Cartoonist: Allie Trigoso
I truly believe that comedy comes from a place of both observation and admiration. Perhaps admiration is a strong word, but at the very least enjoyment of the thing you laugh about.
Comedy is subjective of course, but that intersection between analyzing something and liking it allows for great effect. It’s the difference between punching up, punching down, or in the case of Allie Trigoso‘s recent riso comics, the difference between laughing AT someone, or laughing WITH someone.
I don’t know what Canada has done to deserve Allie Trigoso, but it was worth it. Over the course of two mini comics, Poutine Zine and Who is Sally Sugar Shack???, Trigoso explores two very Canadian things: poutine and maple syrup, and makes some hilarious observations along the way.
For my American and foreign readers, poutine is a French Canadian dish from Quebec that consists of french fries, gravy and cheese curds. Cheese curd is a sort of cheddar that comes in small, bite-sized chunks. The combination of those three things makes for a very hefty meal and a perfect dish to eat after a night of drinking or after walking in the cold Canadian winter. Trigoso pokes fun at how this dish is rich, but also how it came to evolve into a sort of accidental cultural dish that’s been prone to excess.
In the past 10 years, I’ve seen ludicrous combinations of poutine with increasingly extravagant toppings such as smoked meat poutine with mustard, or even crazier things like a foie gras poutine, which is about as heavy and rich as you’d expect. Trigoso pushes the limit of these into an absolutely bonkers appreciation of poutine and its excess. Essentially, her point is that poutine is so great that it could make anything good, excluding body parts. It’s outrageous, bizarre and quite funny.
Allie Trigoso’s second book is an outrageous look at a fictional maple syrup producer called Who is Sally Sugar Shack???. It’s a madly exaggerated concept that mixes Tex Avery-style characters with gross out comedy, coupled with a documentary approach that is very reminiscent of Michael Deforge‘s early comic The Spotting Deer.
Sally is essentially a giant who can produce maple syrup directly from her tits and who can transform into a sugar shack at will, Transformers-style. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Trigoso takes an irreverent look at maple syrup, one of Canada’s most famous exports, and brings it down a notch. There’s even a nod to the infamous Heritage Minute, a series of televised vignettes on the history of Canada or famous Canadians that ran on seemingly every single Canadian television channel in the 90s.
Her last comic, Be your cake (and eat it too), takes a different focus and moves away from Canadiana towards something a bit more cartoonish. It’s essentially a cake man called Cakey, who’s teaching readers how to make a cake. This story has a bit more layers and nuance than the previous ones. Mainly, Cakey keeps having to shed parts of himself to provide the ingredients required for baking. It’s incredibly gory and ludicrous, but is given more depth once we read the note on the last page, in which Cakey’s wife is leaving him. That self-mutilation then becomes a sad, disturbing way to cope with sadness through self-harm. There’s even a part where Cakey shares his cake with his male friend, all reminding each other of how happy they are. There’s a real sadness at play here that permeates the more comedic aspect of the work with a real darkness.
What made these comics stood out to me was their bold, bright colour mix. These riso comics are drenched in this juxtaposition of bright pinks, yellows, blues and greys, but the ink applied is thick and the superimposition of the different colours makes it seem surprisingly dark.
There was a very dark sense of humour in these books that I found quite compelling. I made a parallel earlier to the work of Michael Deforge, but apart from their common interests for body horror (or transformation), their work is drastically different in themes and characterization. Deforge’s work has often focused on identity and personal growth and is generally more serious than the work presented above. In all of three comics by Allie Trigoso, you get a good sense of what Trigoso’s interests are — culture, of course, wordplay, and a certain sense of surrealism.
It’s like seeing a Tim and Eric sketch filtered through body horror and Adventure Time. It’s a specific type of humour and it’s not for everyone. There’s some dark and disturbing twists in these comics, but they’re nothing if not innovative and unique. Trigoso was able to find that combination of tone, colour and style to complement each other and make her black comedic tone go down more easily. Quite a feat.