The 119th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 7pm at Parsons The New School, 2 West 13th Street, in the Bark Room (off the lobby). Free and open to the public.
1. Rick DesRochers on The Family Act Goes to School – The Marx Brothers, Vaudeville, and Americanization.
The link between the Marx Brothers in their vaudeville days and the popular comic strips of the early twentieth century can be seen with the Marx Brothers’ beginnings in the third-tier vaudeville circuit where they formed the core comedic trio of Chico, Harpo, and Groucho – their apocryphal names created in 1910 during a poker game after the comic strip character “Knocko the Monk.” The comic strip Knocko the Monk spawned a fad of nicknames ending in O, prompting vaudevillian Art Fisher to nickname Harpo for his harp playing skills; Groucho for his personality and his “grouch” bag that hung from his neck for safety; Chico for his penchant for “chasing the chickens” – the girls. By bookending the vaudeville performances of the Marx Brothers and their school act beginning in 1910 with Fun in Hi Skule to their highly successful 1932 film, Horse Feathers, this lecture will examine how the Marx Brothers commented on and satirized progressive education reforms through their multiple versions of the school act, and the immigrant experience of being Americanized through public school education reforms.
Rick DesRochers, Ph.d., is an Associate Professor of Theatre at Long Island University Post. He has served as the Literary Director of New Play and Musical Development for the Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival and The Goodman Theatre of Chicago, as well as the Artistic Director of the New Theatre in Boston. He holds an M.F.A. in stage direction and dramaturgy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a Ph.D. in theatre from the City University of New York, Graduate Center. He is the author of The New Humor in the Progressive Era – Americanization and the Vaudeville Comedian for Palgrave Macmillan, and The Comic Offense from Vaudeville to Contemporary Comedy – Larry David, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Dave Chappelle for Bloomsbury.
2. Ian Lewis Gordon on The Boy Comic Strip: Towards an International History of Comics
Trying to write international histories of comics presents numerous problems including most obviously command of a range of languages. But beyond that what sort of organizing principles would best capture the interplay across countries and cultures. Should people try to write histories that trace artists and influences across national boundaries with attention to whom influenced whom and the extent of that influence and similar sorts of questions? Or perhaps focusing on genres of comics, like various incarnations of the mischievous boy in comics, might show more about similarities and differences across different comics traditions.
In this discussion I will examine a range of “mischievous boy” comics to talk about some of the possibilities of using genres to create international histories of comics. How can we use this cavalcade of kid strips to talk about the history of comics? I think these strips show the similarities and differences across cultures. For instance the mischievous boy is not something that is particular to a given culture. But what these strips tells us is that this plays out in different ways. Some of this is cultural difference writ large and some of it is cultural difference writ small. I will look at comics from America, Australia, the UK and France to suggest a direction for research.
Ian Gordon is an Associate Professor in History at the National University of Singapore. For the academic year 2014-2015 he is a visiting scholar at NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. He is the author of Comic Strips and Consumer Culture, and editor of two collections Comics & Ideology, and Film and Comic Books.