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Comedy of the
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This chapter is the most wide-ranging in the book. I discuss the
various elements of vulgar comedy with which Kahn’s sick jokes
resonated; hard-boiled detectives and horror shows; The postwar
anti-comic book crusade;
Mad Magazine and the fad for sick jokes; Sicknik comics such as
Tom Lehrer, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, Jules Feiffer;
political humor and satire; and end the chapter with Kahn’s
conversations with Stanley Kubrick and the making of the film
“Comedy of the unspeakable,” Chapter 9 of The Worlds of Herman
Kahn, Harvard University Press, 2005.
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Bill Dana as José Jiménez, Civil Defense Warden
Comedian Bill Dana as José Jiménez,
Civil Defense Warden
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Conelrad is by far the best online encyclopedia of American cold war culture. It is chockfull of resources such as tv shows, films, songs, advertisements, book reviews. Readers would do well to spend some time exploring the site. It has many hidden pockets of goodies not immediately apparent from its home page menu. An important component of
Conelrad is its collection of recorded songs in all genres about atomic war. For that go directly to
MP3 file, courtesy of
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Navaksy and another friend, Richard Lingeman, also put out a satirical paper called
The Outsider’s Newsletter. Its premiere issue claimed that “just about anybody can get the ‘inside’ story by reading
Time and I.F. Stone’s Weekly. But it takes persistence, courage, and intelligent ignorance to get the outside story – the story of what is
not going on.”
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The Monocle: A Leisurely Quarterly of Political Satire
In 1957 two Yale students, Victor Navasky at the Law School (who would become the longtime editor of
The Nation) and Jacob Needleman, a philosophy grad student, founded
The Monocle, a “Leisurely Quarterly of Political Satire.” Its first issue of 500 copies was gobbled up – nice enough figures for the equivalent of a college humor magazine. Appearing quarterly, the magazine reached a circulation of 15,000 to 20,000 copies. With 5,000 subscribers and wide representation in bookstores,
The Monocle “developed an underground following all over the country,” recalled Navasky. It attracted all kinds of contributors: the art editor for
Mad Magazine drew something occasionally, a foreign service officer dashed off stories about a State Department nudnik, the managing editor of
American Heritage magazine parodied Eisenhower stumbling through the Gettysburg Address. Some notable authors also appeared in its pages: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., (who is represented by the article reproduced here in “Hole Beautiful,” Nora Ephron, Neil Postman, Calvin Trillin, David Levine, even William F. Buckley, Jr.
Navasky remarked, “Unofficially we were mostly left-liberal Democrats with anarcho-syndicalist pretensions.” As proof of the magazine’s cult popularity, Navasky recalled that when he arrived in Chicago in 1968 to cover the Democratic National Convention, he cabby asked him his name, curious to know whether his fare was a celebrity. Navasky told him, muttering, “You would never have heard of me.” “Navasky?
The Monocle, right?” shot back his driver, to the everlasting satisfaction of his passenger.
Take a look.
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Before he began to draw cartoons for The New Yorker, the cartoonist Ed Koren generated a comic strip for
The Outsider’s Newsletter called “Super-Kahn, Government Contractor.”
Here are some panels from his series.