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‘Three Word Phrase’ Webcomic Elevates Butt and Wiener Jokes to an Art Form

How much can you tell about a comic from its title? Webcomics often have notoriously opaque names, from Hark! A Vagrant to A Softer World, and at first glance, Ryan Pequin’s sometimes NSFW webcomic Three Word Phrase might have the most enigmatic nomenclature of them all. But it’s actually a rather cheeky joke, one that exemplifies Pequin’s clever twists on traditional comic gags. In his hands, the limp dick jokes found in so many comics across the Internet turn to boners of funny.Since it’s a gag comic, it’s hard to peg Three Word Phrase to a single theme, but this comic pretty neatly sums up what Pequin’s apparent mission:

So maybe Three Word Phrase isn’t high art (although for all we know, neither is that picture of the taint). But it is a series of carefully constructed jokes playing on familiar humor tropes. The title comes from the common convention of giving webcomics three-word titles, such as Girls with Slingshots, Ctrl+Alt+Del, Toothpaste for Dinner and My Cardboard Life. Pequin’s title is a meta one; it’s a three-word phrase that pokes fun at the proliferation of three-word phrases. Similarly, his comics are unexpected twists on everything from St. Peter at the Pearly Gates to the homoerotic behavior of bros to dirty talk.

It’s difficult not to compare Pequin to other webcomics creators. His sketchy early comics and the pacing of his jokes evoke Kate Beaton. His more recent artwork seems to take its cues from Lucy Knisley. He shares KC Green’s talent for lighthearted murder and Jess Fink’s cheerful obsession with the scatological. But the resultant combination is something wholly his own. His jokes are carefully constructed despite their effortless look, and while they sometimes revolve around murder holes and disembodied skeletons, they don’t veer into the pessimism-for-kicks that weighs down so many gag webcomics.

Three Word Phrase weighs in at just over 200 updates, but it’s already developing recurring gags and a stronger sense of its own identity. But from beginning to end, it’s a fun and thoughtful comic — with lots and lots of poop jokes.

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