Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Kickstart the Week with Laugh It Forward! Comedy & Comics to Change the World!

By: Nicole D’Andria

If you’re looking for two comedy books filled with laughs and activism, you’ve come to the right “Kickstart the Week” feature! This Kickstarter highlights Sam Dealey’s webcomic laughtivism and includes Woohooligan! Volume 2 and Hellbent Volume 1.

Sam started the webcomic Woohooligan! in 2006, which includes everything from dick jokes to pop culture references to political commentary. The webcomics bring up issues such as racial or gender equity, LGBT+ rights, gun laws and economic justice. The second volume of Woohooligan! offered in this Kickstarter is 64 pages long and has numerous random comic strips, including Black History Month and Trickle Down Economics.

The other book offered is Hellbent Volume 1, also 64 pages, which is the beginning of Sam’s ongoing Hellbent story that he started back in April 2015. It’s about a girl named Amy who dies on page one, goes to Hell, goes to Heaven, then goes back to Hell and reinvents herself into bad girl Amity Vale. Things get even worse when she becomes pregnant and worries her child might be the antichrist.

The goal of the project is to raise $1,700 by April 5, 2018 at 11:59 PM EDT. Rewards include digital ($5) and/or physical ($25) copies of Woohooligan! Volume 2: Laugh It Forward and Hellbent Volume 1: Hell If I Know. Desktop wallpapers ($1), sketch cards ($10), comedy ringtones ($10; for a limited time only) and a bunch of other rewards are also available. You can check out the rest by going to the official Kickstarter page.

Update (5/16/2018): The original Kickstarter failed to reach its goal but was recently rebooted here.

Enjoy a tell-all interview with creator Sam Dealey below!

Sam Dealey

Me: What initially inspired you to start creating cartoons and comedy on Woohooligan! back in 2006?

Sam: Suicidal depression! I know, that answer is so cliché.

Things in my life got pretty bad after my ex and I split up at the end of 2001 and in '06 I finally got to a place where I had a fuck-deficit for all the wholly unreasonable demands people had been putting on me for years. (Demands that the court later affirmed were wholly unreasonable.) So I thought about what I wanted to do with my life for myself, and making people laugh was on the top of that list.

My first few stand-up comedy open-mics were also in 2006, where Tiffany and I were living in Austin. I was afraid it would be a tough room, because Austin's unofficial motto is "keep it weird". This is a city where a local celebrity and thong-wearing homeless transvestite ran for Mayor and got 11% of the vote. So I thought, "how can I top that?" They turned out to be really great audiences! In fact, I don't recall any failed punchlines in my first set. :D 

Me: How will your two graphic novels that the Kickstarter is supporting differ from the material available online?

Sam: Most of the material in the books will be what's on the site. There are some bonus panels with extra jokes that are available to all my patrons and those will also be in the books. I might also create a little new content for Hellbent, because there's not really bonus material for that story on the
Patreon currently. 

Me: What inspired the story of Hellbent?

Sam: It was a bit of a fluke actually. I had this joke about low-carb dieters being like Christian missionaries (though to be fair that really would be vegans) and as soon as I had published it, I had several follow-up jokes about how the demons were kicked out of heaven for wanting pork, etc.

Except for a brief period in my teens when I was trying to appease my mother, I've never been especially religious, and in recent years I identify as a Unitarian and a positive agnostic (for those unfamiliar, if an agnostic says "I don't know", a positive agnostic says, "you don't either"). I've always found mythology interesting and so I guess I'd absorbed a lot of Christian mythology over the years, like I know what the doctrine of transubstantiation is.

Anyway, I'd started writing this story about how in this version of Hell, all the stereotypical evangelical Christian ideas about which sins still apply are reversed. So there are gay people in heaven, but you still go to hell if you eat pork. (The point of the joke being that it makes as much sense that way as the other way.)

It turned out to be really fertile ground for a lot of comedy and after a month or so it dawned on me that there's a great long-form story there about identity, morality and destiny that I really wanted to tell. So I have an ending planned and it's still a ways off, so I'm not sure when it will be complete. :D

Me: How would you describe Amy, your protagonist in Hellbent?

