Round Roast

     The whole history of Round People in culture is beyond the scope of this blog.  Fashion has been fashion and social life has been social life for eons.  For centuries, the poor were thin and the rich were fat, and once over-the-counter medicine became big business, some of the most popular nostrums sold were those to bulk you up and give you that rounder figure people appreciated.  John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was a favorite of cartoonists, for example, because he was one of the very few skinny tycoons of his age.  He was an eccentric for not growing a figure like that of J.P. Morgan, or, more popularly, Diamond Jim Brady.  (Until recently, a restaurant in Chicago still advertised the Diamond Jim cut of prime rib, a single serving weighing about four pounds.)

     This could be one reason that so many postcards I have seen, while poking fun at Round People, nonetheless imply that the plump model is in on the joke.  Cartoon men and women look out at us from the postcards with a smile, as if saying, “Yeah, I’m fat.  Ain’t life grand?”

     But leave us not ignore facts.  There are more pointed jokes aimed at the round and tempting portions of the Round Person’s anatomy.  Take the mournful lover above.  He is concentrating on his complex wooing, and we are laughing at how long it will take him to waste away for love.

     The rump as billboard was a popular way of drawing attention to the size of that derriere.  This is just one of a dozen different designs which swipe the ad slogan of ivory Soap and print it across the backside of a bathing suit.

     And we devoted a whole column to the variations on big butt humor, especially the “I’m All Ears” gag.

     Another gag with dozens of variations is the vacationer (or vacationers, in extreme cases) finding shade on a sunny beach, thanks to an unknowing Round Person.

     As for the accidental exposure and the cheerful onlooker, that exists on scads of postcards.

     What I have seen, though, is that in the majority of postcards where the Round Person is the butt (ahem) of the joke, that person is there because when it comes to slapstick, things just seem funnier when happening to someone who comes XXXL.  It would have been funny if a thinner soul was involved, but whose underdrawers are funniest attached to a barbed wire fence?  Ms. Roundperson’s.  (The barbed wire fence was a boon to cartoonists and slapstick moviemakers, as well as to the makers of party films, where the hapless city girl gets caught on the fence and MUST remove every stitch she has on just to get away.  But the plots of naughty movies—as predictable in their own way as hallmark Christmas flicks—are something for a whole nother blog.)

     Another joy of the cartoonist (and the naughty moviemaker) was the Come As You Are Party, which mandated that the recipient of the invitation had to set off for the party at once, without makeup, without party clothes, or without important parts of one’s wardrobe.  This was judged funny at any time, but if it involved a Round person, the laughter rolled large.

     That last one sort of violated our basic premise, that the Round Person be clueless about the joke, like this lady.  The doctor gets it, and WE get it, but she is oblivious to the joke.

     As for all of those Round Women who seem to dive off diving boards or fall from the clouds at the wrong moment for a cheerful vacationer, those are legion.  Obviously, if you’re going to laugh at a diving mishap like this, the size of the people involved is irrelevant.  But it IS funnier where large abdomens can add to the bounce.

     By the way, the Round Woman is not herself immune to such airborne surprises.

     The adventure of the woman and the random mouse, much more alarming in the day when skirts were long and might invite a rodent to take shelter in the folds, survived to become a staple for the postcard cartoonist (and, again, the naughty filmmaker).  This joke would not have been the same had her skirts been longer…or her figure less generous.

     It was apparently a basic principle that a funny joke could be made funnier (or a so-so joke at least funny) if the person involved was a Round Person.

     (Coming soon: Round Romance)

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