zucchini People, for all I cared." The Far Side ran for fifteen years, syndicated initially by Chronicle Features and later by Universal Press Syndicate, until Larson retired with his final strip published on January 1, 1995.

San Francisco Consolidated city-county in California, US

San Francisco, officially City and County of San Francisco and colloquially known as SF or "The City", is a city in—and the cultural, commercial, and financial center of—Northern California. San Francisco is the 13th most populous city in the United States, and the fourth most populous in California, with 883,305 residents as of 2018. It covers an area of about 46.89 square miles (121.4 km2), mostly at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the second most densely populated large U.S. city, and the fifth most densely populated U.S. county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs. San Francisco is the 12th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States, with 4,729,484 people in 2018. With San Jose, it forms the fifth most populous combined statistical area in the United States, the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area.

<i>San Francisco Chronicle</i> newspaper serving the San Francisco Bay area

The San Francisco Chronicle is a newspaper serving primarily the San Francisco Bay Area of northern California in the United States. It was founded in 1865 as The Daily Dramatic Chronicle by teenage brothers Charles de Young and Michael H. de Young. The paper is owned by the Hearst Corporation, which bought it from the de Young family in 2000. It is the only major daily paper covering the city and county of San Francisco.

Print syndication distributes news articles, columns, comic strips and other features to newspapers, magazines and websites

Print syndication distributes news articles, columns, political cartoons, comic strips and other features to newspapers, magazines and websites. The syndicates offer reprint rights and grant permissions to other parties for republishing content of which they own and/or represent copyrights. Other terms for the service include a newspaper syndicate, a press syndicate, and a feature syndicate.

Themes in The Far Side were often surreal, such as "How cows behave when no human watches" or "The unexpected dangers of being an insect." Often, the behavior of supposedly superior humans was compared with animals. For instance, a father explains to his son that a bird song is a territorial marking common to the lower animals, while surrounded by fences and dense housing. Animals and other creatures were frequently presented anthropomorphically. One strip depicts a family of spiders driving in a car with a "Have a Nice Day" bumper sticker, featuring a "smiley face" with eight eyes.

One of Larson's more famous cartoons shows a chimpanzee couple grooming. The female finds a blonde human hair on the male and inquires, "Conducting a little more 'research' with that Jane Goodall tramp?" A representative from the Jane Goodall Institute thought that this was in bad taste and wrote a critical letter to Larson regarding the cartoon. Larson contacted the Goodall Institute to apologize only to find that Jane Goodall herself, who was in Africa at the time of the cartoon's publication and only learned of it years after its initial publication, approved of it, stating that she found it amusing. Since then, all profits from sales of a shirt featuring this cartoon go to the Goodall Institute. [7] Goodall wrote a preface to The Far Side Gallery 5, detailing her version of the "Jane Goodall Tramp" controversy. [8] She praised Larson's creative ideas, which often compare and contrast the behavior of humans and animals. In 1988, Larson visited Gombe Stream National Park and was attacked by Frodo, a chimp described by Goodall as a "bully". Larson sustained cuts and bruises from the encounter. [9]

Larson's Far Side cartoons were syndicated worldwide and published in many collections. They were also reproduced extensively on greeting cards which were very popular, but these were discontinued in March 2009. Two animated versions were produced for television: Tales from the Far Side (1994) and Tales from the Far Side II (1997). [5] [10] A 2007 Far Side calendar donated all author royalties to Conservation International. [1]


By late 1994, Larson thought the series was getting repetitive and did not want to enter what he called the "Graveyard of Mediocre Cartoons." [2] [5] He retired the strip on January 1, 1995, when he was 44 years old. Since retiring from The Far Side, Larson has done occasional cartoon work, including magazine illustrations and promotional artwork for Far Side merchandise. For the most part, he has also retired from public view: "He refuses to have his picture taken and avoids being on TV," Time magazine wrote in 2003. To Larson, "cartoonists are expected to be anonymous." [11]

There's a Hair in My Dirt!: A Worm's Story

There's a Hair in My Dirt!: A Worm's Story
AuthorGary Larson
IllustratorGary Larson
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
ISBN 0-06-093274-0
OCLC 42894109

In 1998, Larson published his first post-Far Side book There's a Hair in My Dirt!: A Worm's Story, an illustrated book with thematic similarities to The Far Side. The short book tells the story of an earthworm who feels that his life is insignificant. The main plot is told by the young worm's father and follows the beautiful (but slightly dim) human maiden Harriet, who takes a stroll across a woodland trail, encountering different aspects of the ecological world. [5] [12] She admires it but knows little about the land around her, and that eventually leads to her downfall.

