Monday, August 13, 2012

The Escalated Hypocrisy of Milt Gross' Count Screwloose

Milt Gross had several dynamics in his humor. One was the comedy of escalation, in which he kept increasing the conditions of a situation to ridiculous extremes. Another dynamic Gross employed is the humor of hypocrisy, in which he draws laughter from the difference between what people say and what they actually do. Gross built an entire strip, Banana Oil (daily 1923-25, Sunday 1926-30) on the latter dynamic In today's comic, a large, cleaned up 300 dpi paper scan from my own archives, Milt puts both of these dynamics into play.

Escalation occurs when the protagonist of this episode, as observed by the Count, has to deal with one crazy interruption after another. Neckties and insurance are silly enough, but a picture on a pony is pretty screwy!

The hypocrisy sets in when we see that our guy was very patient and allowing of the interruptions at the office, but when his son asks him a simple question at home, he explodes with comic rage, destroying his home and spanking his child. Gross -- a dedicated and loving father -- shows us how NOT to be a Dad. At the end, the Count and Iggy play pool at Nuttycrest with veggies and a broom. Along the way, we meet a host of odd and entertaining characters. I ask you, does it get any better?

The comedy of escalation and the humor of hypocrisy are the foundations for a superb Milt Gross screwball comic
January 18, 1931 (from the collection of Paul Tumey)

The first panel is Milt Gross' version of the classic Rube Goldberg chain-reaction invention cartoon. Gross did a few of these in 1931.

I don't know if he and Rube were friends, but I do know that Gross looked up to Rube and was heavily influenced by him. The doctor in this comic is straight outta Rube Goldberg casting...

And, just for fun, here's a couple of close ups of cartoons from today's Milt Gross Monday comic that show Milt's endless inspiration for drawing funny people. What makes these work is that these aren't just drawings... these characters have their own agendas and motivations -- they think they are real!

Well gang, sadly I must inform you that this will probably be the only post I can manage this week and next. I am still eyebrows-deep in a screwball comics related project that is claiming most of my time. In a week or so, I am flying from Seattle to New York City to work lend a hand on an exciting new  Rube Goldberg book by Jennifer George -- Rube Goldberg's grand-daughter and Director of Rube Goldberg, Inc. My fellow screwball scholar, Carl Linich will also be helping out on this book, and I'm looking forward to meeting him in person! There is much prep work to be done this week, including a mountain of scanning and so I have to give my usual "blog time" to this new project for a couple of weeks. Around all this, I am still running Presentation Tree and being a single father during summer vacation - phew! I hope you'll kindly forgive the infrequent August postings, knowing that my energies are contributing in a very small way to help create a cool new book on a screwball master!

Please browse around the older articles you may have missed -- there is already a lot of good reading material on this blog.

A lot more Milt Gross comics you can only find on this blog (new scans from my archive of paper originals) are posted here.

And please spread the word about this blog -- Screwball Comics, Now More Than Ever!

Flip-takingly Yours,
Paul Tumey

No comments:

Post a Comment