The Webcomic Overlook #159: Toonhole

I’ve brought up the subject of John Kricfalusi on this blog before. Needless to say, I’m not much a fan of his style. Now, I appreciate his love and respect for cartooning history, since I too have a similar love the cleverness and creativity in classic newspaper comic strips as shown in my “Know Thy History” entries. While I don’t agree with him, I love how he seems to have a disdain for Pixar, The Simpsons, and anime. It’s a refreshing, unconventional stand, and I like how he backs himself up with the passion of a thousand burning suns.

However, I don’t think he’s as revolutionary of a cartoonist as many think he is. In fact, at the risk of drawing hatemail from hardcore John K fans, I think he’s a bit overrated. Much has been said of how he brought the veiny “ugly” style of cartooning and gross-out gags into the mainstream. It’s revolutionary! Maybe. But to me, the intentionally off-putting art style was just that… off-putting. Some people will see Powder Toast Man thrust his hairy nipples in Ren’s eyes and find it the pinnacle of humor. I am not one of those people, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

In fact, I think Craig McCracken and Bruce Timm have had more influence. Powerpuff Girls made it safe for simple, retro-style cartoons that dominated Cartoon Network for over a decade. Meanwhile, Batman: The Animated Series signaled a significant improvement for action toons: the static, kitchy 80’s styles from Dic and Sunbow turned into a fluid, flexible style that emphasized action and movement. Heck, I’d go so far to say that Mike Judge did more for the “ugly” style of cartooning than John K. What did Ren & Stimpy influence? Spongebob Squarepants … and that’s about it.

(You could probably argue that John K. is a major influence for KC Green, and for that I’m thankful. However, I’d still read way more KC Green than watch one episode of Ren & Stimpy. It’s like KC Green was better at being John K. than John K. was.)

It’s probably fair to say, though, that Aaron J. Paetz, Chris Allison, Ryan Kramer, and Mike Nassar don’t feel the same way. They’re the cartoonists behind Toonhole, which oozes the Spumco style from every pore.

Now, I should warn you, the links on this site are definitely not going to be of the safe-for-work variety. I don’t feel like tagging every link with an NSFW, so I just warn you now: proceed at your own risk. Don’t click on any link lest your boss look over your shoulder to see… well, we’ll go into detail later.


The Toonhole guys seem to be inspired by John Kricfalusi in more ways than simply by the art style. They seem to have bought into John K’s entire philosophy… and then some. John K, for example, is quite outspoken about his stance against political correctness. There’s his argument that it isn’t necessarily racist when you draw caricatures of Black people. He’s been very upfront about his love for Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs, a cartoon that’s been notoriously banned for its racist humor and imagery.

I have some sympathy toward this stance. It came up not too long ago when MSNBC pundit Lawrence O’Donnell slammed Batton Lash for drawing racist caricatures of President Obama on his online comic, Obama Nation. Batton Lash responded with the following: “What’s racist about it? Cartooning—specifically political cartooning– has always been about exaggeration, whether it was Nixon’s prominent jowls, Carter’s toothy smile, or Bush ll’s beady eyes. If our current president is exempt because of the color of his skin, I think that would be racist.” Despite the politics, I actually found myself siding with Mr. Lash on this. (Which doesn’t even factor in O’Donnell’s low-blow in calling out Mr. Lash’s wife and urging viewers to harass her at home.) I wouldn’t go so far as to totally exonerate Coal Black … but I think there should be some leeway with facial features with regards to caricature.

However, there is a fine line between “freedom of speech” and “going too far.” For example, there was the time when Ren & Stimpy transitioned to the Adult Party Cartoon block on Spike TV. Unbridled from those hateful censors at Nickelodeon, John K let his id run free. And thus, every joke became something about swallowing spit and vomit and you get the idea. It was gross. It pushed the envelope of good taste. It was also not that funny. Practically everyone hated it. Only six episodes were ever produced.

