Richard's Poor Almanac
Make the Pie Higher
The Richard's Poor Almanac cartoon published the week of George W. Bush's first inauguration was Thompson's mock inaugural poem, "Make the Pie Higher," composed of some of Bush's more incoherent quotations. When "Make the Pie Higher" was leaked onto the Internet, it spread rapidly and was eventually dissected and analyzed on Snopes, which did a lengthy review of its origins. The poem has been set to music at least five times in various styles, including Irish and choral music. Thompson's illustration shows the inaugural crowd fleeing as Bush speaks:
I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty and potential mental losses.
Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?
They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.
Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!
In 2008, Thompson recalled the circumstances that led to the creation of the "Make the Pie Higher" poem:
I did "Make the Pie Higher" the week of Bush's first inaugural in response to his lack of a major poet reading an inspiring poem, like Robert Frost did for Kennedy or Maya Angelou did for Clinton. It seemed a big deal at the time, this lack of major poetry. So I took a bunch of Bushisms, you know, his malaprop comments, and formed them into a free-verse poem. When I sent the rough to Tom Shroder, who was then editing "Sunday Style," he said are these real quotes? And I said yes, they all have sources, and he said OK great. When I put it together it seemed kind of a clever idea, though I wondered who would get it. But it ran, and I liked the drawing I did of Bush addressing the crowd. About six months later Tom called and said, "That "Pie" thing's all over the Internet, and it's even got your name on it (as a Post writer)." But so much stuff gets all over the Internet it didn't register with me much until I started getting requests to set it to music, and a friend who plays in a folk group told me they'd been singing it for a year or two without knowing who wrote it. Well, assembled it. Now by my count it's been set to music, including Irish ballad style and for women's chorus. If I had any business acumen, I'd've made some money off it.
A collection, Richard's Poor Almanac: 12 Months of Misinformation in Handy Cartoon Form, was published by Emmis Books in 2004. Comics historian Tom Spurgeon gave it a highly favorable review in 2008:
- The great, emerging star of this decade's newspaper strip scene, Richard Thompson hasn't stopped doing his Richard's Poor Almanac work in favor of spending more time getting Cul De Sac out. This collection of those works from a few years back shows that were he to abandon the Almanac for any reason it would be a total shame. Trenchant and exceedingly wry, this book may frighten if like me you realize that these comics have been around for as long as they have without your being aware of them.