Sam: Amy Noel is meant to be a typical midwestern girl. Young, not particularly politically-minded. The name "Amy" was chosen because it's the most common girl's name in these states, at least currently.

A little ways into the story she undergoes a personal transformation, changes her name to Amity Vale and starts smoking, drinking heavily, and sleeping around... it's not like she was a prude before, but she realizes that since she's already in hell, there's no reason to avoid or feel guilty about the things she'd been told were "sins".

This is all part of my master plan, muahahaha. :P

Me: A big part of your work is laughtivism. For people unfamiliar with the term, how would you describe it to them and why do you feel it’s important?

Sam: Laughtivism is activism with a sense of humor.

I think a lot of people have an image in their minds of what "political activism" means and think (or at least used to think) that it has to be done in the kind of super-serious way that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King approached it. While I'm truly grateful for the work they did and I know that sometimes people have to go through the firehoses (like they did again recently at Standing Rock), I believe that there is a lot of really good work that can be done without giving ourselves migraines and ulcers all the time.

I think learning to infuse our activism with comedy helps keep us in a better mood for the long-haul that is pushing for change. So it makes working for change easier, and hopefully will encourage more people to join us. Also, research shows that being in a better mood actually makes us smarter and more creative, so the work we do for change is actually better work when we're laughing. :D 

Me: What made you want to start telling people “Laughter is a Moral Imperative!” and how does this phrase influence your work?

Sam: Oh, gosh, can I answer that quickly? I'm not sure if I can... I'm not sure exactly how I got this idea... I think the phrase came to me sort of suddenly and then I had to google "moral imperative" because I'd heard the term, but wasn't sure exactly what the philosophers meant by it.

It turns out that it's "an action that would be unreasonable to omit." So a translation of the phrase in more common terms would be "a reasonable person must laugh," or possibly, "if you don't laugh, you are not reasonable."

I'm not sure it influences my work as much as it reminds me why I persist, especially when I'm struggling through the challenges and self-doubt that come with the early part of a creative career.

I wish I had a better, shorter way of explaining it. I think my
Laughtifesto is probably is the best explanation. 

Me: After Trump’s election and inauguration, how do you feel your comedy and laughtivism, as well as comedy and laughtivism at large, have changed?

Sam: I think it's become more important. I think we all need more stress-relief, and laughtivism is good for that in part because any laughter is good. Laughtivism is especially good right now because it also helps us focus on the problems causing the stress and keeps us looking for solutions instead of running to the nearest escape, whether that's drinking or reality TV.

Vox also published this great piece about how TV comedians like Sam Bee, Colbert and Seth Meyers have been providing BETTER NEWS in many cases than NEWS NETWORKS, because comedians can call bullshit and move on with their deep-dive instead of spending hours asking panels "is this bullshit bullshit?"

I've undergone a personal evolution that's interesting to me, because I used to resist making any political comedy. But every once in a while something would stick in my craw and I couldn't rest until I'd made a comic strip about "death panels" or some other bs. A year or so ago I realized that a lot of those political strips I had resisted making were some of my most popular works... and even then it took me a while to really embrace it. I only wrote the Laughtifesto and some other similar pieces like Punching Nazis: A Handy Guide in the past few months.

The reason I bring this up is because you asked about how Trump's election changed my comedy and it hadn't occurred to me until you asked that question, but I'm not sure if I would have embraced it the way I have if it hadn't been for the Trump presidency. I guess it cured me of my anxiety about being unabashedly political. :P

I also find myself more selective about the things I share on Twitter lately. I know there's nothing I can do about the fact that I'm going to occasionally retweet something that turns out to be flawed or a hoax, but I find myself much more frequently asking, "does this story really need more exposure, or is this a fly-over travesty?" Because there's too much information for any one of us to process it all, so I've become more selective. But if I have a good joke, then I'll share ANY story; it doesn't matter how small or petty the original news story was. :P

Me: You mention wanting to help people with your “artist spotlights”. What exactly will these entail and can you tell us about some of the people you will be spotlighting?

