My new website: Great Forgotten Humorists

They’re Brits.

Well, “great” is promotional hype, based mostly on book sales. Easier to put forward the idea that someone that topped the bestseller list shouldn’t be forgotten.

Of course Mae West. I have all the biographies, I think. Her original books are either plays or fiction, though. Unlike Fields, she never wrote comic essays. I have Life with Father and Life with Mother by Clarence Day. He’s an author on my list to fill in, but first printings of his books are hard to come by.

You threw a curve at me; I had never heard of her. When I looked her up I saw that her first chapter was indeed humorous. But the farther she got into the book (available on Gutenberg) the straighter she presented the information.

Fine authors, not humor book writers.

A number of very good books have recently come out on the history of female comedians and Moms Mabley is prominently featured in them. I don’t know of any book just of her, though. A huge gap. Dick Gregory is in the same position; lots in books on comic history, no good biographies. I have two biographies of Burt Williams, though.

How about Molly Katz, best known for Jewish as a Second Language? (Apparently, she also wrote New York as a Second Language and 101 Reasons to Dump Your Man and Get a Cat.)

Great! I wasn’t aware of her, but she’s right on target.

BTW, you mention ETAOIN SHRDLU in your article about Corey Ford, saying, correctly, that it is “taken from the most-frequency used letters of the alphabet.” (I only just noticed that you probably meant to write “frequently” instead of “frequency.”)

You probably know this, but the main reason anyone knows about ETAOIN SHRDLU is that those are the equivalent of the “home keys” on a Linotype machine. When operators made a mistake that was most easily fixed by removing the entire line of type, they would run their fingers down those two columns of the keyboard.

The type setter who was laying out the slugs was supposed to see ETAOIN SHRDLU and pull that line. This page discusses the practice and shows an example that slipped through to publication.


I was also going to mention that I owned a copy of Ford’s The Time of Laughter for decades and carried it with me across several moves without ever reading more than a few pages, if that. Finally, in our last move, from a large house to a small one, when we had to divest ourselves of a lot of stuff, I gave it away. (Or at least I’m pretty sure I did. I’d have to go root through a bunch of boxes in the attic to check.)

After reading your article, I wish I still had it. :angry:

Sorry for your loss. I’ve read the book multiple times; it’s strangely addictive. Nothing else creates or recreates a sense of how much fun that era must have been for the lucky few who got to be at the center of the Algonquin/New Yorker/humorist world for that short period. Of course New York has had multiple periods when squads of eccentrics built a little bubble inside the multitudes and are duly written about decades later. This is one I care about, or at least aspired to when I was young, and nothing ever erases that.

Just discovered the thread and the site and seeing Will Cuppy right there in the front page I know I’m looking forward to what else I might discover in it.

Missed that, sorry, am idjit!

Hope you find some pleasant surprises as well.