The subject of today’s article barely pertains to visual arts but is directly connected to the theme of humor. As it’s known, shunga pictures’ another name is warai-e or ‘laughing’ pictures. Obscene jokes are an inherent part of sensual prints. The illustrations of ‘Anecdota Americana‘ are functionally close to the erotic humoresques, which can ide be found in shunga.
Fig. 1. Headpiece of the first volume by Bruce MacAlie.
History of the Edition
‘Anecdota Americana‘ is a collection of obscene and racist jokes, which are inappropriate for Western contemporary new ethics trend as well as for puritan America of 18-19 centuries. Yet, we hardly believe that this humor is on the edge of extinction now, at least because there are lots of standup comedians who violate new ethics and exploit racist and sexist humor. The book, which we speak about, consists of two volumes released in 1927 and 1934. The first tome has a limited run of 850 copies; each copy is numbered. The editor was credited as J. Mortimer Hall. In the second tome, it’s especially mentioned that Hall received a Ph.D. degree. The first book contains a preface written by him. It must be mentioned that Hall composed his collection almost like a scientific anthology. It has thematic index of anecdotes (the stories classified in groups such as ‘amorous titillation,’ ‘animal stories,’ ‘aphrodisiac,’ ‘ass stories,’ ‘cunnilingus,’ ‘erection,’ etc. The stories were collected and taken down by William Passemon.
Fig. 2. The inscription in the first volume.
Fig. 3. The lower part of the title page in the first volume.
Fig. 4. The dedication in the first volume.
On Healthy and Unhealthy Humor
In the preface, Hall reflects on the essence of humor and its’ meaning for society. He considers jokes an indicator of society’s conscience. Some of his utterances are arguable enough. For instance, he believes that real humor only appears when the man is free of fear and worshipping. He begins his reflection with a notion that ‘a powerful emotional bias which for ages kept this region sacred from the play of humor. […] In no age or race do we find humor playing in this [erotic] field unless either the emotional bias or the ignorance has been removed.’ In fact, obscene jokes are historically bonded to pagan cults. Greek phallus worshipping is the undoubted source of Aristophanes’ comedy. Another disputable Hall’s statement is that Christian hypocrisy is responsible for the spread of these anecdotes. On the contrary, sexual humor was wide-spread a long time before Christianity emerged. Clerical laws of Medieval times could neither decrease nor increase the amount of explicit content in culture, much more ancient than any bishop’s decree. Nevertheless, puritanism is indeed a consequential social problem leading to tragedies and pathologies, as Hall rightly mentions.
Fig. 5. Illustration from the second volume
Mainstream and Underground
If we look back in human history, we’ll see that it’s laced with the opposition of two cultural departments: mainstream or official culture and underground culture. These elements can be compared to Eros and Tanatos in their persistent struggle. According to Nietzsche, the Dionysian cult with its’ phallic processions and wine orgies was the underground part of the Greek world. The official cult was the Apollonian one based on the terms of measure and limit. In medieval times, the formal culture was represented by Christianity, while the underground part manifested itself in semi-pagan festivals, carnivals, and even in the phenomenon of alchemy that stirred pagan science and magic. Thus, the essence of humor is to violate social conventions, so racist, sexiest, and obscene jokes are an inevitable part of our culture, the dark shadow of the Apollonian cult, Christianity, and the new ethics.
Fig. 6. Illustration from the second volume.
The Obscene Alphabet
Well, let’s leave the speculations and come back to the ‘Anecdota Americana.’ The first volume almost doesn’t have pictures, but the second one contains both Anton Erdman’s illustrations of some anecdotes and obscene alphabet pictures accompanied by explicit rhymes.
“Doctor I want you to look me over.” The doctor made a cursory examination. “Well,” he said, “from what I observe, you have one of two things. Either a very bad cold or a slight touch of syphilis.” “My God doctor, don’t you know, I’ve come to you for a diagnosis?” “I shall know very exactly after I’ve made some tests,” said the M.D. and went into his laboratory. He came back and put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Now don’t get nervous and excited,” he said, “but I have to report that you have syphilis.” “Well of course, doctor,” said the patient, “where the hell would I catch a cold?” (the second volume, #100)
A man entered a bawdy house in a great hurry. “Give me a girl that has a clap,” he demanded.
