Writing a single-panel cartoon is easy, but it ain't simple. The cartoonist needs to deliver both the joke and the punch line in a tiny square, using only a few pen strokes and little or no dialogue. It's an infernal task—no wonder the best cartoonists burn out quickly while the rest fade away after many unfunny decades. One exception is Minneapolis resident Jerry Van Amorengen, who has for 27 years offered a surreal and brilliant view into the lives and dreams of zaftig hausfraus in flower-print dresses and big-bottomed, baggy-trousered gents in his strips The Neighborhood and Ballard Street. Whether escaping reality (by hiding beneath a paper grocery bag) or riding off with the posse (by jumping off the garage roof onto a sawhorse), his jowly characters share Walter Mitty-esque fantasies of imagined peril or delusions of grandeur. They could be from northeast Minneapolis or outer space; they're ordinary on the outside, freakish on the inside—no wonder we identify with them.
Fri., Oct. 12, 7:30 p.m., 2007