Cartoon short directed by Charles M. “Chuck” Jones
Many of us walking this Earth owe whatever sense of humor we have to the denizens of Termite Terrace. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and all those other manic characters taught us what was funny while we sat before our massive televisions in our pajamas on wintry Saturday mornings.
While I loved the smart mouth on Bugs (pretty much Groucho Marx in amrabbit suit), I loved Daffy for his resilience in the face of never-ending torment. He never stopped running his mouth, no matter what happened, including having his bill turned upside down. He was something more than a second banana doomed to unending failure (pretty much the fate of Elmer Fudd).
Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog also set off resonances which I have never outgrown. They may not encourage you to speak truth to power, but they do engender some perspective on bureaucracy when you have another day of drudgery before you.
As it turns out, we were watching versions of the original cartoon shorts that had been editted. The television networks wanted to cram more advertising for junk food and toys into our brains. (Let me just say that I am glad we had a paved basement for those SSP racers to traverse in the winter.) So, some of the humor cut beyond comprehension.
certain moments cut through the morning malaise. Rabbit Hood could not be contained. Jones, Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, Tex Avery, Robert Clampett and Frank Tashlin produced many, many brilliant shorts during their heyday. This was the one that reached out of the screen and said that I would never be the same.
You know how you can quote lines from Monty Python films and create an instant bond? This was Monty Python for children. Just start knighting someone with your worst royal accent and you could get away with just about anything. For that matter, just about the entire cartoon remains quotable. My personal favorite is the introductions that Bugs proffers for the Sheriff of Nottingham. Then there is the ending, which I would not dream of ruining, but let’s just say that you need to go out and watch some old Errol Flynn movies.
Mass media is an amazing thing though we often think of it only in terms of technology. It is only an empty vehicle without the art that can touch many hearts. Human beings have always used art to make connections. 19th century America had Shakespeare as a universal bond. You can bet that teenagers were acting out their own scenes from Much Ado About Nothing.
We lose something when we worry too much about what makes any of us laugh or when we saturate our mass media with downgraded commercial product. A few artistic lunatics locked in a room can accomplish a great deal to bring the world together if they don’t take themselves too seriously. Commerce makes it all too serious.
“London bridges falling down…”
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You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 213 more to go.
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