Whereas in papers like esquire, for instance, or la vie parisienne, the imaginary background of the jokes is always promiscuity, the utter breakdown of all standards, the background of the McGill post card is marriage. The four leading jokes are nakedness, illegitimate babies, old maids and newly married couples, none of which would seem funny in a really dissolute or even 'sophisticated' society. The post cards dealing with honeymoon couples always have the enthusiastic indecency of those village weddings where it is still considered screamingly funny to sew bells to the bridal bed. In one, for example, a young bridegroom is shown getting out of bed the morning after his wedding night. 'The first morning in our own little home, darling!' he is saying; 'i'll go and get the milk and paper and bring you up a cup of tea.' Inset is a picture of the front doorstep; on it are four newspapers and four bottles. This is obscene, if you like, but it is not immoral.
Donald, hall - wikipedia
Unlike the twopenny weekly papers, comic post cards are not new the product of any great monopoly company, and evidendy they are not regarded as having any importance in forming public opinion. There is no sign in them of any attempt to induce an outlook acceptable to the ruling class. Here one comes back to the outstanding, all-important feature of comic post cards-their obscenity. It is by this that everyone remembers them, and it is also central to their purpose, though not in a way diat is immediately obvious. A recurrent, almost dominant motif in comic post cards is the woman with the stuck-out behind. In perhaps half of them, or more than half, even when the point of the joke has nothing to do with sex, the same female figure appears, a plump 'voluptuous' figure with the dress clinging to it as tightly as another skin and with breasts. There can be no doubt that these pictures lift the lid off a very widespread repression, natural enough in a country whose women when young tend to be slim to the point of skimpiness. But at the same time the McGill post card-and this applies to all other post cards in this genre-is not intended as pornography but, a subtler thing, as a skit on pornography. The hottentot figures of the women are caricatures of the Englishman's secret ideal, not portraits. When one examines McGill's post cards more closely, one notices that his brand of humour only has a meaning in relation to a fairly strict moral code.
R.P., nudism) rapidly finds its way into the picture post cards, but their general atmosphere is extremely old-fashioned. The implied political outlook is a radicalism appropriate to about the year 1900. At normal times they are not only not patriotic, but go in for a mild guying of patriotism, with jokes about 'god save the king the Union Jack, etc. The european situation only began to reflect itself in them at some time in 1939, and first did so through the comic aspects. Even at this date few post cards mention the war except. Jokes (fat woman stuck in the mouth of Anderson shelter: wardens neglecting their duty while young woman undresses at window she has forgotten to black out, etc., etc.) A few express anti-hitler barbing sentiments of a not very vindictive kind. One, not McGill's, shows Hitler with the usual hypertrophied backside, bending down to pick a flower. Caption; 'What would you do, chums?' This is about as high a flight of patriotism as any post card is likely to attain.
The lawyer is always a swindler, the thesis clergyman always a nervous idiot who says the wrong thing. The 'knut' or 'masher' still appears, almost as in Edwardian days, in out-of-date looking evening-clothes and an opera hat, or even spats and a knobby cane. Another survival is the suffragette, one of the big jokes of the pre-1914 period and too valuable to be relinquished. She has reappeared, unchanged in physical appearance, as the feminist lecturer or Temperance fanatic. A feature of the last few years is the complete absence of anti-jew post cards. The 'jew joke always somewhat more ill-natured than the 'scotch joke disappeared abruptly soon after the rise of Hitler. Politics-any contemporary event, remote cult or activity which has comic possibilities (for example, 'free love feminism,.
Typical repartee: 'i wish you were a statue and I was a pigeon!' a certain number produced since the war treat evacuation from the anti-evacuee angle. There are the usual jokes about tramps, beggars and criminals, and the comic maidservant appears fairly frequently. Also the comic navvy, bargee, etc.; but there are no anti-Trade-Union jokes. Broadly speaking, everyone with much over or much under 5 a week is regarded as laughable. The 'swell' is almost as automatically a figure of fun as the slum-dweller. Stock figures-foreigners seldom or never appear. The chief locality joke is the Scotsman, who is almost inexhaustible.
Donald, hall on Growing Old and Our Cultural Attitude toward the Elderly
Drunkenness-both drunkenness and stand teetotalism are ipso facto funny. Conventions: (i) All drunken men have optical illusions. (ii) Drunkenness is something peculiar to middle-aged men. Drunken youths or women are never represented. Jokes-there is not a large number of these.
Chamber pots are ipso facto funny, and so are public lavatories. A typical post card captioned 'a friend in need shows a man's hat blown off his head and disappearing down the steps of a ladies' lavatory. Inter-working-class snobbery-much in these post cards suggests that they are aimed at the better-off working suitors class and poorer middle class. There are many jokes turning on malapropisms, illiteracy, dropped aitches and the rough manners of slum dwellers. Countless post cards show draggled hags of the stage-charwoman type exchanging 'unladylike' abuse.
