- Far Side comic strips featuring dogs are always funny, like the one with a group of people lost at sea and a dog ready to eat one of his fellow sailors to survive.
- Larson’s sense of humor shines in his dinosaur strip, where a stegosaurus delivers bad news about the state of their world, combining dark humor and clever commentary.
- Despite some initial confusion and outrage, the absurdity of Larson’s cow tools strip eventually became hilarious, even becoming a meme and showcasing Larson’s signature humor.
Since 1979, cartoonist Gary Larson has been taking readers to The Far Side with his own unique sense of humor, so it’s hard to pick a list of the funniest Far Side comics. Published in nearly every newspaper for over 40 years, readers all over the globe have fond memories of the comic strip, and certain installments have forever lodged in their brains.
From his invention of new words to his hilarious lampooning of day-to-day events, Larson’s magnum opus has never failed to make readers laugh or scratch their heads in confusion. Though all his strips are funny in their own way, the following 15 strips stand out as some of The Far Side’s most humorous.
15 Fair Is Fair
Many of the best Far Side installments had something to do with dogs, and whenever they were introduced into familiar scenarios, it was always funny. Featuring a company of people lost at sea, the panel casts a dog as a character ready to chow down on one of his fellow sailors to stay alive. Mixing Larson’s signature brand of dark humor with his love of all things canine, the strip only gets funnier the longer that the reader looks at it.
14 Dinosaur State of Affairs
Far Side dinosaur comics are among the most popular, and one strip featuring dinosaurs getting some bad news has certainly stood the test of time. A stegosaurus leads a conference and delivers dire information about the state of their world regarding climate and the rising threat of mammals.
The idea of dinosaurs being aware of their impending doom by natural events is indeed funny. Sure it serves as a dark reminder of the repeated warnings humanity has heard over and over again from scientists and professionals. But it also works as a dark form of gallows’ humor.
Not all of Larson’s works were immediately met with cheers, and some even had viewers so confused that they were outraged.
Essentially the first comic character to ever become a meme, the perplexing image of a cow standing over an array of useless implements riled up the Far Side faithful, to the point that Larson thought this comic would end his career. Though there is nothing inherently funny about the strip on the surface, the sheer absurdity of the image and caption eventually began to elicit laughter.
While most people don’t take comic strips too seriously, one Larson classic actually had a real impact on the science of paleontology.
Cavemen were some of Larson’s favorite muses, and he uses the age-old formula to poke fun at modern people. Poor old Thag met his end by a dinosaur’s tail, and the comic strip was so funny that the nonsense word “Thagomizer” has actually been adopted into the paleontological lexicon.
11 Midvale School For The Gifted
While TV shows, movies, and even video games have been set in schools, whenever Larson touched on the subject, readers knew it was going to be hilarious. So simple and yet so hilarious, the image of a boy attempting to push open a pull door will never not be sidesplitting. Below the simple surface gag, the strip is also making clever commentary about how book smart people sometimes lack common sense. Many Far Side comics grew to have lives of their own, but some have become hilarious staples of popular culture.
10 Sick, Sick!
Aside from dogs, Larson’s main muse when crafting a Far Side comic was the trusty bovine. Larson was never afraid to put his cow subjects in absurd situations, and seeing a cow getting chewed out for grilling something is so much funnier than if it was a human. The comic shows off more of Larson’s dark sense of humor as the reader can only assume that the cow is grilling meat from his own kind.
9 Didn’t Wash Hands
The Far Side finds a lot of humor in the social contracts humans abide by and this strip certainly gets mileage out of one of the most important. Just as a man is returning from the washroom, an alarm rings out in big, bold letters “DIDN’T WASH HANDS“, as everyone in the restaurant looks over at the unfortunate soul.
Humans can’t ever know if someone’s ever washed their hands after using the restroom, and there’s obviously no authority to ensure they do. But Larson presents hilarious look at a world where hand-washing isn’t just required, it’s punished if one steps outside the contract the rest of humanity has agreed to.
