Writing for Slice of Life Comics: How to make the day-to-day funny | Kassandra McMullen | Skillshare

Writing for Slice of Life Comics: How to make the day-to-day funny

Kassandra McMullen, Comic Creator, & Interior Designer

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7 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Intro

      1:59
    • 2. Lesson 1: What is a Slice of Life Comic?

      1:30
    • 3. Lesson 2: The Best Ways to Record Your Ideas

      4:18
    • 4. Lesson 3: Slice of life Story Elements

      6:46
    • 5. Lesson 4: The Rules of Comedy

      8:36
    • 6. Lesson 5: Thinking in 4 Panels

      6:08
    • 7. Class Wrap up

      0:45
18 students are watching this class

About This Class

Writing for Slice of Life Comics: Making the Day-to-Day Funny

This class is for people who want to effectively add humour to their comics and for people who maybe don’t make comics but want to learn how to tell their stories in a funnier way.

In this class we’re going to create the script for a 4-panel Comic, based on a safe for work something that happened to you in your real life.

We'll go over what a Slice of Life Comic is, and the easiest ways I’ve found to capture story ideas* from out of your day-to-day.

      *- For this you will need something you can write on and take with you whether that is a physical          notebook or a phone app

We’ll learn the Story elements that are most important in Slice of life Comics, and go over my personal Rules of Comedy to find the right techniques that will take your Story from cute to funny.

And then since our class project is to condense your funny story into a 4-panel comic, we’ll go over the benefits I’ve found to using the 4-panel format, and some tips for when you seem to have too much material for 4-panels, or not enough.

And I’ll be with you every step of the way, doing my own class project and letting you in on my thought processes for turning ideas from life into funny 4 panel Comics,

The project steps correspond to the lessons so you can follow along as we go, or just watch the whole class to gain a better understanding and then create your project as you go through the videos a second time.

It’s encouraged that you post to your class project at each step to document your progress and provide more examples for your fellow classmates.

