Will Cuppy, American Satirist

A Biography


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SKU: 9780786469611 Categories: , , , Tags: ,

About the Book

Back in the golden age of humor books (late 1920s–early 1950s), when wits of the pantheon like Robert Benchley, James Thurber, and S.J. Perelman were producing their signature works, there was another singular satirist who more than held his own with such fast company: Will Cuppy (1884–1949). This factual funnyman’s métier is dark comedy that flirts with nihilism. His agenda is baldly stated in such classic Cuppy book titles as How to Be a Hermit (1929), How to Tell Your Friends from the Apes (1931), and The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody (1950). This biography doubles as a critical study of a satirist whose shish-kebabing of humanity was often done through the veiled anthropomorphic use of animals. For a biographer, Will Cuppy represents a treasure trove of possibilities. He was a great humorist, and most of his best work is still in print, but until now he has never been the subject of a book-length study. His mesmerizingly complex and eccentric private life almost trumps the comic accomplishments of his public persona.

About the Author(s)

Wes D. Gehring is a distinguished professor of film at Ball State University and associate media editor for USA Today magazine, for which he also writes the column “Reel World.” He is the author of 40 film books, including biographies of James Dean, Carole Lombard, Steve McQueen, Robert Wise, Red Skelton and Charlie Chaplin.

Bibliographic Details

Wes D. Gehring

Foreword by Mark H. Massé

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 224
Bibliographic Info: 28 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2013
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6961-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0191-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Foreword by Mark H. Massé 1
Preface and Acknowledgments 5
One:  Hoosier Childhood, 1884–1902 9
Two:  University of Chicago Years, 1902–1914 23
Three:  A Wannabe Playwright and His Humor Mentor: Isabel Paterson 38
Four:  Writing How to Be a Hermit 53
Five:  Early Greenwich Village Years, Groucho Marx, and How to Tell Your Friends from the Apes 75
Six:  Easing Into the 1930s, and Two More Important Friendships 89
Seven:  Cuppy’s Multifaceted 1930s 103
Eight:  Here Come Cuppy’s Mystery Anthologies of the 1940s 123
Nine:  The Years Leading to Suicide—Literally, How to Become Extinct, and Still Attract the Wombat 140
Ten:  Enhancing a Legacy by Way of Posthumous Publications 158
Afterword: Comparing Cuppy to Some of His Comic Contemporaries 174
Chapter Notes 185
Bibliography 198
Index 211

Book Reviews & Awards

“Gehring remains supreme in film comedy scholarship”—Choice; “a fine, carefully researched biography”—Reference & Research Book News.