Nicholas Gurewitch’s deeply hilarious weekly comic strip “The Perry Bible Fellowship” is, at its best, also deeply disturbing: Thirsty children overtake the Kool-Aid man, crushing the jolly fellow under their tiny stampeding feet; a Red Cross aid worker utilizes corpses for a clever proposal; a child’s emotions are toyed with in order to test the effectiveness of new facial tissues. (You can find it in alt weeklies like Boston’s Weekly Dig and the Chicago Reader, as well as Maxim and the U.K. Guardian — or online, with fine examples here, here, and here.) Gurewitch’s first collection, The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories, is out this week from Dark Horse Comics. Vulture spoke with the cartoonist about his readers' wacky suggestions for strips, the last time he regretted publishing something, and which insult he'd lob at someone wearing a PBF T-shirt.
I noticed the T-shirts online, which reference individual strips. Have you seen anyone walking around with one?
I had a friend tell me that he saw someone wearing a “Unicorn Power” T-shirt. Myself, I have yet to see that. But I'll be hard-pressed not to yell out, “Nice shirt, gaywad!”
Are you doing any appearances to promote the book?
I'm planning to, in New York City and Baltimore. I think it would be fun to run through all the ideas that people e-mail me. They think a grim picture will make something funny. One guy sent me a suggestion that I take a frame of a cat dancing happily underneath a happy sun, and someone saying, “Wow, that is one happy cat.” And then they wanted the last frame to show that the cat had a dead mouse in its mouth. Which is kind of funny, but it didn't really make me laugh at all.
In the back of the book you thank your ex-roommates for helping you out in developing the strip. Have they ever convinced you to scrap an idea?
Is it because it's not funny enough, or because it's too offensive?
It's definitely not friends that hold me back from doing something too offensive. It's usually a sister or an acquaintance that I saw become disturbed by something.
Is there one that made the cut that you regret?
I just published one in the papers, where it's the beginning of a race. And the second frame shows the racers just standing there after the gun had gone off. And the third frame reveals that the runners are not running at all but are, uh, defecating, and on the banner it says “Poo Race.” I thought that was very, very funny at the time, but now I'm undecided whether it has widespread appeal.
People throw out Gary Larson references, but are there other comic writers you think you're more in line with?
I'd say my comic vision is more in line with Charles Addams. He did the "Addams Family." A bit more wicked than "The Far Side," more wicked and a little bit more eerie. Addams was a little more deranged.
What's your preference, laugh-out-loud funny or conceptually clever?
I'm not positive that laugh-out-loud funny is the best kind of funny. Because I've laughed out loud at stand-up comedians before only to have a realization a second later that I was laughing out of nervousness.
Do you have one in mind that you think works well in that regard?
I've laughed really hard, out loud, about the one with the scorpion and the forest friends. I think it's one that a lot of people don't get at first. —Amos Barshad