The guys behind Toonhole seem to have come to completely different conclusion. (Oh God. Can’t I stall this review any further? Looks like I’m going to have to talk about … sigh … Toonhole.) “Hmmm,” they seem to have said, “maybe the reason the new Ren & Stimpy failed was because it just wasn’t being edgy enough. We need to be even MORE politcally incorrect! Then we shall reach humor nirvana! Boys, to the Toonhole-mobile!” And thus, Toonhole was born… a deluded notion that there’s a golden formula where being more offensive is directly proportional to being more funny.

And, so, at least half of Toonhole is about dick jokes. I’m not even exaggerating. It’s dick joke after dick joke after dick joke. There are jokes about how huge someone’s member is. There are plenty of gags about getting a blow job. Can you believe there’s a comic about a bull typing up the cows so he can get his one-eyed trouser snake digtally stimulated by the farmer? Such cheek! Or how about the one where an Indian christens a newborn blessed blessed with a massive John Thomas by announcing: “We shall call him Trips-On-Dick.” How ribald! Surely if I were some sort of elegant Victorian lady, I would be fainting dead away by now.

I mean, who giggles uncontrollably when they hear the word “tip”? If dirty thoughts came to your mind whenever the word “tip” was brought up, you’d probably be in a lot of trouble every time you’re calculating the 15% every time you’re taking your significant other out for dinner, right? But the guys as Toonhole hear the phrase “tip of the iceberg,” and you can be pretty damn certain that they’re thinking “penis.” Then again, I may be totally missing the point here. Maybe they’re not trying to be funny. Maybe they just like drawing penises. God… how old are these guys… twelve?

But then you run into the poop jokes, likely the second most popular (or “poopular,” ah HA HA HA ha ha… ha… eh) joke on the site, and suddenly you say to yourself, “Nope. I was wrong. These guys can’t be older than eight.” Now, I realize that not too long ago I sang the praises of a poop joke presented on another webcomic site. I will fully admit to publishing the following phrase on my blog: “…who knew that the image of Luke Skywalker squatting to poop was just what I needed to make me smile today?” So what changed?

Well, in the case of the Space Avalanche strip, the joke is more about what we already know about these characters, the shocked expression on Leia’s face, the pleased expression of Luke’s face, how Han’s phrase is so similar to something he’d say in the movie trilogy that we can almost hear it in our heads. It’s not really about the poop… which kinda look like yams. With Toonhole, the poop IS the joke. It’s about getting pooped on or swallowing poop. (By the way, a word on that last one: ew.) These are seriously the laziest ways to set up a joke ever.

Penises! Poop! Why aren’t you laughing, bro?

Needless to say, Toonhole is engaged in futile attempt after futile attempt to push the shock value like a hack comedian at the Apollo. Toonhole plunges into familiar depths of loathesomeness, quipping about pedophile priests, amputees, and suicidal fat people. They’re the “Yo momma’s so fat” jokes of webcomics, only, you know, not actually humorous.

In fact, the gages are so tired they seem to be lifted straight out of The New York Cab Driver’s Joke Book — a collection of stale jokes that seem designed to elicit revulsion rather than humor and have been told a hundred times already, you hack cabbie. Hey, have you heard the one about the vampire that went down on a woman going through her period? Ya have? Eh, then how about that female sex addict counseling center where the guys are more than happy to assist? You heard that one eh? Well, there’s one about Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Invisible Man… oh, wait. Toonhole hasn’t done that one.

Yet.

And then there’s the moment when comic transitions from “mild discomfort” to “full blown revulsion.” You know, despite John K.’s love for Coal Black, I don’t think he personally has penned anything that approaches racist caricature. Not so with Toonhole. You get an inkling of the cartoonists’ political stance when we get a comic about Honest Abe giving a speech about freeing the slaves one moment, and then hypocritcally being carried on a ride lifted by four slaves. This gets even worse, later, when we run into a cartoon about a Klansman getting railroaded in a court of law by a bunch of Black “gangsta” caricatures.