The madam looked her indignation. Angrily she informed him that such girls were not retained in her establishment. “I’ll have to go some place else, then,” said the man. One of the girls, overhearing the conversation, called the madam aside. “Tell him I’ve got a clap,” she said. “Why shouldn’t I make the money.” So the madam called the man back, pointed out the girl to him, and they went upstairs. When he had finished screwing her, the girl looked up at him and simpered, “I fooled you, mister. I ain’t got any clap.” “Oh, yes you have,” said the man. (the first volume, #332)
“I had a funny dream last night,” said a woman to her A husband. “I dreamt that I was in a huge auction room and they were auctioning off cocks. John Barrymore’s brought five thousand dollars. Lou Tellegen’s brought the same. Lowell Sherman’s brought two thousand and so on, down the line.” “Is that so?” her husband asked, “what did cocks like mine bring?” “Oh, they were sold in lots, at a dollar the lot.” “Well, I had a dream last night, too,” said the man. “But I dreamed of cunts. They were auctioning them off, in a huge place, too, and Cleopatra’s brought fifteen thousand dollars. That of Helen of Troy went for thirteen thousand. That of Follies’ girls brought a thousand apiece and so on, down the line.” “What did cunts like mine bring?” the wife demanded. “Oh,” said her husband, “that’s where they held the auction.” (the first volume, #413)
A fat man was in a Turkish bath with some of his friends, who were ridiculing him because of his obesity. “Hell, I’ll bet it’s years since you’ve seen your pecker,” one said to him. “Why don’t you diet?” “Dye it, dye it?” he said in bewilderment. “Why, what color is it now?” (the first volume,
“What a life,” said one flee to another the other day. “I fell asleep on a cunt and I wake up on a moustache.” (The first volume, # 468)
The height of Ambition: A flea climbing up an elephant’s hind leg, with intent to commit rape! (the first volume, #13)
Sven got into the mine elevator, chuckling out loud. “What’s the joke, Sven?” asked the mine foreman.”Ay bane have good yoke on Ole,” the bohunk replied. “Ay just find out Ole pay my wife five dollars to foke her and I foke her for nothing.” (the first volume, #18)
“I’m sure my husband isn’t faithful to me,” an Irish woman remarked. “Not one of the children look like him.” (the first volume, #30)
The laziest man in forty-eight States is rightly said to be the one who was discovered by his employer seated on a barrel, screwing a mule, but without moving himself. All he was saying was, “Giddap, whoa, back! Giddap, whoa, back!” (the first volume, #34)
Two CATS, screwing on the roof of a whorehouse, fell off in their frenzy. A small boy rushed into the sporting house and shouted to the madam: “Missus, your sign fell off.” (the first volume, #40)
The story is told of a clerk who married and spent a pleasant honeymoon with his bride. But one day he came to the office with a rather glum expression on his face. When his fellow clerks asked him what was the trouble he said: “Gee, I pulled a terrible bone this morning. Just before starting for the office I turned the wife off, and then, like an absent-minded jackass I laid down a five-dollar bill on the table.” The other men consoled him. His wife wouldn’t think anything of it, they assured him. “That isn’t what bothers me,” he answered. “She gave me three dollars change!” (the first volume, #49)
Do you know who earns most at this hospital, the rabbi or the priest?” queried the pretty nurse of the mother who had just been delivered of a boy. “No, I haven’t the least idea.” “You haven’t? Why, the rabbi, of course. He gets all the tips.” (the first volume, #69)
“What you all doin’ fo’ a livin’ now, honey?” dusky belle asked of her beau. ” I’m a lion tamer,” he answered modestly. “Fo’ two bucks a day ah sticks mah head in de lion’s mouf.” “You ain’t no lion tamer,” said his sweetie. “You just a lyin’ bastard.” (the first volume, #130)
A lascivious young priest used to hear confession in his own rooms, — when the girl was beautiful. There came to him one time a sweet but shy morsel, who hesitated to unburden her soul. “Did the young man do this?” he asked, putting his arms about her. “Yes, father, and worse,” the girl replied. “Did he do this?” asked the priest, kissing her. “Yes, father, and worse.”