Transcripts

1. Intro: Hi, I'm Cassandra MacMullan and I write no straight the slice of life, well, comic design and sundries. I'm an interior designer by day, but at night I make funny comments about my life. This class is for people who want to effectively add humor to their comics and for people who maybe don't make comics but want to learn how to tell their stories in a funny your way in this class, we're going to create the script for a four panel comic based on a safe for work, something that happened to you in your real life. The first thing will go over is what a slice of life comic is, so we know what we have to work with. Next, we'll go over the easiest ways that I have found to capture story ideas from out of your day to day. We'll take a look at the story elements that are most important in slice of life comic, so that we can narrow down our ideas to the best candidates. We'll go over my personal rules of comedy to find the right techniques that will take your story from cute, funny and then since our class project is to condense your funny story into a four panel comic will go over the benefits I found to the four panel format and some tips for when you seem to have too much material for four panels or not enough and I'll be with you every step of the way. Doing my own class project, I'm letting you in on my thought process behind turning ideas from life into funny for panel comics, the project steps correspond to the lessons so you can follow along as we go. Or just watch the whole class to gain a better understanding and then create your project as you go through the videos a second time. It's encouraged that you post your class project at each step to document your progress and provide more examples for your fellow classmates. Those projects steps were written in the projects and resources tab down below, and I've also uploaded them in pdf format, along with a simplified cheat cheat that you can take with you on the go, which should be over to your right in the project description. And, of course, feel free to ask any questions in the community tab. I can't wait to learn more about you through your slice of life comics 2. Lesson 1: What is a Slice of Life Comic?: So what is a slice of life comic? A slice of life story is a short story about something happening or that has happened in your life. Anything from the mundane, like buying groceries to the extreme like that one thing you're not so proud of, but it's probably pretty funny. The story should have a point that is a reason why you're telling this story instead of another one. But because it's just a little snippet of your life, a small slice of the your life orange, if you will, it doesn't need to go into any great depth. So the story of that one comic doesn't need to contain character development, a conflict, a lot of plot progress or even a definitive ending. It might, if that is necessary for the slice you want to tell us about, but it's not strictly necessary, as hopefully you'll be creating a series of these comics. And those elements will reveal themselves over time as we get to know your character better through your stories so you can see that this is a fairly open ended and freeing form of comic creation, and also that it could be a fairly terrifying and vague approached comic writing. The trick is to start at the beginning and to find those stories that have a point, the ones that are interesting. And the best way I found to do this is to keep a kind of idea diary, something that you can always have with you, so that when something interesting does happen, you'll be ready to jot it down. That will be the first step in creating our project, and I'll go over in depth in the next lesson. 3. Lesson 2: The Best Ways to Record Your Ideas: There are many ways to record ideas, you probably use some of them already. You might feel most comfortable with more physical methods like no pads, sketch books or journals. Or you might be one of those people who are cooler than me and mainly use APS that work as voice recorders, no pads, sketch books or journals. My personal preference is a dedicated little sketchbook, like these cute panda ones that came in a two pack from the art store for $10. You don't have to use thes, but I have tried a couple different methods, and there are several reasons why these work best for me. The first is that it's light and flexible, and it fits into my purse, along with my wallet, phone, pencil case and bullet journal. The second is that it's a self contained idea book. Nothing goes in here except comic ideas. At first I tried to use my bullet journal, but because I was keeping track of everything in here, my ideas got fairly spread out, and when it was time to review them to use them to make comics, I found that the ideas were on page 23 46 49 53 62 70. And after a year of jotting down ideas, I had over 70 pages of them. But they were so spread out through the book that it was difficult to find them. And that's how I ended up with all these crummy sticker tabs. The best bit about these little sketchbooks for me are the blank pages. A little sketchy thumbnail drawings like these Help me to remember later what I was thinking about at the time. They'll also help us when we get to the four panel format, and we need to get an idea of how our story will fit into £4. And if for some reason I can't get to my idea book and I have to use a sticky note, it's great to have a physical book that I can keep my stickies together in with tape if necessary. So here I've done an example of what three ideas on a page might look like. The 1st 1 is already laid out in four panels. I use four panels all the time, So right after this happened, I drew my four squares a starting point. I filled in the first panel with my initial surprise at hearing a phone in the distance and filled in the last panel with the punch line, the point when I realized it was my neighbor's phone. Then I filled in the middle with a few ideas of how I might show my search for where the ringing was coming from. The second idea is just a little note to self. I was reminded of a story I sometimes tell from my high school days. Since I know the story, this note is just a reminder that I need to work this out later. And for the 3rd 1 I had a very specific scene that needed to be included, so I drew it with the basic