Julie Larson grew up in a fun family of five kids in Lincoln, Ill., a small, quiet town surrounded by cornfields. With only three channels on TV and miles of open space around, Julie and her siblings had ample time and room to create their own fun.
"My family always had a terrific sense of humor and never hushed our peals of laughter at the dinner table," Julie says. Irreverent behavior and pranks were expected. Teasing only caused tears of uncontrollable laughter. In fact, Julie was in charge of homemade family birthday cards for close relatives. If you had a quirk or a visible Achilles' heel, it was tastefully highlighted in your personalized birthday greeting. Drawing was her hobby, and she always kept pen and paper close at hand.
Growing up, Julie hit the books hard and played competitive tennis until college. She earned a BS in Architecture from the University of Illinois and spent the next eight years working in the design field. In 1989, after her first of three daughters was born, Julie and her family moved from Chicago to the "burbs." She also changed careers.
Julie noted a dull, repetitive lifestyle from one suburb to the next. But when she took a closer look, she saw it was only monotonous on the outside. Underneath, she observed a lively hustle and bustle of people who truly enjoyed every moment of belonging to the masses. Mass consumerism was exciting and colorful! Julie embraced it and saw it as a theater filled with stars whose favorite ride was "The Rat Wheel." She "got it."
Julie began writing The Dinette Set comic in 1990, then called Suburban Torture, offering a satire on middle class culture. The Dinette Set became syndicated in 1997. When asked where Julie gets all of her ideas, she admits there is only one way to write a daily comic: Write about what you know. "I make no bones about who's really talking in The Dinette Set," says Julie, who is writer, director and cast of The Dinette Set. "If we can't make fun of ourselves, who will?"
Julie and her three daughters live in Central Illinois and often enjoy "playing the Pennys" when the mood strikes, whipping themselves into a frenzy of laughter. The recipe is simple: Take a mundane life situation (perhaps discovering after leaving McDonald's drive-thru that they forgot the fries), and then imagine what Burl and Joy might say about it. It's fun, it's therapy, and Julie's loyal fans write to say they are "playing the Pennys" at home, too.