Sunday, January 28, 2018

Syd Hoff in College Humor, October 1937

For cartoonist Syd Hoff's two full-page cartoons in the October 1937 issue of College Humor, it's all about the delivery.

"Believe it or not, you're a father!"
Syd Hoff
College Humor, Vol. 6, No. 2, October 1937, page 36

"You know who sent me!"
Syd Hoff
College Humor, Vol. 6, No. 2, October 1937, page 41

It's striking how similar that first Hoff expectant-father-outside-the-maternity-ward cartoon—and even the one from the September 1937 issue— is to the most famous gag cartoon to use this setting, that by Charles Addams which appeared three years later in the pages of The New Yorker. Why did the Addams become a modern-day classic while the Hoff cartoon is forgotten?
Charles Addams
The New Yorker, November 9, 1940, page 21

Well, part of the credit goes to Addams, whose execution of this gag is pretty damn near perfect. It also benefits from simple yet finely-crafted caption which deviates from our expectation that it will end with the word "boy" or "girl." The Addams gag is less cartoony than the Hoff, which serves to ground it more firmly in reality, but then the father's odd misshapenness transports this scene to the realm of the bizarre. Hoff's gag is an affront to the father's masculinity, but the Addams gag questions the father's very humanity. The Addams gag also benefitted from its appearance in The New Yorker, a far more prominent platform than College Humor, and from its mistaken but persistent association with an apocryphal caption, "Don't bother to wrap it—I'll eat it here."

Note:  For folks keeping score at home, this is the 35th Attempted Bloggery post to be derived from the wonderful Steven Boss humor magazine collection. The October 1937 issue of College Humor is just one of some 5,600 magazines to be found in the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University. But don't just take my word for it. Students of humor may personally access the collection by contacting Curator for Comics and Cartoons Karen Green.

It really doesn't matter where the scans or photographs of original art by Syd Hoff come from, just so long as we continue to make interesting finds here. So please send your interesting finds of long-forgotten Hoff gag cartoons, illustrations, and advertising art. 

External Links:

Syd Hoff, Cartoonist & Author

Syd Hoff's Wikipedia Entry

Syd Hoff on Ink Spill

Syd Hoff in Christopher Wheeler's Cartoon(ist) Gallery 

Syd Hoff in the collection of Syracuse University

Syd Hoff on Hairy Green Eyeball

Syd Hoff's proposed cover designs for Danny and the Dinosaur

Quick Links to the Attempted Bloggery Archives:

Syd Hoff

Attempted Bloggery supports net neutrality.


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