Today's panel is absolutely maddening because Burl's hostile response to Joy's mother is actually funny. But the artist maniacally focuses the entire panel on a single word that is tangential to the joke and the overall effect comes to nothing.
Okay, I am willing to grant that Joy's mother could be described as a "witch", thus explaining one facet of Burl's desire to be anywhere she is not.
But who cares about the why? The why is not what makes this funny. Imagine the same basic joke in the hands of the Lockhorns, with its minimalist approach and undercurrent of deep hostility. It would have been hilarious.
Instead, we're baffled by crazy details and tenuous links to the word "witch", the first being the casual reference to the Bell Witch in the first place. I pity the poor people reading this panel in their newspaper because they don't have immediate access to Wikipedia to look up this obscure reference. I'm imagining the artist is obsessed with the supernatural and, in her mania, has forgotten that 99% of the people in the world have never heard of the Bell Witch.
Furthermore, I curse her for the fact that now I am in the 1% who have heard about it.
Next up is the existence of generic "Bell Witch attractions" that Burl and Joy will be visiting. If you can't be bothered to do some research and find out that the attraction is called the Bell Witch Cave, just make a name up:
- Six Flags Over the Bell Witch
- The Bell Witch Festival
- The Bell Witch Institute of the Paranormal
- The Bell Witch Casino of the Damned
- The Bell Witch Petting Zoo
- Famous cartoon witch B. Hilda = 411. No guesses about the name on the 911 post-it.
- Burl and Joy's mugs. Ha ha, a Wizard of Oz reference. Whatever.
- The key rack suggests that Joy is a witch. Or at least requires a securely locked broom closet, for reasons passing understanding.
- Do you figure the first to-do is supposed to say "Ma's camera" or "Motion Camera"? I could go either way.
- A heat sensor? Why would a ghost show up on a heat sensor? Why do they own a heat sensor in the first place?
- Was it really necessary to mention Tennessee? Twice. Tennessee is a long word. It adds nothing to the joke. It takes up a lot of space and things are already cramped. Not all details are equally important.
- Let me try to re-write the last to-do note so it makes sense to the English-speaking world: "Research all other witch attractions in Tennessee for price, concessions, motor tours, souvenirs." Unless the artist actually meant they wanted to specifically narrow the research on souvenirs to Tennessee.