The story ends when the young worm realizes that the hair in his dirt is actually a "Harriet" (a hair from the long dead Harriet's body). The story became a New York Times Best Seller on May 24, 1998. [13]

Other works and interests

Larson has been playing jazz guitar since his teen years. [5] He took advanced lessons from two famous jazz guitarists, Remo Palmier [14] and Herb Ellis. In exchange for guitar lessons from Ellis, Larson provided him with the cover illustration for the album Doggin' Around (Concord, 1988) by Ellis and bassist Red Mitchell. [15]

Larson drew a cover for the November 17, 2003, edition of The New Yorker magazine, [16] an offer he felt was too prestigious to refuse. [17]

Larson voices himself in the Simpsons 2010 episode "Once Upon a Time in Springfield."

Awards and honors

Larson was awarded the Newspaper Panel Cartoon Award by the National Cartoonists Society in 1985 and 1988. Larson earned the society's Reuben Award for 1990 and 1994. Larson has been recognized for various individual strips by the National Cartoonist Society in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1995.

On March 15, 1989, a newly discovered insect species was named after Larson by Dale H. Clayton, head of the Committee of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago. The Strigiphilus garylarsoni is a chewing louse [1] of a genus found only on owls. Wrote Larson: "I considered this an extreme honor. Besides, I knew no one was going to write and ask to name a new species of swan after me. You have to grab these opportunities when they come along." An 8" × 11" (20 × 28 cm) magnification of the insect appeared in the Prehistory of the Far Side 10th anniversary compilation, along with the letter requesting permission to use his name. Similarly, an Ecuadorian rainforest butterfly was named after him; Serratoterga larsoni . [2] The Garylarsonus beetle carries his name. [18] [ better source needed ] The term "thagomizer", a feature of stegosaurus anatomy, was coined in a Far Side cartoon. [5]

Eighteen years after earning his bachelor's degree at Washington State, Larson gave the commencement address at his alma mater in 1990. [3] [19] [20] [21]

Online presence

Since 1999 Larson has objected to his work being displayed on the internet, and has been sending takedown notices to owners of fan websites and users posting his cartoons. [22] In a personal letter included with the requests, Larson claimed that his work is too personal and important to him to have others "take control of it". [23] [22] Larson has been criticized for not providing a legitimate online source for the Far Side series and negatively compared to cartoonists who have embraced the internet. [24]

Personal life

In 1987, Larson married Toni Carmichael, an anthropologist. Early in their relationship, Carmichael became his business manager. "She's my pit bull, but she's a nice one," Larson has said. [1]

In The Complete Far Side, [25] Larson says that his greatest disappointment in life occurred when he was at a luncheon and sat across from cartoonist Charles Addams, creator of The Addams Family . Larson was not able to think of a single thing to say to him and deeply regretted the missed opportunity. Addams died in 1988.

Larson is an environmentalist. "Protecting wildlife is 'at the top of my list,' he says." [1]

Related Research Articles

Comic strip Short serialized comics

A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions. Traditionally, throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, these have been published in newspapers and magazines, with horizontal strips printed in black-and-white in daily newspapers, while Sunday newspapers offered longer sequences in special color comics sections. With the development of the internet, they began to appear online as webcomics. There were more than 200 different comic strips and daily cartoon panels in American newspapers alone each day for most of the 20th century, for a total of at least 7,300,000 episodes.

Cartoon Form of two-dimensional illustrated visual art

A cartoon is a type of illustration, possibly animated, typically in a non-realistic or semi-realistic style. The specific meaning has evolved over time, but the modern usage usually refers to either: an image or series of images intended for satire, caricature, or humor; or a motion picture that relies on a sequence of illustrations for its animation. Someone who creates cartoons in the first sense is called a cartoonist, and in the second sense they are usually called an animator.

Jane Goodall British primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist and graphic designer

Dame Jane Morris Goodall,, formerly Baroness Jane van Lawick-Goodall, is an English primatologist and anthropologist. Considered to be the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees, Goodall is best known for her over 55-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees since she first went to Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania in 1960.