story idea on when I had an idea for the ending, I just added it on the side so you can see that there are lots of different ways to jot down ideas. Another would be if I had an idea for dialogue between two characters. But without any visual, I could just write it in script format, K says. Yada yada M says you've been watching too many sitcoms and so on. Good ideas always come when you're trying to focus on something else or when you're unfocused and usually at the worst possible time for recording them. But you have to try to get them down right away, because good ideas will leave your mind way more easily than the bad ones. Like getting a song stuck in your head. It's always a bad song. You still want to write down the bad ideas, though, because number one it gets them out of your head. And secondly, because bad ideas can improve with time and a little work. So just write them down, move on, and maybe later, when you look back over them, they won't be so bad. Like this comic, which is one of my favorites for the longest time. It was a bad idea for a comic because it was just the 1st 2 panels. It wasn't even an idea. It was a small complaint. I don't get why everyone loves enamel pins. All of a sudden, that's it. But after taking the time to look up different ways to display pins, I found all sorts of lovely ways to make them into the court and now I have four. The idea just needed some time and some research. Step one of our class project is to pick something to write your ideas into and get at least three ideas recorded, Then post them in your project gallery. You can either type them in or post a picture from your idea book. In the next lesson, we're gonna go over what story elements are important for slice of life comics and use those considerations to choose the best one out of your three ideas. 4. Lesson 3: Slice of life Story Elements: hello and welcome to slice of life story elements today. Repose of the question. What makes a good slice of life story? What elements are rampant in those stories that other people actually want to listen to? The story needs to be about something riel, something that actually happened, or it has to be based off of something that really happened. It has to display an emotional response. Show your audience how you and the other characters feel about what's happening. It should show you as the hero of your story and be consistent in its portrayal of your character. Also, the story needs to be relatable, and you'll see you have a little ass tricks there. We'll go into that later. So we've gone over this a bit already and describing what a slice of life comic is. The comic needs to at least be based on something that has happened. It could be a shot for shot remake of your life like this comic about a shopping trip I took with my husband. This is pretty much word for word. What happened? My husband got the punchline that day, but this comic I made denouncing people who put meat on to their pizza before the cheese is only based on something that happened. I don't even own a chef's hat. The word for word story of how I came to this idea was too long for the comic and was really mundane and boring. So I thought over the possibilities, and this was the best way that I could quickly convey the ideas while still showing how I really feel about the topic. So now we get into Element Number two that you're coming should have an emotional element we talked before about finding the ideas that are interesting. And the thing that makes a story interesting that makes any art interesting is the human emotional element. So he wanted choose story ideas that have a strong emotion, whether that sadness or anger or joy or FC when I say strong emotion. What I mean is that if you feel strongly enough about sharing this story with other people that you're willing to, or even excited to pick up a pencil or stylus and draw it out to create a comic, then that counts is having strong emotions about it because in the end, if you feel kind of about your idea. You're not gonna enjoy the comic it makes, and not many other people will, either. So let's go back to the toppings comic. I feel really strongly that the proper way to lower pizza is don't sauce cheese and then any and all other toppings. I need to raise the stakes to show how right I think I am and how wrong. I think the other position is without a lot of unnecessary dialogue or explanation. So I made up a situation in which I am a cooking teacher, and I get to tell a student who disagrees with me that he is very wrong. In fact, he is a monster, and although I wasn't in this situation, this is how I would want to react. And that brings us to rules three and four. I want to talk about these together because they go hand in hand. Make yourself the hero means to make sure that you're always shown in a good light in your comics, so that even if you're the underdog in your story or you seem to be in the wrong at first, the audience still knows to root for you. The best way I found to make that happen is to make sure that your character has a consistent personality. This way your audience knows what to expect from what has come before. If you want people to root for you as the hero of the story, you have to set clear expectations about what kind of person you are in your first few comics and then stick to them going forward. Luckily, this is pretty easy and slice of life comics because your character should act and react as you do. So. If you're not the type of person who goes around sticking their used gum on stuff, then don't make a comic where you stick your used gum on stuff. Just to get that cheap laugh, it will end up alienating your audience. Now, if you are that kind of person, then yeah, go make that comic but trying to spend it as a heroic act. Maybe the janitor we get fired. If they didn't have all your gum to clean up your hero, really? Just stick to the motto. Don't do anything that you wouldn't do in the big box comic. I'm the hero because I'm the one who the audience is meant to identify with, even though not everyone is a distracted shopper like me. Everyone who thinks, as I do, should be disturbed by my husband's description of the pillow in the pizza Talking's comic . I've made myself the hero by drawing myself in a clear position of authority. I have the hat, It's my class. I'm the