Swiping From The Best
Those of us who enjoy the ancient and nearly-dead form of the newspaper comic strip know that the first successful regularly published strip was Bud Fisher’s Mutt & Jeff. It was enormously popular, running from 1907 through 1982, and reprints remain available each day online through various newspapers and through the gocomics.com service. Yes, it’s dated and the best stuff – the original strips that were actually done by Fisher – are quite good, if you are in for that sort of thing. I most certainly am.
Mutt & Jeff went on to Broadway, to silent pictures, to animation, and to a strong and ongoing presence in comic books starting in 1919 with a series of reprints from Cupples and Leon. When the contemporary comic book started in the mid-30s, Mutt & Jeff were right there from day one, in the first issue of the first regularly published comic book, Famous Funnies. The duo and their entourage continued in comic books published by Dell, DC and Harvey until 1965; the overwhelming majority coming from DC Comics in All-American Comics and in their eponymous title, which ran for 103 issues.
So it was with amusement and some surprise that I greeted today’s reprint (above) on gocomics.com. You see, I’m also a Smothers Brothers fan. The still-performing team is enormously talented, politically erudite, and very, very funny. What amused me is that today’s Mutt & Jeff gag was lifted, lock, stock but no music, from a classic Smothers Brothers routine. It’s so classic that I have even played it on my Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind show on getthepointradio.com.
The routine was the very first track of the Smothers Brothers’ very first album, released way back in 1962. It was written by Tommy’s friend, the brilliant Pat Paulsen. Later that decade, Pat became a featured performer on the SmoBro hit variety show, and he ran for president (in the sense that Pogo and Alfred E. Neuman ran for president) in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1988 and 1992. The song was called “Chocolate” and was part of their stand-up act for over fifty years.
Well, it you’re going to steal, you should steal from the best.