Sunday, 11 December 2011

Why This Cartoon Is Devastatingly Hilarious, But Not To 99.9% Recurring Of The Planet's Population.

Well, I think it's funny. It's not particularly well drawn as we've just acquired an English Springer Spaniel puppy and she's VERY demanding of time and attention, as any person who has trodden barefoot, in the dark, in puppy poo whilst searching for the said substance in order to clear it up will testify.
Ennywhey, on to this week's lecture which concerns cultural touchstones and their generational disintegration due to the increasingly disparate nature of mass media.
Oh do wake up! I haven't even started yet!
In order to appreciate the finer humorous points of my cartoon you would need to know why I named the patient, Mr. Talbot. I have often been accused, with good reason, of being too obscure, but I would have thought an overly hirsute individual with the monicker 'Talbot' would have awakened some cultural echoes. Now then, some of you may be entertaining the notion that I am about to launch into my theory about diminishing cultural touchstones purely because I didn't get any points whatsoever in this week's caption competition. Well, let's get this absolutely crystal clear; you'd be quite right.
 Larry Talbot is the doomed character in the 1941 film The Wolf Man (from guess which studio? - Yup! Universal) . Now, I fully understand that not a lot of people would know that, but I bet Stephen King and Harlan Elllison would. It would, therefore, follow that a sizeable number of their readership would also know that fact and would find my cartoon thigh-slappingly, erm, slightly amusing. Perhaps.
Harlan Ellison wrote a short story titled Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: (the rest of the title is a map reference which I can't replicate because I do not have the know-how). The story is based on Larry Talbot undergoing the latest scientific technological techniques in order to cure him of his lycanthropic condition (Don't you wish more parts of the body had brilliant names like the Islets of Langerhans? Tulp's Isthmus,  perhaps? Incidentally, a Merry Isthmus to all our readers - in case I forget). During the course of the story Ellison makes a reference to Carlos Castaneda who used to be another cultural touchstone. But who, nowadays, reads The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge? Cultural touchstones only hold significance for small numbers of people in different generations. I shall illlustrate this further, but before I do it is important to know that Larry Talbot was played (very well) by Lon Chaney Jr.
In the 1980's Robin Williams released a VHS recording of a stand-up stint at the New York Metroplitan (I believe some clips of it are available on Youtube). During an almost non-stop barrage of verbal imagery, Williams, through gesture and allusion had me on the floor in tears of laughter just by saying, "Tell me about the rabbits." The instant imagery in my mind was of the Abominable Snowman in the Bugs Bunny film The Abominable Snow Rabbit. The speech patterns of the Abominable Snowman are directly lifted from the character of Lennie in the 1939 film version of Steinbeck's story of porcelain male figurines from Saxony (Of Meissen Men - Come on, keep up!). The very loose use of the characters of George and Lenny were quite widely employed in Warner Brothers cartoons (see also Tex Avery's  various George and Jr. cartoons) because they would have been recognizable cultural touchstones to a wide audience. But, no longer. I would argue that if Robin Williams were to release that particular performance on DVD, the Of Mice and Men/ Warner Brothers cartoon reference would be completely lost. I have asked younger generations about things that I take for granted, Steinbeck in particular, and the response was "yeah, I think we had to read that once at school." No one had heard of the 1939 film version that was once so iconic. They hadn't even heard of the more recent, excellent, film version with Gary Sinise and John Malkovitch.
In 1939 the part of Lennie was played (iconically) by Lon Chaney Jr. which is pretty much where I came in.
P.S. I thought hard pad sounded funnier than distemper.


  1. ha ha - I sometimes enjoy your ramblings more than your cartoon. BTW, I'm one of the 99.999999999999% who didn't have a clue! Have fun with the puppy.

  2. Cheers, Chris. Soon be Christmas. All that Yuletide puppy-poo and puppy-piddle to look forward to.

  3. A talbot was a type of dog. What relevance that might have had to the name of the character in The Wolf Man I have no idea, but it's what I first thjought of when I saw the cartoon. So that'll be another very small minority who found it funny too …

  4. Ooh, I didn't know that! Thanks, Terry. I'm even more brilliant, talented, wonderful and egocentric than I originally thought.

    Where did everybody go?

  5. That's right, they're an extinct type of hunting dog. There's a Talbot Arms in Hertford, I believe. We've probably been there.

  6. Oh, and nobody reads Casteneda any more because just like Lobsang Rampa he was a charlatan.