I Don't Get This "Tumbleweeds" Cartoon

Claude Clay, the undertaker, is talking to the Sheriff.

CC: “Watch my shop, Sheriff. I’ll be back in a few days.”
CC: “They’re staging an embalmathon in Dodge City to raise fund to cure insomnia among toe taggers.”
CC: "If you need me it’s being held at – "

This looks like the standard set-up for a pun that’s so obvious, it doesn’t have to be stated explicitly. But I am simply doggoned if I can figure it. Any help?

… the morgue?

The cow tool factory?

The morgue!

It depends on what he means by “toe taggers.” Is that clear from the illustration? are they literally people who do nothing but toe tag corpses, or is he using “toe tagger” as a slang term for killer? what’s an “embalmathon?” Is he actually saying that there’s a mass execution for killers, and that’s what “curing their insomnia” is, in which case, he will be somewhere in the vicinity of the hangman’s noose, helping to deal with the bodies.

I wish you could link to the whole cartoon.

I think “embalmathon” and “toe-taggers” are pretty clear references to undertakers (or maybe forensic pathologists, if they had them back then). I would assume their grisly work makes it difficult for them to sleep at night, hence the reference to insomnia.

And as we all know from watching Gunsmoke, the rate of violent death in Dodge City was always quite high in those days.

To quote Jerry Hubbard, it’s perfectly clear to me!

Also, Claude Clay is specifically identified as the undertaker. Duh! :smack:

You could try emailing the artist directly.

Edit: Tom Ryan is still alive, but 90. I can’t promise that he’s checking his email.

The whole cartoon wouldn’t help. It’s just the two figures talking.

Alas, no, he doesn’t… I emailed, asking “Whatever happened to Green Gills?” and there was no response.

(I miss Green Gills. Maybe he actually jumped off Lovers’ Leap.)

I can’t believe “the morgue” is the answer. It isn’t funny or clever, involves no play on words, or anything unexpected. If it is the answer, that’s one of the lamest strips outside of The Family Circus.

Boot Hill? Because those who die with boots on don’t need toe taggers. Seems a little thin.

Howard Johnson’s.

Think about it…

Clap, clap, clap.

Hokay, esplain. I don’t get this, either!

True this! Now, Tumbleweeds is capable of a long set-up for a weak pun. Ryan went through hoops to set up “Lives of a Bagel Lancer.” But at least there’s a pun there. Sorta. The strip I’m looking at has all of the hallmarks of a big pun set-up… But where’s the pun?

Cow tools” was an infamous Far Side strip which shows a cow standing in front of a table with various odd implements. According to Larson, the ‘joke’ of it is just supposed to be “Look at the cow and the silly things” but he made the mistake of making one of the tools look like a saw. The result was people certain that there was deeper meaning to the cartoon if only they could decipher what the other tools were. But the other tools were just nonsense and there was no deeper meaning. Newspaper editors got flooded with letters demanding to know the joke and Larson got a number of angry letters demanding to know what he meant. It was just a dumb joke that went completely out of control (Larson admits that his first mistake was in thinking that the comic’s premise was at all funny).

^^^ What he said. ^^^

I remember Tumbleweeds in its day was wildly popular with a lot of the Native American tribes in the area, who published it in their tribal newspapers. I would often see clipped out cartoons stuck on refrigerators in homes, on bulletin boards in tribal offices, etc.

It was a pretty non-P.C. cartoon, but Ryan made fun of everyone equally and from what tribal members told me when I asked why it was so popular, they just enjoyed the broad humor, liked seeing Indian characters in the strip, and liked the continuing cast of the Poohawk tribe (plus, the Indians often won…)

Who says the punch line has to be laugh-out-loud funny?

Other possible answers:

Matt Dillon’s place.

Doc Adams’ place.

Miss Kitty’s place (the Long Branch Saloon).

None of these are knee-slappers either.

I don’t get it either, but it seems significant to me that he mentions Dodge City.

So Boot Hill, Long Branch Saloon, or something (I hope) figures in the unsaid punchline.

And insomnia. What Dodge City locale would help put one to sleep?

I hope there’s some lame payoff akin to “It’s a knick-knack, Kerouac. Give the Frog a loan,” but there’s probably not. 90 year old comic strip artists probably can’t manage that.