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Cheap Laffs: The Art of the Novelty Item [Hardcover]

Mark Newgarden , Picturebox Inc.


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Book Description

Oct. 19 2004
Remember when you zapped your friend with a joy buzzer? Planted fake vomit on the dining room table for your unsuspecting mother to find? Who could resist the hours of entertainment promised by the artificial ink spot? Cheap Laffs plunders pop culture's sub-basement to chronicle the aesthetic and cultural achievements of the novelty item.

Sharply designed, jam-packed with illustrations, and written with a touch of irony, this book celebrates a thriving, if marginal, industry devoted to the creation of a modest product of questionable quality, taste, originality, and necessity. The Whoopee Cushion, The Smoking Monkey, fake worms, chickens, eggs, butter, nails, and pencils-we can only marvel at the outlandish ingenuity of these objects seemingly concocted in a frenzied atmosphere of pop cultural temperature-taking and reckless dementia. How else can we even begin to explain the mouse-shaped eraser, the enormous vibrating eye, or the miniature baby in a celluloid peanut? Unearthing the best, oddest, and most intriguing novelties of the past century, this highly entertaining, nostalgia-filled book is sure to appeal to all consumers of kitsch and visual culture.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (Oct. 19 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810955997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810955998
  • Product Dimensions: 26.2 x 18.3 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #812,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The creator of the Garbage Pail Kids turns his attention to the "once thriving, if marginal, industry devoted to the creation of a modest product of questionable quality, taste, originality and necessity for fleeting high-impact diversion"—in other words, the novelty item—in this suitably quirky and expertly designed catalogue. There’s the "Funny Dribble Glass," designed to leak its contents on unsuspecting drinkers in such a way as to convince them that the mess is their fault; the "Beatnik Beard," aimed at 1960s youngsters hoping to look like a friend of Kerouac (slogan: "Dig That Beard! Crazy Man!"); and the "Trick Smashed Finger," intended, naturally, to trick someone into thinking you’ve been terribly hurt. Classics (the hand buzzer; the fake dog poop) share space with others less familiar (a dishtowel emblazoned with morose slogans, possibly designed as a booby prize; a box labeled "Don’t be an alcoholic" containing a small pair of fake breasts along with the suggestion to "drink milk"). Additional information on the items’ dates, manufacturers, dimensions, directions and intended audience is carefully compiled, making this a delightful tour of the cheap and the weird.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Mark Newgarden, creator of the 1980s Garbage Pail Kids for the Topps Company, is a visual artist whose work has appeared in publications ranging from RAW to The New York Times Op-Ed page. He has conceived, scripted, and designed programming for Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network. PictureBox, Inc., a visual content studio and publishing house composed of Peter Buchanan-Smith and Dan Nadel, produces the annual book of pictures and prose The Ganzfeld.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Whoopee cushions, rubber noses, and itching powder Sept. 12 2013
By Eusebius - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you are of a certain age you'll enjoy the nice pictures of some of the stuff you used buy at the corner variety store or drugstore or smoke shop. It will also have you searching around for that old Johnson & Smith catalog that you used to pore over page by page when you were 12 years old.

Probably the most prolific of the novelty makers mentioned in this book is S.S. Adams and the author visited the Adams company in New Jersey. They have a brief write-up about it but I wish they had taken a couple of pictures of the production lines - weirdly, they only have a few pictures of cardboard boxes

This is not a great book and it is very incomplete. It's fine for a little bit of nostalgia but really nothing more than that.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book! Nov. 2 2004
By Paul Karasik - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Everything that the editorial material above says is true: this handsomely photographed and crisply designed book is packed with oddball novelties from the preeceeding century. What the above does not convey is that Cheap Laffs is also laugh (or should I say "laff") out loud funny.

Buy it.

Now.
5.0 out of 5 stars More Laffs Than Its Subjects Dec 29 2008
By Karina Montgomery - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
My father got this for Christmas and I immediately stole it - it's got dry humor in the descriptions, cynical humor in the "Target Audience," and matchless unintentional comedy from the original ads and product imagery. It's a must-have for anyone interested in the corny heyday of gag props as well as the post-modern snarkiness and wit of excellent writing. Recommended for fans of: Chris Ware, Jon Stewart, Sockington.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tour De Force of Novelty History! June 16 2005
By Jordan Bochanis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The "TARGET:" lines on "The Laffs" pages alone are worth the price of the book!

Oh, wait a minute, this book costs $19.95. The "TARGET:" lines and maybe the nice, firm cover together are worth the price.

Maybe.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ok, not great... April 8 2007
By Bandipur - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was a little disappointed with this book. I was expecting a scholarly history, biographies of the inventors, inside stories, tales of invention and rivalry, etc... But the book really belongs more on a coffee table. There is an interesting, not-too-in depth essay at the beginning talking about the history and origins of the "Novelty Movement", but the rest of the book is dedicated to a picture dictionary with explanations and blurbs that are sometimes interesting, but not horribly informative. Whats in the Mystery Bag?? They never tell you! Frustrating purchase...

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