teacher, the other characters, just some guy in a T shirt. Who cares what he thinks am I right? The consistency of character comes from the fact that I know I actually behaved and responded the way I'm shown in the big box comic and that I know that a fire in the position of the chef in the second comic. That is how I would respond. So now we get to the last rule, which is to be relatable. This is something that I think is really important to go over. But maybe not for the reasons you're thinking. Basically, when it comes to making an idea relatable, forget about it. People have this idea now that being relatable is akin to being mainstream, telling the same popular joke over and over copying of me, eccentric and Not only is this disingenuous in a comic that is supposed to be about you and your life, but it's also not necessary. People are going to respond to the emotions that are being felt by your character. Who is the hero of your story in your comic. Just because I'm not a certain race where gender or sexual orientation or religion or ability or age doesn't mean that I can't enjoy and relate to comics written by people who are different than I am. And in fact, I like them more because relating to human emotion is super easy for me. I could do that with any comic. I could do it all darned eight. But when the creator has a different viewpoint than me, I also might get to learn something new. I might even learn that someone who I thought was different for me has been through the exact same things that I have. Plus, thinking up an idea that absolutely everyone is going to relate to is incredibly difficult , extremely unsatisfying and super boring. Step two of her cost project just to consider the story elements we've gone over and to pick the best idea out of your three, the one that is something that really happened, the one that you feel the strongest about and where you can show how you acted as the relatable hero of the story just by being you. Don't worry about the length just yet. First, we're gonna make sure it's funny in the next lesson, and then we'll see if we can't smush it into four panels of the end. So when we look at my three ideas, I think the one I want to focus on is the story from back in my high school days, because it's something that really happened. It's a story I tell a lot. So I'm really familiar with the elements. It gives me a chance to try and draw my old high school gym teacher, which sounds fun, and it shows something of my character back then, as a talkative no, it'll which is something I still struggle with sometimes. Okay, I get it. No judging. I can feel your judgment. Let us know in your project which idea you're going with and why 5. Lesson 4: The Rules of Comedy: There are many different schools of thought when it comes to comedy. But take it from this awkward kid who was allowed to stay up late watching sitcoms and stand up routines. Thes four rules are the most useful ones for your slice of life. Comic exaggeration, simplicity, inversion and misdirection and repetition or pattern recognition. These can be used one at a time were built up on top of one another. So let's start with number one exaggeration. Anything that is even a little bit funny is gonna be more funny when you exaggerate it. Yeah, you can do that. In fact, I encourage it. Let's look at one of my earlier comics, High five. This comic is about me wanting to have a kind of secret handshake, best friends, High five, this bump kind of thing with my husband and how he is disappointingly not into it. In this comic, I find an opportunity to spring my high five attempt on him at the grocery store. If the next panel was a picture of me with my hand out, it would be fairly underwhelming, and you wouldn't blame him for saying no. So to keep the reader on my side. I exaggerated the pure joy and excitement that I had about this. I exaggerate the expression at a power up action background include a special note about my overly complicated hand gesture attempt. My hair is raised up as if I'm jumping. It's way more exciting than it would have looked to my husband, but it shows how I felt, and it keeps the reader on my side. So when he still rejects me, I remain the underdog hero, and the letdown has more comedic wait. Almost anyone can relate to the time when they were really excited about something but got shot down, and this comment gives them permission to laugh about it. Well, I laugh at myself. The last panel in the toppings comic is a great example of making something funnier by exaggerating it. I'm not just annoyed at this guy. I'm furious. He's a monster. I'm banishing a monster from my room. I'm so upset that I'm pointing my finger at him like a gun, and he's raising his hands up in surrender. He's so scared, and he surrendered so fast that he's still holding the pepperoni slices. Oh, man, those pepperoni slices get me every time. Rule two is well, it's simple. If you have to explain the joke to people, it's not funny. Here's an example of a simple comic. Ants hang out in raspberries. Ants look like parts of raspberries and are good at hiding in them. I'm not willing to take the risk clear and to the point. I could have made a comic about growing up with raspberry bushes in my yard and having to wash them real good to make sure there were no ants on them. Still, but it makes for a much longer and a much more boring story. You'll find in comedy that anything that can easily be simplified probably should be. Rule three inversion is where you flip the script or subvert people's expectations with an opposite or unexpected outcome. Misdirection is when you specifically lead someone to expect a certain conclusion so that you can surprise them with an inversion. In this comic, I use misdirection to lead you to believe that I might agree with the rude comments these guys are making. Then I invert your expectations because it turns out I'm chastising them by inverting the use of the word unattractive to refer to their own behavior in the fourth panel. I subvert your expectations yet again. It turns out I wasn't twisting the meaning because this guy in the hoodie always intended his comment to refer to the fact that his friends behavior is unattractive. And furthermore, his friend admits that his rude behaviour is just to cover up, that he's afraid to get hurt again, thereby