Blacks aren’t the only minority group featured in Toonhole. We get a cartoon of an Arab baby is shown playing in a sandbox while jealously stealing a glance at the white kid’s airplanes. Oh boy, I wonder what’s going to happen when he gets his hands on those! Shenanigans, I’ll bet! There’s also a stereotypical Mexican is shown eying a green card. Man, who needs those when they’re just gonna enter the country illegally anyways, amirite? I hope he doesn’t end up marrying that magician guy to gain citizenship! AWWWWKKKKWAAARRRDDDD!

But what’s that, you say? Maybe they don’t care much for minorities, but at least women get a fair share? Oh, you blind deluded fool. Don’t you know that women are useless unless they’re in the kitchen? There’s not one but TWO comics where a guy either smacks around his wife or feeds her to the sharks for being a mouthy dame. And… that’s it. That’s the joke. Or how about that one comic about a little girl who gets a black eye because she’s playing house? Domestic abuse is COMEDY GOLD!

Now, I’m not surprised that Toonhole exists. I’ve run into many, many repulsive webcomics over the years. Toonhole is just one of them. What does surprise me is how popular this webcomic is. Compete.com tells me that the comic attracted close to 72K readers last month. Then again, we’ve seen webcomic readers make home made “DICK WOLVES” T-shirts (which prompted an officical version). We’ve also seen some transform the “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day” thing from a statement against censorship like the founders intended into a forum for contributors to spew vile racism.

Heck, as of this writing, Toonhole has managed to make it onto Reddit’s Comics That Are Awesome list (which is how I came across it). Please be assured, dear reader, that this categorization is incorrect. Toonhole is not awesome in the slightest. In fact, it’s the polar opposite. Anti-awesome. Or just plain vile, gross, and worthless.

If anyone ever emails you a link to a Toonhole toon, do yourself a favor and follow these steps:

1.) Douse your computer in gasoline.
2.) Set your computer on fire.
3.) Tell your insurance agent that your house burned down for “Toonhole related reasons.” They will understand.

Rating: 1 star (out of 5)

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on March 21, 2011, in 1 Star, adult webcomic, comedy webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Insurance check’s in the mail.

  2. I think the thing about Kricfalusi is that most people (me) became familiar with him when they (I was) were kids, which is when random gross-out humour WAS the very height of comedic accomplishment. And then the usual nostalgia got to work.

    The thing about this comic though, is that the art is too clean. Half the reason people (me) like Ren & Stimpy so much is because the art and animation was gross, which was awesome. This? I’m not going to get grossed out when your depictions of shit and bloody tampons are so smooth and clean that they look like clip-art.

    Although I have to admit, I chuckled a bit at the idea of a guy taking a dump through a diver’s breathing tube as a prank.

  3. Have to agree on finding Kricfalusi over-rated. Ren & Stimpy had its moments, but they were generally from some weird idea and not the ugly close-ups. I have enjoyed other artists who list him as a big influence, like Josh Lesnick…

    But after clicking thru on a few of the provided links for this..comic..I just feel unclean. Awful, awful thing…

  4. i don’t really hate toonhole… i just can’t judge the level of irony they’re working on at all. i have no idea how self-aware the authors are. zero idea. i’m baffled. stimied. i don’t know whether the joke is ‘poop’ or whether the joke is supposed to be that the joke is poop, if you follow.

    i do like the art.

  5. ugh. This is stupid.

  6. Great review! You had me LOL’ing quite a lot… Thanks El Santo!

  7. Yeah, you didn’t find what you’re looking for at our site, El Santo. But I’m glad you wrote us a review and at least checked us out. Have a great week!

  8. I can’t say I was a fan of Ren & Stimpy as a kid. I watched it only because my older brother had the remote all the time.

    The thing about this comic is that it’s just stupid. With some of the disturbing things on the internet it takes a new type of idiocy to think you’re pushing the envelope with something you’re posting on the internet. I get enough of these jokes from random 11 year olds playing online fps games, and they tell them better than this!

