In the joke books we are never going to see again department, an honorary mention goes to this well-worn 1940 book Confucius Say which for a mere 25 cents manages to offend both women and Asian Americans in one fell swoop.
Today when comics and comedians are afraid to crack controversial jokes for fear of offending politically correct sensibilities, the PC police would have tripped over themselves in the rush to confiscate this cartoon book which in its 40 pages is unabashedly sexist and racist.
Confucius Say: He Who Can’t Take Joke, Never Laugh.
Sure, sexist, misogynist humor was a staple among comics in the good old days before the PC Police came and put the kibosh on good American fun; what gives this book its double bang for your buck in sheer tastelessness is its portrayal of Confucius as a dirty old man, dispensing his wisdom in the ways of the ladies.
The wise Chinese philosopher beloved by some Americans as the father of fortune cookie wisdom, took a decidedly more bawdy tone in this collection of “adult” cartoons where he expresses his racy remarks in mangled English.
Filled with sage advice about gold diggers and dumb blondes, objectification is fair game when it comes to the fairer sex
Crazy for Confucius
In 1940 when this paper back book appeared, Confucius, China’s most important teacher who lived and taught 500 years before Christ, was suddenly making a comeback.
For a year in which the world seemed on the precipice of destruction as Hitler goosestepped all over Europe and daily bombardments of England stunned Americans, a search for some meaning in such perilous times would be understandable.
But, no there was not a renewed interest in the great philosopher’s moral teachings .
Because Americans like their morality lite, it was Confucius Say jokes that were all the rage.
Suddenly on city street corners and at newsstands, hundreds of pitchmen hawked pamphlets containing 200 “Witty” Daring, Confucius” remarks.
In night clubs and over the radio, singers chanted a new hit called “Confucians Say” performed by Mr. Auld Lang Syn himself Guy Lombardo. Many major American newspapers began carrying a “Confucius Say” column with content solicited by readers.
In February of that year Life magazine commented on the craze in an article:
In every city and village from coast to coast last week, Americans were stopping other Americans and chortling: ‘You know what Confucius say? “Girl with future should beware of man with past.’…or any one of the hundreds of similar stylized apothegms published and un published good and bad, clean and dirty.
Wise Man Say: The Jokes on You
The man responsible for this sudden surge of Confucius wisdom was none other than that snap-brim fedora wearing Broadway columnist Walter Winchell. A year earlier the godfather of gossip began using Confucius parodies in his widely read columns.
Syndicated in 2000 newspapers one can’t underestimate the influence that Winchell held.Through it, in a world not yet transformed by television, he amassed extraordinary power, often wielded ruthlessly, as a purveyor of gossip, innuendo, and decidedly politically incorrect jokes (If a married couple broke up, Winchell found them “sharing separate tepees.”)
It wasn’t long before comedians Jack and Benny Fred Allen picked up the trick of Confucius Say on their radio programs.
The rage spread.
Lets take a peek at some of those pearls of wisdom offered in this book that promised to help make dinner table wits of even the dullest of dudes.
Old maid is woman who has been good- for nothing.
She who laugh last probably had it explained to her.
Man will forgive woman for being 2 faced but not for being double chinned.
Old maid book-keeper count on fingers but young girl count on legs.
Funny what girl do for drink but lot funnier what she do after drink.
Some girls like cigarettes not very satisfying until lit.
The Sages Advice is especially instructive to the working girl:
Secretary not office fixture until she’s on desk.
In business secretary who work for rich boss find self in lap of luxury.
To get ahead, girl pretty as a picture must also show action in close-ups.
Man offering girl movie contract often like to pull a few strings first.
Girl who go out with Tom Dick and Harry also have eye peeled for Jack.
Women without principle draw considerable interest.
Diamonds don’t grow on trees but right kind of limbs get them.
And the final pearl of wisdom says it all:
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.