The Dinette Set by Julie Larson
Type: Comic Panel
The Dinette Set is a delightfully wacky single-panel comic with a large national following that satirizes middle class culture, juxtaposing thought-provoking observations with funny, absurdist background imagery.
In scenes taking place within the house, a to-do list often hangs on the wall, containing off-the-wall notes that only sometimes pertain to the characters' dialogue. Adding to The Dinette Set's whimsical charm is Larson's recent inclusion of a &œfind-it& word or object for readers to uncover, embedded within the elaborately illustrated panel.
The characters of The Dinette Set are a frustrating yet fun-loving lot who can be described as an odd mix of hyper-realistic folks who squeeze the life out of the American Dream. The Penny family serves up unintentional comedy by taking humorous situations literally and vice versa. They may not be the smartest gang or make the world a better place, but they are extremely happy with their ordinary lives in suburban Crustwood.
Appropriately enough, Larson first titled her panel "Suburban Torture" when she created it in 1990. She eventually changed it to The Dinette Set and it went into national syndication in 1997. It has built a large, passionate following since then and has become a staple in such papers as the Detroit News, Houston Chronicle, and The Record of Bergen County, NJ.
Julie Larson is the creator of The Dinette Set. It is a delightfully wacky single-panel comic that satirizes middle-class culture, juxtaposing thought-provoking observations with funny, absurdist imagery. “I get a lot of reader mail, and nearly every person writes that they know ‘these people’ (the characters) and sometimes that they are convinced I am peeking in their windows for material,” said Larson. “They can indulge themselves in the follies of the silly exploits of the Pennys and friends living in the all-too-familiar setting of suburbia.”
Born and raised in Illinois, Larson attended the University of Illinois and earned a B.S. in Architecture. She spent the next eight years working in the design field in Chicago. After making the move from the city to the “burbs” with her family, she switched her career to cartooning -- creating The Dinette Set. in 1990 and reaching syndication with Universal Press Syndicate in 1997. Larson now lives in Lincoln, Ill., with her family.
Meet the Cast of The Dinette Set
- Joy Joy is the domestic motor of the Penny household, making the "to-do" lists, cutting the coupons and generally keeping Burl from wearing too deep a butt groove in his recliner. If there's a way to save money or get a better deal, Joy will pursue it, no matter what it costs.
- Verla A "swinging single," Verla ("Verl" if you're in a hurry,) is Joy's little sister, who has a burgeoning career in city government. She's a frequent presence in the Penny household, trading gossip, watching soap operas and discussing various ways to "snag a man."
- Burl The patriarch of the Penny family, Burl "brings home the Baco-s" with his low-powered job at a prestigious self-storage facility. He's known for his relatively sharp wit and frequent criticism of the antics of his family and friends.
- Jerry A confirmed bachelor, the hirsute "Jer," as he likes to be called, is an often reluctant suitor of Verl, when he's not busy being Crustwood's No. 1 ladies' man. Jer is a fun-loving, Falstaffian counterpoint to the Pennys' wedded bliss.
- The Shemps Dale and Marlene Shemp are the Pennys' neighbors, confidants and partners in crime, if stealing sugar packets and shampoo from restaurants and hotels counts as "crime."
- "Ma" Joy and Verl's aging mother, she and Burl are constantly at odds.
- Patty Burl and Joy's adult daughter, she's the closest thing to a voice of sanity in the Dinette Set world. Make no mistake, however, her blood runs Penny.