Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dorothy McKay in College Humor, May 1937

The first of Dorothy McKay's cartoons in the May 1937 issue of College Humor is set at a burlesque show featuring a striptease. Such shows were still extremely familiar, presumably, even during the Great Depression. In any event, the audience as depicted by Ms. McKay consists strictly of older male patrons, not college-age students, and the joke is made at their expense. Clearly, these middle-aged men don't even remember what they're supposed to be looking at.

"Look, Marcus! Isn't that one of our dresses?"
Dorothy McKay, College Humor, May 1937, page 44

Not bad! This predates by more than two years a classic Peter Arno New Yorker cartoon with a similar, but perhaps not identical, take:
Peter Arno, The New Yorker, December 10, 1938

Some nefarious criminal plot is being hatched in this next one, but just exactly what? One thing is certain: Helen, whoever she is, had better watch out! (Could this be perhaps a bad Helen Keller joke?)

Dorothy McKay, College Humor, May 1937, page 50

March 29, 2017 Update:  Rob At The Beach gives a very plausible reading of this gag on Twitter:

In another well-considered opinion, Columbia comics librarian Karen Green notes that the unsavory group consists of two men and a woman, So Helen is being asked to even out the party at two and two.

I think the caption allows for too much ambiguity. Wouldn't it have been clearer to say either "Hello, Helen? Don't wait up for me" or "Hello, Helen? Are you free tonight?"

Note:  The May 1937 number of College Humor can be found in the Steven Boss humor magazine collection at Columbia University tucked away in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, naturally. My thanks to Karen Green, the—ahem!—Curator for Comics and Cartoons, for her able assistance in guiding me to it.

If anyone can shed some light on the "Hello—Helen?" gag, please go ahead and shed.

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