Gary Larson’s 10 Funniest Heaven and Hell Comics

Gary Larson’s Far Side was syndicated for 15 years and spawned more than 4,300 individual comics covering topics ranging from construction workers comparing lunch to aliens visiting Earth. In 2019, Larson returned to cartooning for his website, and although the art style has been updated using digital drawing technology, the sense of humor remains the same.

Larson likes to poke fun at religion and philosophy, as well as the lives of ordinary people, and a significant part of this work is devoted to heaven and hell. His comics about God and the Devil often shed light on the two and how they interacted with the people of the country before, during, and after their time there. They may not always be the most Sunday-friendly comics, but they’re still hilarious.

Aerobics in hell

Anyone forced into an exercise class will identify with this Far Side comic. Here, a devil with all the classical hallmarks energetically leads a group of particularly unathletic people through a gymnastic exercise of biblical proportions.

Each movement seems to require at least five million reps, and the devil doesn’t skip any of the boring exercises like leg raises. The funniest thing is that none of the contestants save, perhaps the gentleman in the center looks remotely dressed for class. Aerobics in Hell starts whether you’re ready or not.

God creates snakes

Clay snakes are one of the first things children learn to make in art class. This is one of the easiest things to do, just roll the clay between your hands and it forms a snake. God also seems to have discovered how easily snakes can be made and called it “child’s play”.

It’s so funny because the bottom part has a bit of a biblical undertone, “God creates the snake” sounds like a quote like “God creates man” or something like that. But this is not a very mystical process, God simply rolls them into different dimensions. His surprise at the ease of the process makes it even funnier, as if God had snakes on his “to do” list and was glad to see they wouldn’t take long.

That’s why it’s hell, baby

Gary Larson’s weirdest and funniest comics can often be depictions of situations that no one else could imagine. This is a great example, because many artists have drawn comics about hell, but no one has ever thought about what a cafeteria in hell would be like. Most people do not imagine that there is a cafeteria in hell.

Hell, it doesn’t look so bad if there’s a diner. While we expect the food in Hell to be terrible at worst and inedible at best, sometimes a scorpion doesn’t sound so bad. It’s funny the idea that the worst place imaginable is somehow unhappiness, but it’s funny how for this particular person, that kind of unhappiness is more than he can handle.

pig heaven

Many of the funniest Far Side comics owe much to Gary Larson’s art style. He can express a wide range of emotions without going into too much detail in his drawing, even without pupils like in this cartoon. When Ernie is accidentally sent to “Pig Heaven,” his blank, mouthless stare sums up his feelings of frustration, confusion, and bewildered acceptance of being stuck.

Hog Heaven generally refers to a state of extreme happiness similar to the saying “happy as a pig in the mud”. But in the world of the Far Side, things are more mundane. Pig Heaven is not a wonderland for pigs, where they can do whatever they want. It’s a pig farm on cloud nine, and judging by their confused expressions, the pigs don’t see any different. Not a fun place for Ernie to spend eternity.

the devil’s mother

Even Satan isn’t immune to the twisty nature of Far Side comics. In this comic, readers are immersed in the ongoing story of his personal war with his mother to stay out of Satan’s business. And since her profession is torture, someone pretending to be a mother is the exact opposite of what she’s looking for.

The Prince of Darkness being constantly thwarted by his mother is a fun image, and equally applicable to anyone with a family member who interacts with his co-stars. Moms are moms, and even Satan’s mom knows some can use a cookie once in a while.

Penalty button

Gary Larson, never one to shy away from dark humor in his Far Side comics, paints a version of what revenge might look like here. God is always watchful, and it seems he uses a computer to keep track of his clock. He can decide destiny with the push of a button like God.

It “hits” enough as it has a single button dedicated to this function. The audience would probably feel bad for God’s weak aim if the guy didn’t look like a dumbass walking under a piano. No words are needed for this, the picture says it all.

resentments in hell

Gary Larson can imagine some of the most unique pairings in his comics to create a recognizable and entertaining story. A cow in Hell isn’t a popular trope or character and situation that’s usually parodied, but Larson goes for it anyway, and the comic is all the funnier for how silly it is.

A cow in hell sarcastically “hot enough for you?” while queuing for eternal damnation. It’s a line everyone has heard at one time or another and rolled their eyes, hearing it while standing next to the devil would be a whole new version of torture.

A math phobe’s nightmare

There aren’t many things worse than doing a math word problem, and Gary Larson makes this scenario even worse by showing what it would be like if he had to ask to get into heaven again. That would be bad enough for most people, but it would be a real nightmare for someone who hates math.

Just when this man thinks he’s arrived in heaven, the angel at the door stops him with a math problem, and Far Side is still at its best when it cuts the rug out from under its characters. And the size difference between the two characters is a fun way to show how terrifying this whole situation is for the poor guy.

Here is your accordion

Sometimes an artist understands people and what they think so well that they can make something completely and it will look classic. In this comic, the people of heaven are given a harp, a classic image: angels on harps.

But then those in hell get an accordion. It’s not a joke that’s ever been made, but it seems like an instant classic. Of course, people in hell had to have accordions. The look, the sound, and even the name itself are very suitable for both the underworld instrument and the opposite of the sweet harp.

God creates the food chain

Gary Larson turns a deep philosophical question into a funny joke in this Far Side comic. This short comic strip “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” answers the question. The answer is simply because he keeps doing it. God is pleased with His creation in all its shining glory.

Satisfied with this, he moves on to what he must do next, which is to create animals to eat those animals. There is no reason for God to create predators, but he goes ahead and does it anyway because “why not?” The icing on the cake in this hilarious version of the creation myth is the two big-eyed squirrels in front, who seem to understand what God is saying before the other animals.

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