dismantling toxic masculinity forever. Okay, maybe not. Anyways, this comic is a bit different because I sprung my punchline in Panel three, got the laugh and then ended it on a more serious note. I don't subscribe to the idea that you should always end with a joke. That said, a lot of your four panel comics will be ending on a joke because sometimes the set up can take all three previous panels. Don't worry, though. You don't always need a lot of space to build up your misdirection or to bring an inversion into play. Even in this very first comic I ever posted, there is a misdirection, as my cheerful smile and supposed polite tone of voice is an opposition with the very strong negative feelings I'm expressing towards cilantro inversion and misdirection sometimes work in conjunction with rule for repetition or pattern recognition, as in that kids knock, knock, joke where you repeat that banana is out the door ad nauseum until finally you say that now it's orange of the door. And aren't you glad I didn't say banana again? Pattern recognition comes into play when the person hearing the joke realizes that only bananas air coming to visit them. But you're actually misdirecting them in order to surprise them with an inversion bam orange to the rescue, followed by a bad pun. Aside from her petition being a literal, repeated pattern of identical bananas, this can also be described as a running gag or a comparison between two things to show a similarity in this older comic. From before I started using the four panel format, I compare my hand lotion application method to how a praying Mantis looks while cleaning itself. To exaggerate the similarities. I've repeated the same colors and I've got us both chirping in this more personal comic. I've compared having a phobia of spiders to having a phobia of people from your past creeping you on social media. The repetition is not only in the writing of heebie jeebies, but in the identical poses of the women reacting. I've done this to show that these two different things feel the same to me. That gut reaction she felt about spiders is what I felt when I saw this new follower. Repetition is also useful for reinforcing your point of view for adding exaggeration to the idea you're presenting and for providing a buildup setting up the pin so that the punchline could knock them down. Step three of our class project is to find the right places in your story to use thes rules of comedy, or maybe even used these rules to reframe your idea in order to get a fund. Your outcome. My story from High school goes like this in science class. I've just been learning that your weight is actually a combined measurement. It's your mass, plus the amount that gravity is pressing down on you. If you're to decrease, your mass gravity wouldn't exert as much force on you, and the scale would show less weight. But if you kept your mass and just went to a planet with less gravity, the scale would still show less weight scales don't work without gravity. So it's really your mass, which is the true measurement. And then I headed off to gym class on Lo and behold, we were asked to weigh ourselves in order to calculate our body mass index. So smart Alec me explained that our wait was subject to the whims of gravity and that we should be concerned with determining our mass was instead. And what ended up happening is that the teacher just smirked while breathing out of his nose game you and then went straight to the next question without acknowledging me at all Total power play. But the reason I like this story is because it shows you that even though I know not everyone appreciates my know it all sass mouth at the same time. The story. Let's me use my know it all sass mouth to explain mass and weight to you. Am I annoying at parties? At any rate, it's not a particularly funny ha ha story, and there are certain elements that I can't change so that it remains based on a true story . So let's think the core of the story is that I'm told I've got to weigh myself in front of everyone and I try to get out of it by going into a potentially annoying rant about what weight even means After that information is in the comic. I've got to make sure I stay the hero and I've got to make it funny. Ha, ha. So here's my plan. I'm gonna simplify the story to cut out the parts that aren't especially necessary. It doesn't matter that I just came from science class. In fact, that hurts my know it all. Rep. I'm gonna start with the who Where what and why Students having toe way themselves in a gym class to find their B m I then respond with my rant. I think it will be funnier if I use exaggeration to inflate the teachers response into laughing in my face. And maybe he's even gonna make me read lapses. Punishment. This sets me up nicely for an inversion. For example, if I'm running laps, I guess I'll miss out on having to get weight. Maybe I'm not so annoying. Maybe I'm just crafty like a foxy hero. I mean, what teenager wants to weigh themselves in front of the gym class anyways, Even back then, I was only using the distinction between weight and mass to get out of the assignment. Hello? Panic, my old friend. So take a look at what we've gone over in this lesson. Make your idea the funniest yet and share your fun here version in the class project. And the next lesson will go over how to condense that well written funny idea into a four panel comic. 