Sam: They're brief interviews, sort of like this one, highlighting a different comic artist or comedian. Some of them were people I approached because I liked something they were doing, like Jessica Uidischas, who makes cartoons about her experiences as a trans woman, or Catie Hogan, who wrote "The Millennial’s Guide to Getting Your Shit Together," which I picked because it contains semi-serious practical advice on money, which I think most of us could really use, especially now that the Trump tax bill passed. (We need a better name for that thing... Taxageddon? Taxocalypse? The Aristocrats?)

Anyway, I also put out a call for people to request spotlights, because I didn't want it to just be a list of people I personally liked; I wanted to have a better mix. I got 60 people on the list, so two per day, and I told them all there were no strings attached -- I'm not expecting them to pledge to my Kickstarter or anything, I just wanted to help them out.

Less than half of them have filled out the interview with only three days left before the Kickstarter launch. :P To be fair, I expected that, you know, people almost always wait to the last minute. And I suspect there might be a few who fall through for one reason or another, but hopefully I'll get most of them in. :D

Me: What is your favorite page of Woohooligan! and why is it your favorite?

Sam: My favorite... tough call, you know, they're all my babies. I think my favorite so far is the Life Lessons strip from 2015 that shows (among other things) Charlie Brown doing hard time at Leavenworth. It's not a riotously funny strip -- I think Fake It Till You Break It, about "fake news" is a bigger laugh. But the Life Lessons strip I think still really sums up my work's larger message of hope, like my Laughtifesto.

Me: What is the most popular page of your webcomic and why do you think it's your most popular piece of work? 

Sam: Oddly enough, that's also hard to say. There are several ways to measure that. The AddThis social media sharing statistics are probably the best measure, but the figures are skewed by people sharing the home page instead of the permalink and it only counts back 27 months out of the last 12 years.

That being said, outside of a Batman strip that was kind of a collage of current events from 2016, and Let the Wookiee Win, (both of which aren't fair because I ran advertisements on them), the most shared strip in the last three years is still All Generalizations Are False. It's one of my earliest strips, featuring a high-society zombie character named Nigel who's appeared in a number of other strips since then.


I think the cynical explanation would be "zombies are popular", but I don't really believe that. I'm not sure I can explain that one. I think a lot of people just find the thought of a posh, educated zombie with a likely British accent (despite being from New Jersey), in combination with the punchline about eating brains is really funny.

I guess I just hit what they call "mass market appeal" with it. I ain't complainin'! :D
Me: What is the number one reason why you think people should pledge your Kickstarter project?

Sam: To get some good laughs! And to contribute to them -- all the backers get to help me brainstorm the wallpapers and book covers. And of course, it's always nice when that book you got, or in our case some unusual rewards like personalized comedy ringtones, also contributes to a good cause like lifting people's spirits! :D

I know you said one. I'm so edgy! I'm a rebel! :P

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book creators?

Sam: I always thought Stan Lee's "excelsior!" was pretty inspirational. :P

No, I guess my words of inspiration would be "my life SUUUCKED... until recently." I grew up with undiagnosed autism, which contributed a lot to the depression I experienced until around 2006 when things started changing for me. You may be eating a lot of shit right now, I certainly have over the years, but if you can keep your sense of humor and keep working at the problems you're facing, you can eventually overcome them. And don't stop trying new things -- most of them will suck, and most of them will fail, but do them anyway, because you have to dig through a ton of rock to find a diamond.

And definitely, if you're a comic creator or a comedian and you'd like some advice or help with one of your projects, get in touch! I love helping! :D

Me: Thanks for your time Sam, and for your open, honest answers! If you’re reading this and interested in learning more about laughing it forward, check out Sam’s Kickstarter here.


Do you have a Kickstarter? Want to be interviewed about it and have the project featured on "Kickstart the Week?" Let me know in the comments below or message me on my website.

Other “Kickstart the Week” features:

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