How to Fake a Smile

This was one of my first really popular comics, and panel three is one of the most popular images I ever drew, right behind the logo of the comic.

It’s true. I have a fake looking smile. Any time I show teeth it looks weird and unnatural. It’s an affliction that both of my brothers suffer as well.

Any time our mom tried to take a picture of the three of us, it always went the same way. We’d smile with our mouths closed. Mom would tell us to smile. We’d say we were. She’d say “No, smile pretty! With teeth!” We’d say our smiles look fake. She’d tell us not to be silly and order us to smile. We’d do it, then she’d yell, “No, not like that! Don’t make stupid faces! Smile pretty!” There would be some arguing, and eventually she’d take a picture in which we all looked angry.

Looking at this comic now, I’m more than a little uncomfortable with the punchline in panel four. It’s not a joke I’d make today. In my defense, this comic was written back before people started referring to all homeless people as hobos. Back then it still meant men from the 1940s or earlier who hopped freight cars with their belongings in a bindle. The idea that it was such an anachronistic image added to the humor for me. As I remember it, a year or so later, some city with a large rail yard was terrorized by what the evening news called a “Murderous Hobo.” I heard that and asked, “Have we made no progress as a society?”

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