6. Lesson 5: Thinking in 4 Panels: getting your ideas to fit into just four panels can be very difficult. And in your future slice of life comics you can use however many you're comfortable with for this class, though, I want you to try the four panel format because I found it can really help you to focus on what's important in your comic and what could be left behind. Working in four panels forces you to simplify the story, sometimes quite drastically used the images to tell the story as much as the words due to limited space. Be more thoughtful about your word choices. Use captions and titles for ease of information transmission. We already talked about simplifying a story into its most basic facts with our raspberry example. Another tactic that seems obvious but actually requires a lot of pre planning is to use the images to tell a big chunk of the story for you. The bare bones of the story is written, but the full meat of the story is in the visuals, and people will pick up a lot of information from visual cues without even realizing it. For example, this comic about my grandfather, although he's always been very active for his age group and fit as a fiddle. He's also been telling us that he's gonna die soon. For as long as I can remember. We're at the point now where he's outlived my grandmother, and I feel like he's gonna outlive us all. The main thing in this story is repetition. We check in on Grandpa every few years and see that it's always a version of the same story . So in each panel I tried to add more signs of aging, But I also needed to show that despite his aging and what he was saying, he's actually stayed really fit. That's a big part of why his behavior is funny, but I've only got four panels and would have been a waste to have my awesome grandma just say out loud. But Fred, you're so fit in every scene. So I scrapped an earlier version where all the scenes took place around the dining table and instead drew in scenes of my grandfather keeping up his active lifestyle and because I knew my grandma wouldn't make it to the last panel. I made sure to include her physically and all the rest, so that when she's present only as a photo in the last panel. It explains for me that she's passed on. This is also a comic where I spent a lot of time on the script to give the reader of Fuller story without adding any extra panels. It's a fun your story, if you know a bit more about my grandfather's gruff temperament. So in the first panel, I've let the reader know that he's always been a grumpy guy who's not especially nice to anyone. This also sets up my grandma's comment in the third panel. In the second panel, I've added an extra joke for those who are paying attention or for family members. He says that 80 that he'll never live long enough to get use out of dentures. But we know by the end of the comic that he goes on at least another 16 years without dentures due to his own stubbornness. Another way to save space in your stories is to add captions or title pages. I don't need to explain that my grandfather has aged in each of these panels, although I did try to show it in the visuals because the caption at the top of each page gives that information to the reader, and having the same caption in the same place in every panel helps reinforce the repetition in the comic. He's also help me tell the story because of the fact that the 1st 3 captions jump in time by 10 years each while the last Onley jump six years. This tells us that the final panel has brought us up to the present day. Title pages are also great to use to convey information and as filler when you've got an idea for a comic that you just can't stretch out into four panels when I make mine, I always think about the intros told Warner Brothers cartoons that show the characters with the title of the cartoon episode. So that's what they end up looking like They had that bit of pattern recognition. Having the title look like something that you think it's funny is another place that you can add humor. They're also helpful if your comic is too long, but there is an uneven number of panels blink conclusion. The joke needs to be funny on its own. In only four panels. It should be funny with the dialogue alone. But the more information you can provide in the art, supportive captions and through thoughtful word choice is the better the comic will be. In the end, if you find that your story just won't fit in four panels, even after you've taken some time to think through it and use all these techniques, that's fine to the important part is that you've improved your comic through the attempt in my gym class example, the story can be explained in four parts by going over the basic plot points the teacher says, We have to wear ourselves. I need to try to dissuade him with my spiel, the teacher lapse of me and sends me for laps. But I'm happy about it. Based on that breakdown, I can think about what needs to be shown in each panel. I know that the teacher will have to appear in the first panel, and since he's giving the what where, who and why, there may be a lot of dialogue. So to make room, I'll show him alone. I'll definitely need to be alone in the second pound where I talk about mass and weight again due to leaving space for all my dialogue. I don't really want to show the teacher laughing directly in my face in the third panel because that would be too harsh. After all, he didn't really laugh in my face. That's exaggeration that I added so to soften it in Panel three. I'll just show a close up of him laughing alone Now in the final panel, there are a few things to consider. Want him telling me to do? Lamps? Might not work in Panel three with his laughing face to We haven't shown the teacher and me in the same panel yet, which seems on to me. I want to confirm visually that these characters occupy the same space. Third, I need to show that I'm happy about leaving the class without saying it out loud or with my expression. It doesn't make sense for my character toe. Let the teacher know that I'm happy about punishment, but I have to let the readers know. So when I take all this into account, I realize that I'm going to need the fourth panel to have both characters, with the teacher telling me to run laps and me responding as if I'm being punished. But thinking that I'm happy about it, So are four panel script will look like this. And just like that, you're ready to go now. You just have to upload your finished group to the class project page for everyone to enjoy . I'm so excited to see what everyone has come up with. 7. Class Wrap up: I want to thank everyone so much for joining me for this class. I really hope that you've gained some insights into slice of life comic making and some tips and tricks to improve your comedy writing skills. Don't forget to post any questions related to this class in the community. Chat at the bottom and let me know their or on my profile if there any other specific classes that you'd like to see for me in the future. You'll also find my social media links there. Feel free to continue to use the class project. PDF and the cheat sheet. Pdf As you make your future comics, I just ask that you don't remove my contact info from the sheets. And if you enjoy the class about much, please tell your friends happy slicing.