More Is More

     One of the questions which comes up in considering of old-time comedy is “Why that?”  Why do some things come up in jokes more than others?  As noted hereintofore, we have plenty of cartoons about dogs peeing and horses pooping: how did we decide THAT was funny, when each animal obviously does both?  Customer demand must have had something to do with it, but that just switches the responsibility for the attitude to the buyer instead of the seller.

     Multiple births have been a source of wonder and humor for generations.  Identical twins confusing their friends have been plot material for stage humor since well before Shakespeare; the trials and tribulations of parents dealing with duplicate children is an ancient theme.  (Heard the one about the parents who named their identical twins Kate and Duplikate?  No?  How about the ones who named the kids Pete and Repete?  I’ll stop now.)

     But as I check through this inventory of postcards for sale, I find that though the postcard companies considered twins funny, they found triplets MUCH funnier.  And quadruplets hardly appear at all?  What determined the number that was funny?  Two is good, three is better, but four is too much?

     Maybe, as in the case shown above, it deals with a parent having only two arms to prop the babies on.  That’s just enough to cause trouble.  (Although the same sort of joke, when applied to entire families, seldom had fewer than four children, of different ages so some could be standing up to get into higher mischief while their crawling young siblings took care of disaster below.)

     Or was it simply easier to fit  three babies into the picture, and any more would have complicated things for the viewer?  You want a scene where the main joke is clearly detectable, and not littered with distractions.  (Sorry.)

     The joke was a perennial one, not limited to the cards issued before World War I seen in the first part of this triple-header (no, really, I’m going to stop these.)  This postcard is from a later generation,  probably in the late 1930s.

     While this one takes the situation into the 1950s or thereabouts.

     Note that Mom appears in only a couple of the cards.  That’s another convention of cartoon humor.  Somehow, fathers dealing with squawling, disobedient, or simply numerous children was considered funnier than mother doing the same thing.

     There seems to have been a sense, in the background of these jokes, that not only was Dad less likely to know how to handle kids, but that he was also responsible for the size of the delivery.  As seen several times above, Papa is frequently dismayed at the outcome.

     While others, like this big time gambler, are gratified by their winnings.  Or maybe this is a CEO, taking pride in the efficient production at the home office.  Perhaps so dedicated to thorough bookkeeping and liked his daughters in triplikate.  (Enough, as the dads above might say.)

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