“Did he do this?” lifting her skirt and touching her up. “Yes, father and worse.” By this time, the priest, maddened, threw the girl onto a couch and inserted his penis. “Did he do this?” he managed to ask. “Yes, father, and worse,” came the answer. When the man of God had finished fucking the girl he asked, “You say he did this too, and worse? Now what worse could he have done?” “I think, father,” said the shy, young girl, “that he gave me a clap.” (the first volume, #155)
A gray-haired old gentleman came into a whorehouse and asked the Madam for Mary. The girl happened to be out, so the lady of the house asked him if Molly, or Jane, or Edna wouldn’t do as well. “They’re all blonde, and about her height,” she said. But the old man shook his head. No, they wouldn’t do. The Madam tried to interest him in some of the other inhabitants, without success. Finally, in exasperation she turned from him. “What has Mary got that these girls haven’t?” she asked with some asperity. “Mary has patience,” said the old man. (the first volume, # 157)
“Mamma,” said a little girl, “I know why daddie has such a big belly. I saw nurse blowing it up this morning.” (the first volume, #197)
Mable and Jack came in late one Saturday night from “Tex’s.” They had had a little “tiff” early in the evening, and its effect still lingered. Jack was good-humored, and had not taken the disagreement seriously. Mable, however, still persisted in remaining cold. Getting far over on her side of the bed, she settled herself at once for sleep. Jack, as was his custom, adjusted his lamp and began his bed-time reading. He had been reading quietly for some time when she felt his hand on her belly, then on her hip, then on her groin. But when his fingers were dangerously near her placket she turned on him suddenly and glared angrily. “Oh, don’t worry, heart’s delight, I was only going to wet my finger to turn the page.” (the first volume, #217)
*’Rhinoceros is a sexual position in which your lover, whilst eating your ass, reaches between your legs and grabs your dick and jacks it like a rhino’s horn’ (urbandictionary.com)
The poor young man had eloped with the rich man’s daughter. After the perfunctory formality at City Hall they had hurried to a half-furnished, one- room apartment that went by the name of a studio in Greenwich Village. It was evening when they emerged from their first delirium together. “What shall we call it, dearest?” whispered the girl, whose instincts were healthy enough, though a little too pink with romanticism. “Well, if he gets out of that,” said he, throwing the condom out of the window, “we’ll name him Houdini.” (the first volume, #219)
The twins were having a bath and both parents watched, fondly. Suddenly Mary began to cry. “Mamma,” I want one of those things that’s hanging from Bobby,” pointing to his little pecker. “Quiet, now, quiet,” mother said. “If you’re a good little girl you’ll get one of them.” “And if you’re a bad little girl,” said father, “you’ll get a lot of them.” (the first volume, #223)
A travelling man was taking leave of his sweetie. As a last favor he begged her to have her private parts photographed. “Why?” she asked. “So when I get on the road, and feel lonesome, I can look at the picture and remain true to you,” he answered. “All right,” said the girl. “But you must have a photograph made of your prick.” “Why?” it was his turn to ask. “So I can have it enlarged,” answered the girl. (the first volume, #252)
There was a young lady from Exeter, / So pretty that men craned their necks at her, / And one made so brave / As to violently wave / The distinguishing mark of his sex at her. (the first volume, # 428)
Two young girls were hired to take care of the rectory library. While looking for a book one day, a priest came under the ladder upon which one of the girls was standing putting books in order. He glanced up and seeing the girl without drawers, said, “Here, my good girl, take this two dollars and go out and buy yourself some drawers.” She ran to the other girl, who, after having heard what happened, took off her drawers and got up the ladder under which the priest stood. He glanced up and said, “Here, my dear girl, is a quarter, go out and get yourself a shave.” (the second volume, #63)
There was a young man from Florida / Got stuck on a nasty, old, horrid whore. / When he got into bed / He said, “God strike me dead, / This isn’t a cunt, it’s a corridor.” (the first volume, #481)
There was the man who boasted he could fuck seventy times a night, once in bed and sixty-nine on the floor. (the second volume, #39)
Little Willie asked his gray haired old Grandma, “Grandma, will you tell me a story tonight?” “Yes surely,” said grandma laying aside her knitting. “Come, climb on grandma’s knee and she will tell you a story. “Once upon a time there were two fairies and they were sucking one another’s cocks for all they were worth.” “Aw shit, grandma,” said Willie, “All your fucking stories begin that way.” (the second volume, #71) *fairy – feminine man, gay.
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