Mandatory Fun Highlights The Dread Of Start-Up Culture
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Mandatory Fun Highlights The Dread Of Start-Up Culture

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The workplace is an integral part of our lives. We spend so much time there, whether it be for meetings, productive tasks (and unproductive ones too), and socialising. What makes a good workplace has been endlessly discussed. However, that discussion is not just limited to out-of-touch CEOs in Forbes. Webcomics are getting in on the action with Mike Greany’s Mandatory Fun satirical look at start-up culture and work-life balance.

Serialised over 25 parts in 2023, Mandatory Fun introduces readers to a graphic designer slumming it in freelancing. However, credit card debt requires him to join a start-up for a steady income. At first, the company seems like a sweet place to work. There are beers on Friday afternoons, a breakfast bar, and the people who work there are all young and cool. By the end of the first part, an ominous feeling begins to settle in, with the disappearance of an older workmate and the installation of a slide.

Greaney gives readers this invisible scale between the perks and the value of the work done. It is evenly balanced in the beginning. However, over time, the work perks begin to index towards affecting the work and, by extension, our protagonist’s mental health. By that stage, Mandatory Fun leans hard into satire. Things devolve to a state that would be ridiculous for any workplace, such as a network of slides and mandatory laughing yoga, and eventuate into the surreal and mildly Lynchian.

Many themes are touched on that would be familiar to anyone who has worked at a start-up or in agency land. Some of these include the cult of personality, as shown through the start-up’s leader; personality hires, those hired for vibes and how they fit into the culture of cool over their work; the idea of “mandatory fun”, the kind of enforced fun that tends to cater to the inner-clique instead of the wider working group; and how the working environment contributes to work-life balance.

These are all woven into the narrative well and never feel like a detour. Each builds on the another, highlighting another nightmarish scenario that the graphic designer has to navigate while he’s just trying to earn a living and keep his mental health intact. As a result, you feel for him and hope that he gets through his experiences unscathed.

Greaney communicates these ideas through an art style that’s bold but not rigid. The line work uses a consistently medium thickness, which gives everything a solid form without losing detail. Despite their thickness, they never feel rigid – with the artist opting for a loose presentation. Beyond being an aesthetic choice, it allows for better storytelling. Characters give off a wider emotional breath, whether it be optimism, frustration, exhaustion, fear, or being hung over.

It’s a style that also accommodates the delivery method. Each chapter has ten panels, each of which is a square. If you read it on Greaney’s website, it’s presented as a page of ten panels in a 2×5 grid. If you read it on Instagram, you’ll get each panel separately as a ten-panel carrousel. Greaney’s style works well for the small screen, not being too busy but also containing enough to communicate his ideas well.

Mandatory Fun covers a lot of ground over 250 panels, satirising start-up culture and the horrors of the workplace to great effect. While it’s taken to some absurd places, those who’ve worked in a start-up or agency environment will find elements of it relatable to their experiences. For those who haven’t, perhaps it’ll provide what you should look for in your future occupational endeavours.

Mandatory Fun can be read on Mike Greaney’s website or Instagram, or Facebook.


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