Friday, January 23, 2015


1. Christopher Miller is the author of a wonderful new book called American Cornball, in which he sets out to chronicle the USA's age-old love affair with naughty, raunchy comedy, both written and illustrated. To go along with it as a kind of evolving appendix, he's put together an excellent and surprisingly funny tumblr where he hosts images and jokes there wasn't enough room for in his book. From American Cornball's Harper Collins promo page:
Miller revisits nearly 200 comic staples that have been passed down through our culture for generations, many originating from the vaudeville age. He explores the (often unseemly) contexts from which they arose, why they were funny in their time, and why they eventually lost their appeal. The result is a kind of taxonomy of humor during America's golden age that provides a deeper, more profound look at the prejudices, preoccupations, and peculiarities of a nation polarized between urban and rural, black and white, highborn and lowbrow. As he touches on issues of racism and sexism, cultural stereotypes and violence, Miller reveals how dramatically our moral sensibilities have shifted, most notably in the last few decades. Complete with more than 100 period illustrations, American Cornball is a richly entertaining survey of our shifting comic universe.
Needless to say, yer old pal Jerky highly recommends it!

2. And, continuing in the spirit of what used to make (North) Americans laugh, here's an excellent (if somewhat dated) Boston Globe think-piece on Constance Rourke's classic 1931 text American Humor: A Study of the National Character, which may be read in its entirety at this University of Virginia link. Here's a description of some of Rourke's work from the Globe piece to give you a taste:
The funniest American types, in Rourke's opinion, were the Yankee, the frontiersman, and the minstrel. To explain the rise of these three archetypal American characters, she quoted the philosopher Henri Bergson: "The comic comes into being just when society and the individual, freed from the worry of self-preservation, begin to regard themselves as works of art." Europe might have castles, cathedrals, and rock sculpture by druids, but the United States had garrulous hicks who were canny enough not to mind being mistaken for fools.
3. It is perhaps ironic that in this particular edition of the Daily Dirt Diaspora Suggested Reading List, ostensibly concerned as it seems to be with the subject of humor, that we are featuring the second-least successful of the [adult swim] series of videos entitled Infomercials:. In Search of Miracle Man. It's really too bad, too, because I'm a big fan of both Matt Besser and Rich Fulcher. Oh well, maybe you'll find something in it that I don't. And for completeness' sake, I'm running it. At least it's better than Fartcopter (see this space tomorrow!).

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