If your childhood was anything like mine, eating at Red Lobster was a big deal to you growing up. On our own special holidays like Report Card Day, in addition to the paltry $5 we got in exchange for our straight A's (some kids got $20 per A, which really pissed me off) the family piled into the car for a three-minute road trip to the Red Lobster up the road, which at least made me feel a little better about not being able to afford Krang's Android Body or the Technodrome. And sure, Krang hated his bubble walker and the Shredder was kinda pissed about having to plan his evil schemes from the inside of a plastic pumpkin, but sometimes I brought them back a lobster shaped toothpick as a consolation prize. They begrudgingly accepted it, and the status quo was maintained without a revolution.
But even if Red Lobster was the only thing keeping you from murdering your parents with the aid of an action figure covered in plastic blades, odds are you don't know the true story behind the establishment. For example, it wasn't always called "Red Lobster", and there weren't always so many of the joints. And to be honest, I had a hard time understanding why it was called "Red Lobster", since we never ordered lobster when we went there. Sure, they had lobsters in the tank up front, but they really weren't all that red. But long, long ago, there was only one such restaurant, and, back in those days, it was called "Cooked Seafood". Stupid name? Well, take into account the fact that lobsters only turn red after they're cooked. The old name just tried to accommodate the entire menu.
But then something definitive happened. One evening, the owner of the restaurant, who was also the cook, had finished boiling up a lobster -- or so he thought -- to serve to some wealthy patrons. But this lobster was so badass that boiling water couldn't kill him. Oh, he turned red alright -- red with anger. And when that cook picked up the tongs to retrieve that lobster, that red fella leapt out of the pot, beat the living shit out of him, and made off with the dishwashing girl. And just before he stole off into the night, he shook his claw at the beaten cook and cried out:
"THAT'LL LEARN YE TA FUCK WITH RED LOBSTER, MATEY!!!!!"
The cook was so terrified that the lobster might come back that, as a show of good faith, he named the restaurant after him -- Red Lobster -- in the hopes that he'd let bygones be bygones. Red Lobster never returned in the cook's lifetime, though, as he died three weeks later of severe internal injuries. Meanwhile, Red Lobster and the dishwashing girl married and lived happily in the lore of legend. Eventually the couple produced a son by the name of Clawful, who went on to become one of the most feared minions of Skeletor. But that's another story.
Suffice it to say that one day Red Lobster did return, and by that time the restaurant that bore his name was no longer a single lone shack, but an entire chain that spanned the countryside. After killing everyone in the original restaurant and liberating the lobsters within, Red Lobster stormed into the Red Lobster Headquarters and demanded a meeting with the higher-ups. They feared that he might sue them for using his name, or worse -- that he might shut them down altogether, for they were, after all, stealing his brothers from their homes by the hundreds and forcing them to waste away in the digestive tracts of lazy humans. They feared he might open wide those fearful pinchers -- deadly red weapons that had never known the oppression of the rubber band -- and crush their skulls with impunity. Oh, when Red Lobster scampered into the room with his buxom dishwashing wife at his side, the higher-ups trembled in fear.
But he just wanted them to make a "fun" book about him...
...so they did. By the way, from here on out you can click the images to open up a larger scan in a new window.
So the first thing you'll notice is that this lobster introduces himself as "Larry" -- that's to make him more kid-friendly. "Larry" is the name of a nice guy, but "Red" is the name of a serial murderer, or a stick of gum that "looks good on you." What, can you wear it? I never understood that commercial. Anyway, note also that he's got cute little white-gloved hands. Except the real Red Lobster didn't have hands at all. His extra legs were more like skewers, really, hardened and shaped in boiling waters and sharpened on stones for the sole purpose of killing. This ain't Red, folks -- this is a drawing of some Disneyfied Red interpretation. The true image of Red would cost the Red Lobster franchise billions in cleaning costs, since kids would run shrieking about the restaurants, knocking over everything and shitting all over the place in terror. The real Red's one scary mutha. The kinda guy you'd meet during a bad acid trip. But worse. No, that starfish and that fruity thing with the bubbles damned sure wouldn't be smiling in the presence of the real Red Lobster. 'Cause they'd be dead.
And if you're still with us, I hope you enjoyed reading about the exploits of the real Red Lobster, because from here on out we're just doing a straight review. We've got fifteen more pages to cover and I don't fancy spending the rest of my day writing about a murderous lobster. On second thought, maybe I do, but still, let's not tarry.