8 Wings Fall Off Switch
Though Gary Larson was often extremely clever with his witty jokes when crafting a Far Side comic, his best work sometimes came when he got a little silly. While there are plenty of that movies should never be watched on an airplane as they take advantage of people’s fear of flying, rarely is anything humorous ever made of the common phobia. The mundane nature of a man fumbling with an extremely dangerous switch is so nerve-wracking that it is hilarious, and the simplicity of the “wings fall off” switch is so simple that it’s genius.
7 A Duck Is Watching
On top of his knack for inventing paleontological terms, Larson penned a few new phobias into existence as well, and they were always hilarious. When Larson was on his A-game, his panels would reveal themselves slowly to the reader. His duck phobia comic certainly fits that bill as the viewer’s eye is forced to wander the entire image before getting the whole story. The fact that the animal chosen is a duck is no coincidence, and there is something hilarious about being afraid of such an innocuous animal.
6 ‘Hog’ Heaven
Gary Larson loved wordplay and puns in The Far Side. One strip takes the common phrase ‘hog heaven’ and takes it to its natural conclusion. Rather than joining the rest of humanity in heaven, a man named Ernie is sent to an afterlife meant for pigs.
The wordplay is simple, but highly effective. Usually ‘hog heaven’ implies someone is exactly where they want to be. But in poor Ernie’s case, he’s going to be spending the rest of eternity sitting on a cloud with a bunch of pigs. It’s sad for Ernie, but it’s hilarious for everyone else.
5 Never Knew What Hit Him
While most movies depict aliens as scary, Far Side always took a less hard-edged approach to visitors from outer space. Taking a clichéd phrase and spinning it for new meaning, Larson’s classic depiction of drive-by alien assault is almost understated in its genius. From the bewildered look on poor Henry’s face to the comical “boink” sound effect, the comic is equally charming and uproariously funny.
4 Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t
Gary Larson could even make the concept of Hell a funny scenario in The Far Side. In this strip’s case, a man finds himself condemned to Hades and forced to choose between two doors: One marked “Damned if you do” and the other marked “Damned if you don’t”.
Obviously, Larson is getting humor out of the usual saying, but what makes the strip hilarious is the devil’s annoyance at a man who can’t grasp with the most literal interpretation of the saying. It’s a fantastic setup that really finds the humor in eternal damnation.
One of the keys to Larson’s comedic genius was that he used hyper-specific language which was so particular that readers couldn’t help but laugh. Pulling from his phobia series, this funny Far Side strip uses the much-real fear of being chased by wolves, but contextualizing it to involve a kitchen table and socks on a freshly waxed floor turns something scary into something wacky. Though Larson was far from a picture-perfect illustrator, the panel conveys motion in such a silly way that the slapstick nature of the moment shines through perfectly.
2 Wolves in Sheeps’ Clothing
Animals with human personalities are a staple of The Far Side and this comic finds a lot of humor in a pack of wolves. While it appears the wolves are in among a flock of sheep, they’re all actually wolves dressed up as sheep, shocked that there isn’t any actual sheep in the field.
Again, Larson takes a common phrase and flips it on its head. A wolf in sheep’s clothing usually implies a threat among innocents. But here, there are no innocents, just a bunch of wolves who picked the worst possible flock of sheep to infiltrate. Hilarious.
1 Canine Decoder
Other comic strips like Garfield, were based exclusively around the inner thoughts of a pet, but Larson often tackled the subject with a bit more strangeness. One of the all-time funniest Far Side has the following caption: “Donning his new canine decoder, Professor Schwartzman becomes the first human being on Earth to hear what barking dogs are actually saying.“
Speaking to the loving and friendly nature of man’s best friend, the panel shows that all the dogs want to do is say hello. Funny in its simplicity, the panel is also quite heartwarming as it shows that the artist truly loves his canine friends, even if he often pokes fun at them.
Gary Larson has made thousands of comic strips, but these 15 stand out as some of the funniest in The Far Side history.