the Underground Giraffe: something to read while you're in the bathroom

the Underground Giraffe logo

Andersen Silva: literary editor/propagandist
Stephen Augulis: graphic editor
Assorted deities: editors-in-chief

Underground, and IN YOUR FACE!!!

The Underground Giraffe was born of angst and a devil-may-care attitude early in 1991. As a sometimes-frustrated employee of Toys "R" Us, Andy put together the "Geoffrey Employee Handbook," an irreverent and often offensive collection of on-the-job humor given a decidedly anti-Toys slant. It was an instant hit among the few people who saw it, one of these being Steve Augulis, well known for his own sarcastic humor. Steve and Andy talked about the possibility of putting out a regular publication together, found that they were both very enthusiastic about such a project, and lo and behold, work was begun on the exciting colossal premiere issue of the Underground Giraffe.

The debut in early March of 1991 sold out quickly, though selling 30 copies at twenty-five cents each wasn't too much of an achievement. That first issue featured two alternate covers, an article on Geoffrey Commandos being deployed in the Persian Gulf War, how-to pieces on killing time at work and stretching one's half-hour lunch into a full hour without getting docked, and a scathing re-write of the chain's commercial jingle, "I'm a Toys 'R' Us Kid," aimed at perceived kiss-asses.

Four traditions were debuted in that issue: the disclaimer page, full of nonsense, undue credits, and a different deity as editor-in-chief for each issue (Steve and Andy had different titles each time around, pointing out that the former did most of the art and the latter did most of the writing); Marty the Manager's company policy column; T-GAR, The Great Angry Rabbit, Steve's low-budget, crude comic strip; and the items of death! The idea was to take a totally harmless and neutral person, place, or thing and couple it with the phrase "of death!" Fourteen separate items of death! were detailed in the "Life... of Death!" issue (vol. 1, no. 6), along with Marty the Manager's fatal attack... of death! ("of death!" lives on in Andy's 'Blog... of Death!)

Well, there IS a slight resemblance...

This rendition of the Underground Giraffe (by Steve Augulis) in a rebellious pose was claimed by many to have been inspired by Andy,
who did wear chains, ripped jeans, and Doc Martens to work occasionally. Steve insisted that this was not intentional.

The second issue, featuring a green cover (for St. Patrick's Day) and Toys Vice-Chairman Bob Nakasone promoting the Japanese Express Card, sold out within days as well. Skinny the Foo, essentially Andy's uncensored alter ego, made his first appearance in this issue. Skinny was later accused of being a simplistic caricature of the store's hairless assistant director, the truth was that a round-headed stick figure was pushing the boundaries of Andy's drawing abilities.

The duo was warned that they'd get in unspecified trouble if their co-workers were caught reading UG on the clock. Management wasn't sure yet what to think about the newsmagazine that was "something to read while you're in the bathroom," but they knew they didn't want people reading this stuff while they were supposed to be working. Consequently, No. 2's disclaimer discouraged perusing the publication when one was on the clock.

The Underground Giraffe was proudly "Published sporadically," and issue no. 3 hit newsstands in April. Nakasone was mentioned in three different features on three separate pages, and maybe that had something to do with the tightening of the screws. As Andy prepared to post in the breakroom a flyer he'd designed for the upcoming fourth issue (aka PlayUG, or the Porno issue), he was advised by management that they could no longer advertise within the store and might be violating company policies against solicitation. Steve and Andy again urged their fans and supporters not to get caught with copies in the store, and they toned down their advertising tactics, but they did not cease and desist.

The dastardly duo exchanged ideas and finished pages at work, and generally carried this material around in manila envelopes. On one occasion, Andy left such an envelope in his locker, and was stopped by a manager as he was leaving the store. She inquired about the location of the envelope she'd seen him walk in with, and left him with the uneasy feeling that the manila envelope and its contents might disappear from his locker if left there. Though it was later clarified that she was trying to ensure that he wasn't distributing finished copies of UG on store grounds, at the time Andy opted to bring the envelope back home with him. He did, however, decide to have a little fun a while later, and waited outside the store one afternoon and handed several co-workers each a manila envelope, within an hour or so of each other, with which to walk into the building. These had been stuffed with some made-up espionage nonsense (the envelopes, not the co-workers). None of the employees were questioned, nor their envelopes confiscated, but people definitely noticed.

Autumn Barckhoff, another co-worker and friend, had taken out a farcical personal ad in PlayUG and joined the staff as fiction editor, writing a short story that appeared in the fifth issue. Andy designed a new flyer for the publication and stopped at the store on his day off to give copies to Steve and Autumn for distribution. Back at the store later that day, he learned that Steve had put some of his copes on cars in the parking lot, some of which belonged to several manager trainees at the store. The assistant store director, by all accounts, had been infuriated by the parade of trainees coming back in to hand mangament their flyers, and Andy was warned by some of the cashiers that trouble was brewing.

Reporting for work the next morning, Andy was advised by a stern front-end manager that he and Steve had had their time cards pulled and were not allowed to punch in until they met with the assistant store director the following afternoon. Andy secretly taped said meeting, without even Steve being aware. The two learned that, while the A.S.D. himself had nothing against UG and in fact rather enjoyed some of it (or so he said), the hierarchy was getting more and more agitated and the store director and A.S.D. had had their own jobs threatened. The legality of the Company's position was brought up, and while Steve and Andy defended themselves well, in the end they were both given written 'final' warnings before getting their time cards back.

The two had in fact been discussing a more literary and creative (and less anti-corporate) direction anyway, and came up with a new name and mascot, FOOGAR, which reflected a merger of their characters, Skinny the Foo and T-GAR. The first and only staff meeting of the Underground Giraffe/FOOGAR was held at Andy's house, and Autumn gave Steve and Andy some questions for an article she was writing on the founders and their troubles for the next issue. The Underground Giraffe himself ended up on the store's volleyball team's T-shirts (designed by Steve) as mascot.

Sadly, though, the newsmagazine had lost its footing and never quite recovered. Steve, Autumn, and Andy had put some material together for two new issues, both of which were originally supposed to be published that June: the above-mentioned "Life... of Death!" compilation, and the 'last/first double extravaganza' which combined the death of the Underground Giraffe and its rebirth as FOOGAR. Steve had even designed two front covers for it, so held one way, it was UG, and flipped over, it was FOOGAR. The issues weren't completed, however, and the material stagnated in Andy's possession with no one showing any desire to push on.

That changed over a year later in September of 1992, when Andy's resolve to quit after his five-year anniversary with Toys "R" Us grew unstoppable and he decided he was going to complete and publish those last two issues on his own as a parting gift to his co-workers. He finally gave his two weeks' notice (in the form of a lengthy, detailed Letter of Resignation), but was talked into giving the store a second chance by the new assistant store director. (OK, maybe his resolve was a little stoppable...) After maybe two weeks, however, went home after work one night and just never came back... but not before handing out complimentary copies of the swan song issues of UG and FOOGAR, which contained the complete transcript of the meeting Steve and Andy had with the (by then) former A.S.D, the piece Autumn had written around the interview questions, and a copy of Andy's 'Employee Counseling Review' over the flyer debacle, as well as less angry stuff. It was a fitting end for a fiery newsmagazine.

Read vol. 1, no. 3, the Life... of Death! compilation, or the last UG / first Foogar double extravaganza issue!

Read me!
And me!
Read me, too!

Underground, and IN YOUR FACE!!!
Andy's two sets of "press credentials," front and back

"Power to the employees!" and all other artwork on this page © 1991 by Steve Augulis