Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Comedy rising out of the ashes of Comedy

This cartoon features Bugs Bunny, that jocular witty rabbit, doing an impression of Groucho Marx, a well-known actor/comedian of the early 1900s. This cartoon still is a satire in the sense that we, as an audience recognize it to be Groucho even know it is a rabbit whose actual features don’t resemble Groucho in either a strong or remote way. What makes this cartoon successful are the presents of the heavy beard, the glasses, and the cigar; the trademarks of Groucho. I believe in the actual cartoon Bugs also talked and walked like the actor. This is an apt demonstration of the balance within a caricature between like an unlike, the ridiculous and exaggerated, and accurate representation. The cartoonist only portrayed the striking features of Groucho, his trademarks, and in a in a way his wise-guy nature (which is similar in a way to Bugs’), so that there remains no ambiguity to who Bugs is imitating. The features the cartoonist chose to portray where both economical and essential.

I found this cartoon to be interesting and satiric on another level. In one sense it is not a caricature but an impersonation. Bugs bunny is not the exaggerated form of Groucho but is merely dressed up to imitate him. The factious rabbit is as realistic a figure, in my mind, as the human actor. I am not of the generation who has grown up being entertained by Groucho. Actually, I have never seen a photograph of him until I wrote this paragraph. The first, and only, impression I have ever taken of Marx is this reference to him in this particular Bugs Bunny carton. The Bugs Bunny Groucho Marx is more real to me than the reality. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even have been aware of his existence if it had not been for my seeing this carton as a very young child and asking my mother: why bugs was acting in that particular way? As we have touched on earlier, caricatures (which deal with particular issue pertinent to a specific time period) are ways of connecting the past to the present, and the present to the future.

This cartoon is interesting in another sense. It calls into question: is the comedian the cartoonist or the live human? I feel like the image unintentionally makes a comment on the play of technology on entertainment and how the actors of yesterday are now (partly anyway) cartoons or computer imagery of today. Bugs, as well as Groucho, is a comedian.

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