  9. As a reader of toonhole for me it’s all about the guilty pleasures. I love 80’s Schwarzenegger action movies, but they aren’t the only movies I like. I can watch and appreciate Commando and then do the same with The Third Man and get immense enjoyment out of both. Hey, there are a million webcomics, cartoons, and comic books out there! I regularly dig a ton of them, but there are few that appeal to my inner 13 year old like toonhole… and that’s a good thing.

  10. Reminds me of the cartoons one usually finds in Playboy or Penthouse. I think the humor is off the type usually shared between cartoonists that never leak unto the public sphere, we all have our share of dirty inapropriate cartoons we would never dare publish or show off, so i’m not really offended or surprised by them at all.

    Kind of like “The Aristocrats” joke

    As for the art style, it’s a shame the american cartoon style is so underrated on the webcomics scene, who knows, maybe it will be back on the spotlight when the manga craze finally dies out and other artists continue improving upon their craft and look for different influences.

  11. If there was ever a dictionary example of a myopic fanboy mistaking nostalgia for quality, it’s John Kricfalusi.

    As for the comic: The artist should fire the writer.

  12. I get the “hey, we’re just gonna make cartoons from the id, with no limits!” thing, but these are awfully cocktail napkin-y jokes.

  13. Surprisingly enough, I was never much into gross-out stuff as a kid, and as such avoided Ren and Stimpy. However, when the series came out on DVD when I was in my teens, I checked it out for the heck of it, and to my surprise, I freakin’ loved it! Not for the gross-out stuff, but for the demented sense of humor that it had, as well as what went on with the art style. To this day, I still hold Ren and Stimpy’s five-season Nickelodeon run in high regard (yeah, that’s right, I’m including the three seasons that John K. didn’t work on! Bite me, fanboys!). But I am willing to admit that it is very much an acquired taste, and doesn’t always work; for instance, Adult Party Cartoon, as you said, tried waaaayyy too hard to be shocking/gross/out-there, and just ended up being an ugly, unpleasant smear on the original’s legacy. And I won’t lie, Kricfalusi may be a great cartoonist (your mileage may vary, of course), and I do think his influence is a bit more than you give it credit for, but he can also be a really pompous, self-important snob, and I’m not going to treat him like an untouchable saint of his field.

    But anyway, on to the comic at hand. This, I think, is one of the worse showcases of people inspired by ole’ John on the web, mixing everything that’s bad about his work and none of the good (though the artwork isn’t bad in and of itself; it’s just put to terrible use). Mixed bag as it can be (though it has been getting much better about that), I’d say the Dumm Comics is a much better look into Kricfalusi-inspired stuff in the webcomic scene. I know you did review it a while back, but quite a few newer comics have been added and then left, and some of the older fare has left as well. One of my friends from deviantART, Kyle Carrozza, has a comic up there now, called Frog Raccoon Strawberry. Some of the earlier strips can get kinda random, but trust me, once it gets going, it’s really quite good.

    P.S. I hope you and the missus are doing well. I’m not sure if I’ve asked this before, but does it seem strange/annoying that I call her ‘the missus’? Well, anyway, peace, and kudos for another awesome review.

    • Thanks for your response!

      I’m sure my wife doesn’t mind the “missus” title. Heck, I’ve called her “Mrs. Santo” … somewhere …. so it works for me too. :)

  14. After browsing through a good deal of their archive I agree that a lot of the jokes are juvenile, but I really enjoy their aesthetic and some of these are pretty funny. I also like that they alternate between definitely NSFW and childish stuff. Sounds like you quickly developed a bad taste in your mouth and it prevented you from enjoying ANYTHING they have to offer. Thanks for the link!

  15. As soon as I saw “toon” in the title I knew I wouldn’t like this comic. That word conjures up baaaaad memories of certain animation nerds I’ve encountered on the Internet.

  16. I burned down my computer and told my insurance company that they didn’t understand anything!! :(

  17. lol OP is a faggot lol

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