Behold… the Great Shnozzola!

« That’s the conditions that prevail! » — Jimmy Durante

Today, we salute noted vaudevillian, piano player, comedian, singer, film and radio star, raconteur and unlikely comics legend James Francis “Jimmy” Durante, born on this day, February 10, in 1893 (as it was a Friday, the family presumably fasted or had fish for dinner). He truly was a master of all media, as you’ll witness.

This early bit of biography appeared in Juke Box Comics no. 4 (Sept. 1948, Eastern Color); it was illustrated by Ed Moore. Hear Cantor and Durante reminisce about their early days on this 1947 episode of The Jimmy Durante Show.
A passing mention of old Jimmy, from Nyoka the Jungle Girl no. 24 (Oct. 1948, Fawcett). Writer and artist unknown.
An early cover by Dick Ayers (1924-2014), this is Jimmy Durante Comics no. 1 (Oct. 1948, Magazine Enterprises).
The second and final issue of Jimmy Durante Comics (Winter 1948-49, Magazine Enterprises).
Mr. Durante rates a smashing musical appearance in this Rube Goldberg Device daily strip (Apr. 14, 1951, King Features Syndicate)… by Rube Goldberg, naturally.
And here’s the Shnozzola in the midst of a carnal melée of his fellow Old Hollywood legends (can you name them all, cinephiles?) This is Bill Griffith‘s cover for The Tiajuana Bible Revival Volume Two: Under the Stars in Hollywood (1977, Hooker, California: Paramounds Prod.). This was « An anthology reprinting 1930’s Tijuana Bibles, some of which were obscene parodies of popular newspaper comic strips of the day. Others made use of characters based on popular movie stars and sports stars of the day, such as Mae West and Joe Louis, sometimes with names thinly changed. Before the war, almost all the stories were humorous and frequently were cartoon versions of well-known dirty jokes that had been making the rounds for decades. » [ source ]
Pointillist-satirist Drew Friedman‘s immortal Jimmy Durante Boffs Young Starlets first saw print in National Lampoon vol. 2 no. 78 (Jan. 1985).
Durante briefly pops up (with the Checkered Demon!) in the second half of a truly all-star underground comix jam involving R. Crumb, Steve Clay Wilson (1941-2021… he left us just three days ago, aged 79… RIP), Victor Moscoso, Spain Rodriguez, Rick Griffin, Robert Williams and Gilbert Shelton. It appeared in Zap Comix no. 12 (1989, Last Gasp). Cartoonists are generally fond of the Schnozzola, but Underground cartoonists are just mad about him.
And finally, on a gentler note… here’s a clearly affectionate caricature (a preliminary sketch) of the esteemed Signor Durante (aw, he’s blushing!) by the amazing Sam Berman (crayon on onionskin paper, 1947). Berman (1907-1995) was, deservedly, quite a big deal in his day; as the erudite Drew Friedman told Print Magazine in his quality of co-curator of the 12 Legendary Caricaturists You’ve (probably) Never Heard Of exhibition at NYC’s Society of Illustrators, Berman « was indeed famous and celebrated in his day. Beginning his career in the late 1930s, he created iconic sculpted caricature covers for Esquire featuring their new mascot “Esky” (created by Berman) for an entire year. He created the sculpted caricatures of the leading actors (Fredric March, Carole Lombard, etc.) for the opening titles of the 1937 classic screwball comedy Nothing Sacred, did huge amounts of work for all the top magazines and newspapers of the day, including for Mark Hellinger’s popular column, created close to 60 amazing full-color portraits for the 1947 booklet The NBC Parade of Stars, drew children’s books, and arguably his most famous creation, the opening caricature of Jackie Gleason rising over Brooklyn for “The Honeymooners,” although he was never credited on the show for drawing that image, nor in any books. He then inexplicably went into map-making and faded quietly into obscurity. »

To wrap things up, here’s Jimmy D. and Frankie S. duetting in Russian. And why not? Happy birthday, Jimmy, wherever you are (and do say hello to Mrs. Calabash!)

-RG

Joyeux anniversaire, Gilbert Shelton!

« … and now for some of that fun we promised you! Trained chihuahas! Car races! A couple of inspirational documentaries! And a quiz show! Hallelujahgobble! Hallelujahgobble! »

For my money, there’s no funnier man in comics, at least on such a consistent, sustained level, as the extraordinary Gilbert Shelton (born May 31st, 1940, in Houston, TX, which makes him 78 today). Sure, he’s slowed down some since 1959 (the year he foisted upon the world the Wonder Warthog), but the quality of his output has not decreased one iota (quite the contrary, in fact!) It may well be that the secret of his longevity lies in his choice of collaborators, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s just another facet of his talent. I’ll (mostly) let the man’s work speak for itself. Brace yourselves for the ride, here we go!

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Yeah, that old hippie shit’s totally dated; this has nothing to do with American’s current socio-political situation. Well, it would be nice if Amtrak’s trains ran a bit closer to schedule. This ran as the back cover of « Wonder Wart-Hog and the Nurds of November: Gilbert Shelton’s Exciting Cartoon Novel of Election-Year Politics, International Nuclear Terror, Professional Football, Science Fiction, Motorcycle and Auto Racing, Pestilence, Famine, Economic Collapse and Romantic Love. » (1980, Rip Off Press)

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Damn roommates. An apocalyptic scenario from The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers no. 12 (1992, Rip Off Press). 

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The toilet-training method reportedly works, but it helps to have more than one toilet available. From Fat Freddy’s Cat no. 7 (1993, Rip Off Press)

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Shelton’s most recent major creation, circa 1988-89, is Not Quite Dead, “the world’s oldest and least successful Rock ‘n’ Roll band”. So far, we’ve been treated to six issues, and the latest, “Last Gig in Shnagrlig” (2009), is quite the epic! A fruitful collaboration with French bédéiste Denis Lelièvre, alias Pic. These vignettes hail from Not Quite Dead no. 5 (2005, Knockabout)

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Aw, ain’t he adorable, and don’t you just wanna slip the birthday boy a big ol’ sloppy smooch? Photo by Christophe Prébois.

Speaking of collaborators, though it’s none of their birthdays, let’s give a salty salute to Shelton compadres-in-crime Tony Bell, Joe E. Brown Jr., Dave Sheridan, Paul Mavrides and Pic. Did I forget anyone?

-RG

« ’cause the power you’re supplying… »

It pays to be kind to your cat, particularly if said feline happens to be more than your match. Between dimwit Fat Freddy Freekowtski and F. Frederick Skitty, esq., it’s clearly no contest.

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This electrifyin’ strip first saw print in Rip Off Comix no. 23 (Rip Off Press, Summer 1989). Script and art by Gilbert Shelton.

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A closer look at the wily furball, cover detail from The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers no. 6 (Rip Off Press, 1980)

-RG