Unless You Got (Daily) Puns, Hon’
STUDENTS EXPLORE CREATIVITY WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
Finding your niche on a campus with around 40,000 other people can be taxing, and maybe even impossible at times. For an unlikely pair of students from two different colleges, this challenge has been accepted, and conquered.
Cody Cessna and Joe West are two CU Denver students who have decided there’s more than one way to make a name for yourself on campus, and their collaboration on the burgeoning cartoon series Punday-thru-Friday is illustrative of that.
The cartoon that started out as a smash hit on Instagram back in early February is now gaining even more notoriety on campus. Cessna and West started as two run-of-the-mill community college transfer students with distinct tastes in humor. “I’m a mutant of freshman, sophomore, junior, all these things,” Cessna said.
Cessna, a Fine Arts major, creates each day’s punny illustration. The illustrator values what this experience does to enrich his art education. “I’ve noticed an improvement in my drawing—forcing myself to draw every day, and drawing kind of absurd or really diverse things,” Cessna said.
Communication major West found help getting their social media dreams off the ground when taking a social media class with Matt Kaskavitch, a lecturer for Communication and Social Media Manager of University Communications. In this class, West found inspiration for taking his and Cessna’s humor to the next level. The pair met with Kaskavitch and found advice that proved to be integral in their launch on Instagram.
“I just met with him after class one day, and was just talking with him about the project, asking him for tips,” West said. “He goes, ‘This is awesome. I’ll put you guys on the CU Denver page.’ That was super helpful for us.”
This interaction was just the start of the duo’s big break. They’ve been focusing on networking and making more individuals with a social media presence aware of their puns. “Forging those connections has been a big part of it,” Cessna said. The Sentry has even jumped to be a part of the pair’s work by featuring them each week on the last page of the newspaper.
Cessna and West strive to generate unique content each day, and always make sure that no two consecutive cartoons are repetitive. With all this variety, keeping it fresh means getting very creative.
“We try to really shakeup the subject matter,” Cessna said. “We tend to get really weird combinations of those because of the way that words work. We’ve tried to keep it really diverse, and we try not to do two that are too close to each other.”
According to these two, this struggle is where the good times start. Making sure their product is far from standard comics is what’s important. “That’s the fun of it, juxtaposing animals and people, or objects and faces.”
“Regardless of whether we’re drawing a unicorn or a spaghetti monster—it was a spaghettiyeti— one thing we try to keep as the undercurrent of all our work is that narrative is the most important aspect of the cartoon,” Cessna said. “A pun is just, I think, one step harder than rhyming. Puns, what we do with them and the meaning we ascribe to that wordplay, is where our comic is on.”
Their process is very organic, as their jokes are derived from their interactions with each other. “When Joe will suggest puns, I’ll be like, ‘how do we visualize those,’ and we’ll talk through our ideas because there’s a lot of different directions you can go with any given set of words,” Cessna said.
Cessna and West’s concept is fresh and original not just for its content, but for the way they’ve cleverly orchestrated the format of the cartoon. The two create characters each week for their cartoons that have so far never been recycled. Each character makes a brief appearance on their page, and then joins the catalog of characters the pair continue to grow.
“It’s been really exciting to play those out and try to create an emotion in a character that you’re probably never going to use again because it’s so specific, but you create a character for that moment,” Cessna said. “Some days they’re really well received, and some days you’re like, well, at least we’ll never see him again.”
“It would be condescending just to crank out content.
Fine Arts major | College of Arts and Media
Most of the jokes are generated over text messages and prior conversations between Cessna and West. Much of what is presented in Punday is a reflection of the sense of humor the two share. The two creatives’ project presents an opportunity for them to format their ideas in a concise way. Brevity such as Punday serves to accommodate the ideals of the era of digital media: Short, quick, and instantaneous in nature, artappreciation is as simple as a click on the heart in the corner that denotes what each person “likes.”
“Our comic isn’t the standard, severalpanel comic—it’s just one frame,” West said. “That’s the fun of the project. It’s trying to communicate a lot just in one picture, and we think it’s a really interesting challenge because it just forces you to be creative. It’s storytelling, narrative, and character, kind of like an entire story just in one picture.”
Each cartoon is reflective of the comedic tastes of West and Cessna. They aren’t searching for the joke that most people will think funny, but simply have confidence that other people will agree with what they deem funny.
“It’s important that it’s funny to us, too, because I think it would condescending just to crank out content,” Cessna said. “It treats the reader with respect. The response that we’ve gotten from our friends and strangers has been really positive because we create content we want to hear.”
In the face of so much crass and dirty humor that aims to be grittier than its predecessors, Punday comes as a relief of wholesome comedy. Their unique relationships will bring more cartoons and more puns.
Above: Punday-thru-Friday’s Instagram post had an appropriate caption: “He’s Bach from the dead, looking for the perfect placement of a rest in his piece.”
illustration: Cody Cessna and Joe West • CU Denver Sentry