So for their first activity in this crazy whirligig of fun in print, the kiddies get to pick the whale's favorite food from a list. Most of the choices make sense, but that first one's kinda odd. Kryptonite??? The only way that one would make sense is if the whale ate Superman and needed something to keep him from punching a hole in its stomach while he digested. But Superman's not on the list. Geppetto and Pinocchio would've been my guess, but they're not on there either. No, the answer is plankton. And in any case, this whale looks far too friendly to eat a humanoid thing. But that's how they getcha. Note that poor fish the whale is torturing by blasting it into the air. Clearly it is more sinister than it lets on.
Yep, meet Lady Lobster and her stupid riddles. Click the scan and read 'em for yourself -- I'm not even going to bother going over these godawful things. Instead, I'm going to talk about how ridiculous Lady Lobster is. First of all, she's wearing a dress, a bunch of tacky jewelry, and a sun hat. Now, I'll let the dress slide -- maybe she wants to look kinda classy, and I didn't pick on Larry for the top hat and bow tie. The jewelry, however, is overkill. And why would a lobster need a sun hat at the bottom of the sea? That makes no sense. Nor does her wearing a bunch of makeup underwater. How would she buy it? Is there an underwater clothing/jewelry/makeup store that sells waterproof makeup and hands out phony beauty marks? See, this is why the real Red Lobster took a human wife. I'd rather have a buxom dishwashing girl than a prissy lobster bitch, too. And note that she's red, which means that she's been cooked. But apparently she was too hideous and stupid to eat, so they let her go. Curses.
Yep, now he's got his own comic. In the above panels, a couple of idiot kids -- Kathy and Rick -- climb a giant anchor thing and find a treasure map. Now I don't know about you, but if I saw a giant anchor I think I'd be a little worried. To me, a giant anchor means giant ship, and when I think giant ship I think giant pirates. Regular sized pirates are scary enough, but giant pirates? Fuck that; I wouldn't stick around to meet one of those guys -- so either these kids are incredibly brave or incredibly stupid. I'm going with the latter, since they don't seem at all surprised when a giant talking lobster riding in a top hat paddles onto shore, accompanied by a giant talking shrimp in a ragtag sailboat. As we see below, Rick's even dumb enough to shake the lobster's claw.
I'm not even sure where to begin. Okay, I'll start with Shrimpee. Look at him!!! Now, I'm not going to say anything about his sexual orientation, because that would be playing to stereotypes and that's not something I do, but if that isn't the fruitiest shrimp you've ever seen I hope to hell I never accidentally stumble across your stomping ground. So anyway, Rick apparently commits a major faux pas by referring to Larry's home as an "old wreck," which prompts Larry to break out into tears. Behind him, Shrimpee puts his hands on his hips and rolls his eyes all sassy like.
Above, Larry teaches the kids about the other treasures in life: "family, love and friendship, doing good things for others...and enjoying fine food." Now, about that last one -- if I were a giant lobster who had already been cooked, I'd keep my fucking mouth shut regarding food. In fact, I might've replaced that last one with, "...and the joy and peace of mind that accompanies starving oneself to death." But despite his blunder, Larry is safe, and the kids buy his spiel about the other treasures in life and give up the map. So either they have hearts of gold or they're complete and total morons, and again, you can guess which option I'm sticking with. But at least Larry's going to give them a little gift for their compliance...
So for handing over the treasure map and keeping safe the location of his humble home, Larry Lobster repays the children by giving them two measly gold coins from his frickin' huge chest of gold coins. What a miserly asshole. Barring the existence of that underwater department store, it's not like he needs 'em or anything, so he could've at least given the kids a hatful or something. But nope, two coins. And he's too lazy to even paddle back to shore himself to give his gift in person -- he has his pal Octo the baseball bat-wielding octopus slug 'em over to the kids on the beach. I'm thinking he knew his gift sucked and wanted to make sure that he was at a safe distance from the kids, so that they couldn't repay his stinginess by having him for lunch. And what's up with not offering Octo anything for hitting the coins onto shore for him? I'd smack him over the head with that bat and steal his treasure for meself. But remember, this story is fiction. This is Larry Lobster, not Red. If Red found some dumbass kids on his beach, his wife would later find him napping inside their cold, hollowed out carcasses. Then they'd have sex over the children's dead bodies. So romantic.
Yes! With this map of the United States and the blanks to your right, you too can try your hand at naming the states!!! There's not a whole lot more to say -- if you give an eager twitching coconut shrimp's ass, go for it. I don't.
Here's a better idea -- see how many things you can find that don't start with the letter "S". Seriously, just about everything in sight starts with the damned letter "S". For instance, let's take our pal Willy here. Okay, so being a walrus, he's out himself, but he's holding a surfboard and sunglasses and he's wearing a shirt, sandals, and a stupid raggedy hat. In fact, everything in the picture arguably starts with the letter "S", because it can all be described as stupid. Well guess what, Willy? Your game sucks.
