Ed Carey (1870-1928), a master of early American comic strip art, specialized in comic portrayals of idiots. Once seen, his grotesque faces and anatomy are hard to forget.

His most well-known strip was Simon Simple (1902-1909) from the New York World. The strip featured a gleeful pointy-hatted idiot prankster who could be Zippy The Pinhead’s great grandfather.

Carey also helped define the comedy of miscommunication with The Troubles of Dictionary Jaques (1912-1913) in which a well-meaning French-speaking man employs an English dictionary to function and winds up disrupting everything around him. This character is similar to Ernie Kovacs’ Eugene and Andy Kaufman’s “Foreign Man.” Carey’s playfulness with language is another key screwball element, anticipating some of the Marx Brother routines in which Chico takes Groucho way too literally.

This sort of humor seems to be particular to America’s “melting pot” heritage. Our early newspaper comics made fun of African-Americans, Jews, the Irish, Asians, Indians and Germans… so why not Frenchmen?

22 strips various



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