Robot 6

‘Savage Chickens': Office humor on office supplies

chickenweekendAh, Post-it notes. Legend says they was created by accident: Spenser Silver was tasked by 3M to create a super-strong adhesive, and in a folly that would rock the office world to the core, he created the exact opposite, a weak, pressure-sensitive adhesive. That invention would go on to grace the backs of small scraps of paper all over the world.

Post-it notes come in all sizes and colors these days; on my desk are blue, green, orange and hot pink Post-it notes ranging in sizes from as small as 2 inches by 2 inches to as large as 4 inches by 6 inches … although I’m told even bigger sizes exist. Still, the color and size immediately recalled when you hear “Post-it note” is the standard, pale yellow 3-inch square.

Post-it notes serve a variety of purposes: You can fold them into a paper airplane, you can paper them on your window as a tribute to Super Mario Bros., and sometimes you can take notes on them. What Doug Savage does, however, is turn them into a long-running webcomic, Savage Chickens.

The cartoon recalls days spent distracting oneself from responsibilities by doodling crude works of art on a handy miniature sketchpad that’s far more inexpensive and plentiful than a Moleskine notebook. In Savage’s case, he ended up drawing chickens … or more accurately, crudely drawn fowl with plummy, lip-like beaks and big fat bodies. And, oh, yeah, those eyes. They communicate so much. Soullessness. Fatigue. Exasperation. All these emotions conveyed by two big circles with tiny dots in the middle. (Lest you think this is a shallow observation, it’s also the same guiding principle Jim Henson employed when designing the Muppets.)

chickengraphsThe perils of the workday world are reflected in these chickens: Like us, they must put up with the mundane world lived in front of a computer screen. You can almost imagine Savage scribbling these out while being hammered by a deadline and putting together an inscrutable PowerPoint. The dark humor of modern office life seeps in: You spend your days working, or pretending to work, but by the end of the day it feels like nothing has been accomplished beyond maintaining the status quo of the faceless cubicle farm. It’s got all the trenchant observation of Dilbert, only far more adorable.

Except while Dilbert sorta ditched a lot of fantastical elements once it gained its reputation as the “No. 1 strip to pin on the walls of your office cubicle” (bye, Bob the Dinosaur), Savage Chickens more or less commits to the silliness that’s been there since the beginning. One day you might get a chicken reaching critical ennui. Another day, you might have a laser moose. It’s a world of both the absurdity of the mundane and unapologetic goofiness.

For all these reasons and more, I consider Savage Chickens to be the superior office humor comic. While they have graced my cubicle walls in the past, Dogbert, Catbert and the Pointy-Haired Boss only exist in collected works buried deep within the catacombs of my bookshelves at home. However, three entire Savage Chickens cartoons have hallowed positions at my work desk. One sees a chicken relieve to escape his work computer, only to run immediately to his home computer. Another has two chickens standing around a water cooler, with one saying, “This is the highlight of my day.” And the third is a drawing of a calendar with a project plan, with most of the days blocked out for “Ignore Project” while the last week simply says “PANIC.”

What can I say? IT SPEAKS TO ME.

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