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The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats Sell Out is a new spin on a hilarious web trend 

The LOLcats still elicit a laugh out loud, as the initials of those cute, ubiquitous feline JPEGs would suggest. Future generations, however, will probably look back at the LOLcats phenomenon with the same kind of baffled indulgence that today’s pop watchers view the popularity of “Laugh-In” during the late 1960s and early 1970s. You have to take it on faith that “Laugh-In” catch-phrases such as “You bet your bippy!” were once the height of hilarity. Signature LOLcat captions like “Ur doin it wrong” or “You has a flavor” already seem frozen in 2007.

LOLcats’ appeal rests on two of the engines that drive the Internet’s existence: sharing adorable pet photos and participating in techie-informed memes. Beginning with the photo of a perky gray cat asking, “I can haz cheezburger?” LOLcats promulgated the idea that felines, if they could talk, would speak incorrectly like young children. Perhaps it subconsciously emulates the babytalk people use around their cats. LOLcat-speech proves at once inane and infectious – in spite of yourself, you can catch yourself saying “O hai!” in imitation of the standard greeting. It’s likely that the similar, dialogue-free “Faildogs” images appeal to a more elite, high-brow class of time-wasters.

Some creative geeks have put fresh spins on the flagging trend. Filk musicians Eben Brooks and Allison Lonsdale use song lyrics made entirely of LOLcats slang for a parody of the Beatles’ “Come Together.” The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats Sell Out offers an even more ingenious spin on the concept. Cartoonist A. Koford’s book suggests how LOLcats would look if, instead of an Internet JPEG meme, they were a vintage, Depression-era newspaper comic strip. The title characters, Kitteh and Pip, are two “hobo cats” who ramble across an impoverished but friendly America and use LOLcats clichés. Koford offers a kind of double-edged parody of contemporary cat JPEGs and old-fashioned, single-panel cartoons like Krazy Kat.

You don’t really need to know the classic cartooning of George Harriman or Walt Kelly to understand the hobo setting. Koford’s illustrations radiate playful simplicity. The sight of a smiling figure with patched clothes and a bindle trying to cadge a meal has universal appeal. If you don’t know LOLcats, however, Kitteh and Pip’s dialogue will be gibberish to you. Koford crafts clever sight gags, often transferring high-tech slang into no-tech hobo situations. One panel finds Kitteh in a jail cell, sticking his paw in a cake and declaring, “File not found.”

Koford seems particularly inspired by the term “pwned,” which means owned, conquered or humiliated and is generally pronounced “pawned.” Kitteh and Pip’s adventures find multiple puns on pwned, including panels involving a pawn shop, a dog pound, a duck pond, a chessboard and even a boxcar full of corn pone. Some of Koford’s references rely on obscure pop geekery. When the cats declare “Itz a trap!” while escaping an undercover police officer, the joke only makes sense if you catch the subtle Star Wars< references (specifically to Return of the Jedi’s fish-faced Admiral Ackbar).

The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats Sell Out will only remain fresh as long as readers are familiar with LOLcats, but will bring a lot of pleasure to ones who do. Koford takes the guilt out of a guilty pleasure.

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