Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Secret Origins -- College Humor

As mentioned before, I'm a long time fan of the site College Humor.

[Slightly NSFW]

But I always found the name a bit odd until I came across this post from Dick Cavett's much lamented NYT blog:

Woody Allen has said that of the greats, Groucho had the richest number of gifts. He could sing, dance and act, and beyond those fairly common gifts, when you add the distinctive voice, faultless instinct for wording, genius wit, hilarious physical movement, rich supply of expressions and physical “takes” — and the list goes on — it arguably adds up to the most supremely gifted comedian of our time.

And there’s one thing more. He could write. A born scribe. And many a Groucho fan is unaware of the degree to which this was true.

This problem has been put to bed by Bader’s book. (Full disclosure: I know Rob from the masterful job he did putting together the “Dick Cavett Show” DVD sets.) Bader, too, can write, and in a fresh, humorous, scholarly and entertaining way, with shrewd analysis and observations about the products of Groucho’s pen and typewriter.

If your reaction to this is, “So what did he write?” this book holds the answer. In his early years, and aside from his books, Groucho’s written pieces appeared widely, including in the beloved magazine College Humor and, yes, The New Yorker. Bader has found and retrieved priceless specimens of Groucho’s impressively large output from all over, some of the pieces early enough to have been bylined “Julius H. Marx,” Groucho’s vrai nom. Open the book to any page and try not to laugh.
A quick trip to Wikipedia filled in the details:

College Humor was a popular American humor magazine from the 1920s to the 1940s. Published monthly by Collegiate World Publishing, it began in 1920 with reprints from college publications and soon introduced new material, including fiction. Contributors included Robert Benchley, Heywood Broun, Groucho Marx, Ellis Parker Butler, Katherine Brush, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald. Editor H.N. Swanson later became Fitzgerald's Hollywood agent.

The magazine featured cartoons by Sam Berman, Ralph Fuller, John Held Jr., Otto Soglow and others.
I suppose this could be a coincidence, but if not, that's awfully good company.

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