Charles Addams cartoonist

Charles Samuel Addams was an American cartoonist known for his darkly humorous and macabre characters. He signed his cartoons Chas Addams. Some of the recurring characters, who became known as the Addams Family, have been the basis for spin-offs in several other forms of media.

Caveman stock character

A caveman is a stock character representative of primitive man in the Paleolithic. The popularisation of the type dates to the early 20th century, when Neanderthal Man was influentially described as "simian" or ape-like by Marcellin Boule and Arthur Keith.

<i>Strigiphilus garylarsoni</i> species of insect

Strigiphilus garylarsoni is a species of chewing louse found only on owls. The species has no common name.

Dan Piraro American cartoonist, painter, writer, and performer

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<i>Gnorm Gnat</i> comic strip by Jim Davis

Gnorm Gnat was an American gag-a-day comic strip by Jim Davis based on fictional insects, with the primary focus on a gnat named Gnorm. The strip appeared in The Pendleton Times in Pendleton, Indiana from 1973 to 1975, but failure to take the character to mainstream success led Davis to instead create the comic strip Garfield. Mike Peters, the cartoonist for Mother Goose and Grimm, has said that Gnorm Gnat is now a part of "cartoon folklore" as a failure that paved the way for major success.

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Nature's Way was an American newspaper cartoon series by Gary Larson published in 1976. It launched his career in cartooning and eventually led to his popular The Far Side series in 1980.

<i>The Far Side Gallery 5</i> book by Gary Larson

The Far Side Gallery 5 is the fifth and final anthology of Gary Larson's The Far Side comic strips. Cartoons from previous collections Cows of Our Planet, The Chickens are Restless, and The Curse of Madame "C" are featured, all of which were printed from 1992–1994. The foreword was written by Jane Goodall, who was commonly satirized in Larson's comics. The cover shows several flies in a movie theater watching a movie, in which a fly was calling for help because it was in a spoonful of tomato soup about to be swallowed by a person.

The Argyle Sweater is an American daily comic strip written by Scott Hilburn, a native of Garland, Texas. The strip has been syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate since April 2008.

The Central Press Association was American newspaper syndication company based in Cleveland, Ohio. It was in business from 1910 to 1971. Originally independent, it was a subsidiary of King Features Syndicate from 1930 onwards. At its peak, the Central Press supplied features, columns, comic strips, and photographs to more than 400 newspapers and 12 million daily readers. Notable comic strips that originated with Central Press include Brick Bradford, Etta Kett, and Muggs McGinnis.

Chronicle Features was the syndication arm of the San Francisco Chronicle. Syndicating comic strips, newspaper columns, and editorial features, it operated from 1962 to c. 1998. The syndicate was known for the offbeat comic strips it championed, such as Gary Larson's The Far Side, Dan Piraro's Bizarro, and the editorial cartoons of Ted Rall. The service was acquired by Universal Press Syndicate in 1997 and went defunct soon after.


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  7. Jarvis, Zeke (2015). Make 'em Laugh! American Humorists of the 20th and 21st Centuries. ABC-CLIO. p. 51.
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  9. Hartley, Aiden (2002-06-29), "Me rodo, you Jane", The Spectator, archived from the original on 2010-01-13
  10. Gary Larson on IMDb
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  12. "New book rides wave of Viagra jokes". CNN. July 29, 1998. Archived from the original on October 2, 2012.
  13. "The New York Times Best Seller List - May 24, 1998 Fiction" (PDF). The New York Times . May 24, 1998. Retrieved 18 February 2011.
  14. "Interview with GARY LARSON cont'd". Fresh Air . NPR. April 30, 1998.
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  17. Cook, Rebecca. "Gary Larson revisits 'The Far Side'", Associated Press, The Lawrence Journal-World, 30 November 2003.
  18. Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature: Etymologies
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  20. Wickline, Michael R. (May 13, 1990). "Wishing you weirdness". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). p. 1C.
  21. Olsen, Ken (May 14, 1990). "'Far Side' creator tells grads: be weird". Idahonian. (Moscow). p. 12A.
  22. 1 2 Marshall, Rick (March 7, 2008). "Gary Larson and Our 'Far Side' Cease & Desist | ComicMix". Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  23. "Gary Larson sent me this email". Archived from the original on August 29, 2000. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  24. "Dear Gary Larson: Your Kids Go Out At Night; Let Them Be". Techdirt. Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  25. Larson, Gary. The Complete Far Side. 1st ed. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McNeel, 2003. ISBN   0-7407-2113-5