As I tweeted the other day,. I am now definitely HOOKED ON STRIP SEARCH, the Penny Arcade produced reality show about cartoonists. We’ve now seen the first challenge and the first elimination (both above) and in case you are wondering THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.

By chance I happened to watch Strip Search Ep. 4 right after watching The Ultimate Fighter Ep. 8, and they both melded together in my mind! So the recap below may be confused.

In Episode three, all 12 cartoonists—who are living in a house filled with chocolate pudding and wacoms—have their first challenge, designing a T-shirt. This was kind of a genius challenge, because as a webcomicker, designing a t-shirt is an important part of monetizing. In fact, the guy announcing the challenge said “Since you need to monetize your strip, you need to make a t-shirt.” Bam. This was the much dreaded non visual “drawing contest” that has previously made a comics-based reality show unlikely. Maybe it’s just me, but I wasn’t bored at all and enjoyed seeing the contestants take varying stabs at the concept, each explaining what they were going for.

In the end, some weren’t iconic enough (Katie) and one, the guy with the hair (Alex) drew a little Hogwarts-type crest which was, I thought, an acceptable concept, but the execution was lacking. The winner was the insecure, ambitious one, Amy! She never even took off her fingerless gloves! And in a brutal twist, she got to choose the two contestants for elimination! She ended up choosing the guy with the hair and Katie Rice, whose t-shirt had been maybe not the best but she is clearly one of the finest artists in the house. So maybe a little rival elimination there?

Throughout the contest, the cartoonists kept behaving like young cartoonists, and saying how dubious they were about their designs and talent overall. Self-doubt, the badge of the cartoonist! After one disparaging word from the judges one of them says (I don’t remember who but it could have been anyone) “My confidence was already low and now it was shot!”

Welcome to commercial art, kid.


Anyway, flash forward to Episode 4 in which Katie and The Guy With The Hair are brought before Mike and Jerry to engage in a final battle: after drawing random concepts from a wastepaper basket they have 90 minutes to create a comic strip using those two elements. The concepts were
Space” and “Ping Pong.”

To be honest, this was no contest. Hair man has been drawing comics for about a year, and Katie worked on Ren and Stimpy. (What was that I said about the women being way more accomplished?)

While they drew, Mike and Jerry taunted the contestants and made jokes about letting bats into the room.


Meanwhile, back at the fighting house, we learned that Australian Dylan Andrews grew up on a hydroponic farm surrounded by marijuana plants as tall as elephants, and he began fighting because he knew he was good at it and the rest of his family was stoned senseless and someone had to DO SOMETHING.


His opponent, Zak Cummings, is from a tribe known only as The Jaw People. He never worked on Ren and Stimpy and neither did the Australian pot refugee. Instead they are two kinda mediocre fighters whom no one expects to excel. In fact Zac tried out for the show SEVEN TIMES before he got on.


Meanwhile, the cartoonists are drawing.


Back at the Ultimate Fighter, to liven things up the two coaches—master psychologist Chael Sonnen who is an incredible coach and champ John Jones  who is not— have a coaches challenge that involves the two of them piloting gigantic tractor claws (or whatever you call them) to pile up dirt and throw tires and stuff. It’s like the climax of that Tintin movie only real and I have to say it is the most all-out display of pure real life fighting man Transformers shit I’ve ever seen. It is EXTREME. It’s like that testosterone patch where if you touch it and then touch your wife she starts growing a beard.


Back at the cartoon challenge, Mike Krahulik ask Katie if she was aware that Amy was probably just trying to get her eliminated. Did Katie go after her with jiu jitsu? No, says Katie because, “I didn’t want her to feel bad.”

Did we mention these are cartoonists and they are nice people? Hair Alex, who draws a lot like the Penny Arcade guys, is under no illusions that he’s better than Amy. He knows she’s more experienced and draws better at this point, a fact backed up when the Penny Arcade guy looks over his shoulder and says “What’s interesting is … seeing you copy my mistakes.” Alex begins to wonder when he’ll be able to audition for that road company of Jesus Christ Superstar.


