Obscurity of the Day: Making It — A Survival Guide for Today

The 1980s were, among other things, a decade I associate with stand-up comedy. It seemed like you couldn’t turn on a TV in that decade without finding a guy standing on a dark stage, microphone in hand, quizzical expression on his face, saying “did you ever wonder why …”.

Keith Robinson’s Making It reminds me of those stand-up comics. Stand-up in those years was all about observational humor, and it’s in that niche that Robinson really excelled. Of course, I say ‘excelled’ because I find the strip wry and insightful, not because it was a huge commercial success.

Making It began on September 12 1985 as a feature in Easy Reader, an alt-weekly paper distributed in a few beachside southern California communities. Robinson says he self-syndicated it, but I don’t know how successful that was.

In 1987, Universal Press Syndicate became interested in the feature and picked it up for national syndication. The syndicated Sunday-only feature debuted sometime around December 1987, but failed to catch on. As you can see by the samples above, Making It wasn’t a conventional Sunday comics strip by any means. It was quite text-heavy, and the humor certainly didn’t mesh tightly with Garfield, Blondie and the rest of the funnies crowd. My guess is that newspaper editors didn’t really know what to make of it. Asking editors to think outside the box is rarely a paying proposition, and so the feature limped along with a few hip newspaper clients until around 1991.

After Universal bailed on the strip, Robinson was undaunted. He has continued it all these years, apparently appearing only in Easy Reader and perhaps a few other self-syndication clients, along with online appearances at Robinson’s own website and on GoComics. Ironically enough, Making It eventually swore off the text-heavy approach that marked its national syndication years, and now is generally a conventional multi-panel strip.

What I’ve seen of Making It is intelligent, insightful, and exhibits a class of humor seldom seen in conventional comic strips. If you are from a generation that can relate to 1980s-related humor, I highly recommend the two reprint books available of the early strips.

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