Work and school schedules. Deadlines. Spirit crumbling tragic daily headlines. All this and more tends to derail me from the vital stuff of life: play, smiles, and laughter.

While teaching my final class at OSU on Māori (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) film director Taika David Waititi’s bold and risky use of humor to launch Thor: Ragnarok, I realized that I hadn’t had a good chuckle in a long while. I discussed with my students how we as a species (as far as we know, at least) have evolved the unique capacity to create objects—plays, stories, stand-up performances, films, TV shows, and comic books—that aim to trigger laughter.  And, that not only does the brain-at-play operate at its optimum in terms of memory and opening to new ways of seeing the world (as opposed to the stressed-out brain that shuts down), but it can and does work as a social glue.  Laughter can bring people together.  Laughter can heal.

In all of this discussion with students of the importance of laughter in our everyday lives, I remembered that I had my antidote waiting at home: my little bitty stack of the Mashbone & Grifty volumes.

So, that afternoon I set aside grading, newspaper perusing, and administrative emailing. Instead, I flipped open volume 2: “Are You Ready for Some Death-Ball?”, joining up with Mashbone and Grifty sitting on some steps outside of a sperm bank; not surprisingly, these rascally misfits’ sperm had been rejected and so were still in desperate need of rent money.  And, not surprisingly, instead of lassoing a paid client for their private dick services, they end up playing (for money) an illicit game of Hobo Football.  As it turns out, Grifty quarterbacks a victory at the “Battle Jam”. And, this unforeseen upset leads to big money losses for the luchador-masked kingpin, Jefe; the game was supposed to be fixed in Jefe’s favor. Grifty and Mashbone don’t take home any winnings, but they do win a few months free rent from their marauding landlord, an admiring Hobo Football fan.

Summarily, I moved onto to volume 3, “Li’l Bitty Crimmus”, where I joined Mashbone, Grifty, and Cheddaburger deep in debate on the existence or not of Santa. With a dramatic entrance, Li’l Bitty arrives. He’s an elf who speaks like Elmer Fudd. He’s an elf with a problem at work. He tells the sleuthing dicks: “My boss came back fwom his vacation and he’s been acting. . . weeyod. [. . .] He also has this. . .weeyod wook in his eyes”.  Again, the dynamic duo don’t earn a centavo on this job, but they do end up saving Crimmus. And this, after a run in with axe-wielding and poison-cookie killing imposters of Mr. and Mrs. Santa. They save Crimmus and restore belief in a not-so-fairytale version of Santa Claus and his little bitty elves.

With Mashbone & Grifty volumes 2 and 3, there’s blood, decapitations, death-by-cookies. There’s all sorts of grotesqueries. However, as seen already in volume 1 “The First Rule. . .”, Oscar and Rolando are pitch perfect in just how they combine the gruesome (and corporeally crude) with a turn of phrase and visual ink-line that creates a reflex of uproarious fun and unstoppable chortles.  And, as we smile and laugh, Oscar and Roland provide pause in our everyday, seriously busy lives for this life-giving and life-affirming thing we do when we play, smile, and laugh.