While all this banter is going on, Dylan and Zak get in the cage and start banging and although Zak opens a nasty cut on Dylan’s scalp, its in a non-dangerous place, and Dylan’s superior position enables a crimson rain to pour down on Zak and everything. Extreme, I tell you. Extreme, blood, half naked men. Back hoes.

Katie and Alex keep drawing on their wacoms. Although Alex’s cartoon is in color, even a glance shows that Katie’s looks much fresher.


The Zak/Dylan fight has turned boring, as most fights between evenly matched by mid-level fighters do. More blood. Dylan stays on top for most of a low-energy round and to no one’s surprise, is the winner.

Finally, time’s up and Mike and Jerry banish Alex and Katie to sit in the car while they look at the drawings. Both cartoons look good, but Katie’s joke is better, so it’s no surprise when she comics back in and, in a gruesome montage, Jerry opens a cut above Alex’s eye Jerry tears up Alex’s cartoon! It was only a color copy so no actual drawings were harmed in the making of this web series.


Katie walks into the house where she’s greeted with applause. The cartoonists, clad in jammies from Old Navy, are gathered and told that Alex never even got to spend a night in the house, but their challenges will continue on the morrow morn.


Back in the shame car, Alex is surprised to be joined by Mike and Jerry! They comfort him by telling him that 14 years ago they were in the same place, and he just needs more time to practice but he’s already well on his way to being a good cartoonist.

So that’s how this is going to be? Pajamas and support? Next thing you know everyone is gong to be drinking hot cocoa or playing Five Card Nancy or something.


Back at the Ultimate Fighter house, John Jones has to chose between his homier Bubba and the talented puncher Clint whom Jones stupidly put in a fight against a PanAm champion wrestler so he lost (great wrestlers nearly always beat good punchers). In the end, John must go with his homie Bubba, because he is named Bubba. Bubba squares off with the other wildcard, Casey, who he will fight next week.


Finally, at Strip Search we see Amy who explains that she didn’t chose her most talented rivals for banishment because “One of them would come back” and would be pissed. Unlike every other person on this show, she has watched other reality shows and knows that politics is half the fun! She is interesting and talented this Amy! And she took off her gloves!

So that’s it for these episodes of Strip Search and The Ultimate Fighter! Will the next art challenge be conceptual or illustrative? Will a puncher ever beat a wrestler? Which house would YOU rather stay in?


  1. I am loving Strip Search. The elimination round sold me on the series and the genuine support Jerry and Mike tried to give the loser was pretty cool. I’m really looking forward to where this season goes and love having a twice a week 15-20 minute episode. This means we should have a conclusion in about 3 months and I just can’t wait.

    More than that, I can’t wait for Strip Search Season 2. I feel like they’re going to learn a lot in the areas of production and structure that will lead to increasingly polished product.

    The show is so enjoyable I almost forgot to consider the paradigm it represents. A kickstarted TV show for free on youtube. The show manages to monetize itself further (Amy/Tavis’ shirts, I’m sure prints of elimination comics and other future show products will be available) but it doesn’t seem crass (Amy gets all her own shirt revenue, not so of Tavis’ poll-winning shirt but whatever). The DVD will probably sell well due to the 50 extra hours of material it will probably have (if previous Penny Arcade DVDs are any indication). Why can’t every TV show be like this? Would this be possible for something higher budget?

  2. (Obviously this could never happen with a super high budget show, you’ll never see kick-started Game of Thrones, but why isn’t Arrested Development done this way? Or Firefly?)

  3. “Both cartoons look good, but Katie’s joke is better…”

    Really? While he seems like a nice guy and I wish him well, I thought it obvious that Alex’s strip made no narrative sense whatsoever and I vowed to stop watching the series if Mike and Jerry did not agree on that point. Fortunately, they did and I’m going to keep tuning in.

  4. I’m curious, considering the Penny Arcade strip itself is done by a writer/artist team, if they do another Strip Search will they consider writer/artist teams as well?

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