A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Friday, January 29, 2010


On this date in 1880, William Claude Dukenfield was born in what is now extreme southwest Philadelphia (so extreme in fact that the event actually happened in the borough of Darby). With juggling skills he learned and perfected as a child, he set out to entertain the masses. Along the way, he acquired a pool table as part of his act and developed a sharp wit which he delivered with a nasally drawl. The character that he created under the nom de plume of W.C. Fields endures today as one of the classic caricatures of American humor.

There are several ways we could celebrate this occasion. Two obvious events – kicking dogs and boiling children – should be discounted at once. Not only are these illegal and immoral (although not necessarily fattening), but they are in direct conflict with the man’s true beliefs. His character would have no problem with such goings on, but that was the politically incorrect genius of Field’s creation.

Likewise, an event which would test a person’s dexterity by balancing a full martini glass while falling down a flight of stairs did not pass muster with the legal department here at arteejee. Which is a shame, because we were fully prepared to award additional points if the person broke a collarbone, yet managed to spill nary a drop of their drink. No matter, this tribute will play just as well without it. Instead, we will note a few of the more memorable moments from his comedy career.

His character was prone to using the fifty-cent words which are not commonly used by the general population. He could convey the simplest of ideas with a jumbled, confusing array of doubletalk I will call Fields-speak. In actuality, Fields used such moments to belittle the pompous attitudes of society, particularly those in the world of politics who rely on this language every day to hide their true agenda.

So when Fields cursed Drat, we could translate it as $%@#! Godfrey Daniels was his way of saying God damn, as suggested by the late Fields fan Ed McMahon in an essay on Fields career.

He referred to a barbershop as a tonsorial parlor (My Little Chickadee). When he wanted to give a weather report of blizzard like conditions, sub-freezing temperatures and occasional fistfuls of snow hitting him in the face, he would declare, It ain’t a fit night out for man nor beast. This line is actually a running gag from what I believe to be the funniest American short ever produced, The Fatal Glass of Beer. (Laurel and Hardy’s Big Business, and Chaplin’s Easy Street are a very close second in my humble opinion.)

Fields eventually toured the world and entertained millions of people in his lifetime. His comedic skills and inventions — particularly that of the conniving curmudgeon who hated dogs and children — continues to make his fans laugh today over 100 years since his birth. This, as he might say, is a most audacious achievement in the annals of mankind.

(Thank you for reading. Please try The Great McGonigle’s Yach’wee Indian Elixir! It cures hoarseness!)


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