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Cartoonist Focus Of Natural History Museum Display

April 9, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Cartoonist Gary Larson, whose bizarre drawings have spoofed life from science to cows, found himself framed, pinned against a wall and examined under a public magnifying glass Thursday as part of a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution.

The shy creator of the ″The Far Side″ was on hand as 500 of his cartoons were installed at the Museum of Natural History in a nine-week display called ″The Far Side of Science.″

Larson’s cartoons take their place at the museum that includes several dinosaurs, a living tropical reef, the Hope Diamond and -- appropriately -- an exhibit on the evolution of horses.

Just a few feet away from the somber documentation of natural history is Larson’s conception of cavemen in a Stone Age cave classroom: In the midst of ″students″ clad in animal skins sits a monkey-like figure clearly lagging on the evolutionary scale. ″Well, I’ve got your final grades ready, although I’m afraid not everyone here will be moving up,″ says the teacher.

Another shows an alligator in court on the witness stand. ″Of course I did it in cold blood, you idiot. I’m a reptile.″

The 36-year-old Larson resisted a mass of reporters trying to dissect his humor.

″I don’t understand where the ideas come from,″ he said. ″I’m just glad they’re there. ″I really just sit down at the drawing table and sort of get silly, I guess. I don’t have any great insight into where it comes from.″

″He’s so popular with scientists,″ explained Larry O’Reilly, an assistant director of the museum.

″He’s got a cartoon that sums up in two seconds the whole theory of evolution and do it with such a funny twist to it. It just captures the imagination,″ said O’Reilly.

Larson said he’s gotten a bad reaction from only one of the weird twists in his cartoons -- a drawing showing Santa Claus writing a cookbook ″Nine Ways to Serve Venison.″

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