Yup. First, he asks how many triangles you can find in that line-filled box. Admittedly, this one's a little interesting, though I doubt many kids would've had the patience to work through it, considering that I lack the patience to work through it now and I took the time to write several paragraphs detailing the backstory of a murderous lobster. The second puzzle asks how many times you can find the word "shrimp" in the lettered grid. And now we know what happened to ol' Bubba when he died -- he was reborn as a talking fatass surfing walrus who apparently isn't very good at math. Karmically speaking, I'm not sure whether that's a reward or a punishment.
...is one of the creepiest things I've ever seen. It's got this washed out, dead look, it's got a sign nearby with scary red text, and it's got all kinds of objects and fucked up animal parts growing out of it. And a piece of pie. What's up with the piece of pie? THAT MAKES NO SENSE. I have absolutely no idea what this page is doing in the book. It doesn't fit with anything and it's the stuff of nightmares. I'm thinking the real Red Lobster snuck it in when the printer wasn't looking.
You know, I never understood that thing in movies and television shows where the characters sit around and pretend like solving crossword puzzles is some great and challenging intellectual activity. I've never met anyone like this and I've damned sure never seen a crossword puzzle that actually required thinking to solve -- the hardest ones I've come across just required those who would solve it to know a lot of useless information about celebrities and movies that they'd probably be better off without. This crossword puzzle's a little better than that. Sure, it only requires you to be able to look at some animal shapes and fill in the names of the beasts, but if you ever get attacked by number six up there, you at least want to be able to shout out, "HOLY CRAP, IT'S A POOPS!!!" before it drowns you in spit. But in case it's too difficult for you, I filled it in with the correct answers. Thank me later.
You know, I'm not sure what to say about this one. I mean, given the layout of this boot, you're tempted to leave the damned fish to rot for working his way so deep in there. But this is a really strange maze, because it's pretty easy -- you can go almost any way that isn't obviously blocked off and come out okay. Seriously, even for a children's fun book this is pretty weak. But maybe that's intentional. Maybe this was designed to boost the kids' self-esteem after the Tree of Plenty made them shit their pants in fear. I dunno! Anyway, for your benefit, I went through one possible escape route. There are plenty -- knock yourself out. Help the little fish return to his friends! But waitasec, isn't that one a dolphin? Don't dolphins eat fish? So we're really leading this poor little guy to his doom. We all had a hand in his death. And once again we glimpse the sinister claw of Red Lobster, working wickedly behind the deceptive veil of "fun."
Yep. Admittedly, connect-the-dots type games never really made sense to me as a kid -- they were usually detailed enough for you to know what the picture was even before connecting the dots, so wasting your pencil graphite hopping from point to point seemed kinda unnecessary. And if you did take the time to connect the dots, if you followed the rules and went from point to point with straight lines, you generally ended up with some pitiful angular creature that would make you regret having taken the time to bring it into being. Anyway, here we have a seal with a ball on its nose, and Larry is training it to do something. As a reward, he feeds it fish. And boy, aren't those fish happy about it! They're smiling! So maybe we were doing that little fish above a favor after all. But the real star of the show is Shrimpee. I know, I know, we've insinuated all sorts of things about him, but this picture really tells us the truth about our tough little shrimpy pal. Tough? You bet -- the guy's got balls. Ha, ha. And how many things can you do with balls? Shrimpee knows you can lick 'em, and fondle 'em...and you can come up with other things to do with balls on your own time.
And finally, we have a pop quiz on the back cover. Now, I remember back in grade school where we'd have the final during maybe the second-to-last week, or at least at the beginning of the final week of the semester, and then spend the rest of the time having fun. Not here -- we spend the majority of the book reveling in the insanity of talking clothed lobsters and effeminate shrimp and stupid walruses and terrifying sights, but we close with trivia questions that aren't even all that fun to answer. Who cares how many gallons of water are in the oceans, or where they shot live shark footage for Jaws? Not me -- I just want to know the horrific tale of the Tree of Plenty, and how it ties in with the history of the real Red Lobster. But alas, he derives such sinister pleasure from leaving us in the dark.
Thus ends this cover-to-cover journey through the printed wonder that is the Red Lobster Fun Book. Ultimately, there's not a whole lot to say about it, and most of the above was me trying desperately to take up space with words. Simply put, the book was just something to keep kids occupied while they waited for their food. And it took for-ev-er to arrive, which explains that blasted triangle counting game. The complicated backstory and strange mysteries detailed above might have seemed interesting and sinister indeed, but, in truth, the Red Lobster Fun Book was merely a diversion.
Just click the image above! Simple, no? ;)