Obviously the outstanding characteristic of comic cards is their obscenity, and I must discuss that more fully later. But I give here a rough analysis of their habitual subject-matter, with such explanatory remarks as seem to be needed: sex.-more than half, perhaps three-quarters, of the jokes are sex jokes, ranging from the harmless to the all but unprintable. First favourite is probably the illegitimate baby. Typical captions: 'could you exchange this lucky charm for a baby's feeding-bottle?' 'she didn't ask me to the christening, so i'm not going to the wedding.' Also newlyweds, old maids, nude statues and women in bathing-dresses. All of these are ipso facto funny, mere mention of them being enough to raise a laugh. The cuckoldry joke is seldom exploited, and there are no references to homosexuality.
Conventions of the sex joke: (i) Marriage only benefits women. Every man is plotting seduction and every woman is plotting marriage. No woman ever remained unmarried voluntarily. (ii) Sex-appeal vanishes at about the age of twenty-five. Well-preserved and good-looking people beyond their first youth are never represented. The amorous honeymooning couple reappear as the grim-visaged wife and shapeless, moustachioed, red-nosed husband, no intermediate stage being allowed for. Home life-next to sex, the henpecked husband is the favourite joke. Typical caption: 'did they get an X-ray of your wife's jaw at the hospital?'-'no, they got a moving picture instead.' conventions: (i) There is no such thing as a happy marriage. (ii) no man ever gets the better of a woman in argument.
Donald, hall 's essays, after, eighty ' is an Unsparing look at Extreme Old Age
What are they'so like? In the first place, of course, they remind you of the barely different post cards pdf which you probably gazed at in your childhood. But more than this, what you are really looking at is something as traditional as Greek tragedy, a sort of sub-world of smacked bottoms and scrawny mothers-in-law which is a part of Western European consciousness. Not that the jokes, taken one by one, are necessarily stale. Not being debarred from smuttiness, comic post cards repeat themselves less often than the joke columns in reputable magazines, but their basic subject-matter, the kind of joke they are aiming at, never varies. A few are genuinely witty, in a max Millerish style. Examples: 'i like seeing experienced girls home.' 'but I'm not experienced!' 'you're not home yet!' 'i've been struggling for years to get a fur coat. How did you get yours?' 'i left off struggling.' g e : 'you are prevaricating, sir. Did you or did you not sleep with this woman?' co-respondent: 'not a wink, my lord!' In general, however, they are not witty, but humorous, and it must be said for McGill's post cards, in particular, that the drawing is often a good deal funnier.
of these things, preferably McGill's-if you pick out from a pile the ones that seem to you funniest, you will probably find that most of them are McGill's-and spread them out on a table. What do you see? Your first impression is of overpowering vulgarity. This is quite apart from the ever-present obscenity, and apart also from the hideousness of the colours. They have an utter low-ness of mental atmosphere which comes out not only in the nature of the jokes but, even more, in the grotesque, staring, blatant quality of the drawings. The designs, like those of a child, are full of heavy lines and empty spaces, and all the figures in them, every gesture and attitude, are deliberately ugly, the faces grinning and vacuous, the women monstrously paradied, with bottoms like. Your second impression, however, is of indefinable familiarity. What do these things remind you of?
He is apparently a trade name, for at least one series of reviews post cards is issued simply as 'The. Donald McGill Comics but he is also unquestionable a real person with a style of drawing which is recognizable at a glance. Anyone who examines his post cards in bulk will notice that many of them are not despicable even as drawings, but it would be mere dilettantism to pretend that they have any direct aesthetic value. A comic post card is simply an illustration to a joke, invariably a 'low' joke, and it stands or falls by its ability to raise a laugh. Beyond that it has only 'ideological' interest. McGill is a clever draughtsman with a real caricaturist's touch in the drawing of faces, but the special value of his post cards is that they are so completely typical. They represent, as it were, the norm of the comic post card.
Interview: Donald, hall, author Of ' essays After Eighty ' : npr
Who does not know the biography 'comics' of the cheap stationers' windows, the penny or twopenny coloured post cards with their endless succession of fat women in tight bathing-dresses and their crude drawing and unbearable colours, chiefly hedge-sparrow's-egg tint and Post Office red? This question ought to be rhetorical, but it is curious fact that many people seem to be unaware of the existence of these things, or else to have a vague notion that they are something to be found only at the seaside, like nigger minstrels. Actually they are on sale everywhere-they can be bought at nearly any woolworth's, for example-and they are evidently produced in enormous numbers, new series constantly appearing. They are not to be confused with the various other types of comic illustrated post card, such as the sentimental ones dealing with puppies and kittens or the wendyish, sub-pornographic ones which exploit the love affairs of children. They are a genre of their own, specializing in very 'low' humour, the mother-in-law, baby's-nappy, policemen's-boot type of joke, and distinguishable from all the other kinds by having no artistic pretensions. Some half-dozen publishing houses issue them, though the people who draw them seem not to be numerous at any one time. I have associated them especially with the name of Donald McGill because he is not only the most prolific and by far the best of contemporary post card artists, but also the most representative, the most perfect in the tradition. Who donald McGill is, i do not know.