Just in time for the holidays: Your comprehensive-ish guide to "Thurber (et al.) Tonight" (the whole dang series)
Including Woody Allen, Robert Benchley, Bob and Ray, Will Cuppy, Wolcott Gibbs, Ring Lardner, S. J. Perelman, Jean Shepherd, and E. B. White Tonight
All I asked Santa for was a better picture of the great Will Cuppy; the one I've been using looks like it was taken clandestinely while he was in the Witness Protection program. However, given my lack of faith in the fat phony, I wasn't optimistic that he'd come through, so I went searching on my own once again, and once again my Google Images search for "Will Cuppy" yielded the swell pix of Will Rogers and Ring Lardner which somehow always turn up, and once again I had to decide, with heavy heart, that no, they wouldn't really fill the gap better than what we've got. But then the above image turned up, and I figured that since it purports to be part of a book cover, the chap portrayed therein must actually be our Will. I have to say, though, that this pic creeps the dickens out of me, and so I don't think I'll be popping it into the Will Cuppy slot below. I think I'm actually going to be trying to forget I ever saw it. Sheesh!
You look around and see all those decked halls, then close your eyes and hear all that fa-la-la-la-la-ing, and almost instantly you know something's up, am I right? Or else you read Noah's post last night, "Profiles In Cowardice: The Electoral College," and noticed that it's also Part 1 of his annual, er, tribute to the outgoing year, this time out: "2016: America Off The Rails."
That's right, it's the Holiday Season!
Okay, okay, I know it's been going on since about Columbus Day, if not Labor Day, and tonight is already Christmas Eve, for Bill O'Reilly's sake! I believe in letting the damned thing sneak up on me, so sneakily that with any luck it's almost past before it announces its presence. In a week or so we'll be ushering in a new year, and then begins the Countdown to Inauguration Day. And then we're on to wishing for a minimum of four more good years for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
So in the holiday spirit, or at least what passes for it hereabouts, I'm looking to slip into the DWT schedule some of what Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the Car Talk guys, liked to bill as "encore presentations" of memorable shows, which they hastened to explain were really things they pulled more or less randomly out of a box of old tapes. Naturally I never believed they were chosen entirely at random -- after all, there had to be some reason why those particular tapes were in that particular box, right?
And I'm not going to be choosing entirely randomly either. On the theory that along about now we could all use a few laughs, and also because it's one of the things i'm proudest of having done, I'm planning to dig into the "Thurber (et al.) Tonight" series I did here way back in some previous century.
Earlier this year I did perform a couple of resurrections from the series. There was a June post called "Having trouble getting things done? Learn from the master, the great Robert Benchley," which brought back a piece I think of just about every day, "How to Get Things Done." (Short version: "The psychological principle is this: anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.") Then in August I felt the itch again, and again it was a Benchley piece I had to bring back, in a post called "Comedy Tonight: 'Why We Laugh -- or Do We?': Another 'Benchley Tonight' Resurrection."
And I didn't even get (back) to what may be my very favorite Benchley piece, "A Little Sermon on Success." (As noted in the comprehensive-ish listing below -- "comprehensive-ish" in that I can't help feeling that I've missed an instance or two here or there -- you can find it here.) Not to mention the sublime "My Five- (or Maybe Six-) Year Plan." And . . . .
And no Thurber encore presentations at all! Yikes!
So I've cooked up this scheme for the holiday season (and perhaps the January slump season as well) to find post slots where I can slip in some especially cherished posts from these revered masters, and maybe some suggested "must reads" from among the stuff of theirs that was previously presented, at least until Howie cries out, "Please stop already!"
But, first things first (not my usual practice, as readers may be aware), I thought we would start with the comprehensive-ish listing itself. This is essentially unchanged from the version to which I have been providing a link since time immemorial. The one change I contemplated was to be able to pop in, finally, a better picture of Will Cuppy, but as noted in the photo caption above, that project came to a creepier-than-dead end.
And so, without further ado, excepting one tiny click-through --
Thurber (et al.) Tonight: The series to date
Here's what we've had so far in "Thurber Tonight":
Special Edition: At the 6/12/2011 92nd Street Y Thurber "do," Keith O gives a virtuoso performance
"The Pet Department" (from The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities  and The Thurber Carnival ), in six installments:
(1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6)
Fables from Fables for Our Times and Famous Poems Illustrated (1940)
"The Little Girl and the Wolf"
"The Hen and the Heavens"
"The Unicorn in the Garden"
"The Birds and the Foxes"
Fables from Further Fables for Our Time (1956)
"The Cat in the Lifeboat"
"The Fox and the Crow" (plus "Variations on the Theme")
"The Lover and His Lass"
"The Bears and the Monkeys"
"The Grizzly and the Gadgets"
"The Peacelike Mongoose" (in special edition: At the 92nd Street Y Thurber "do," Keith O gives a virtuoso performance)
"My Fifty Years With James Thurber" (preface to The Thurber Carnival)
"The Ladies' and Gentlemen's Guide to Modern English Usage" (from The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities )
I. Who and Whom
III. The Split Infinitive
IV. Only and One
V. Whether; and VI. The Subjunctive Mood
VII. Exclamation Points and Colons
VIII. The Perfect Infinitive
IX. Adverbial Advice
An extended note on "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and "The Catbird Seat," with a link to the full text of "The Catbird Seat"
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"
from My World -- And Welcome to It (1942)
"Here Lies Miss Groby"
"A Ride With Olympy"; encore presentation
"The Letters of James Thurber," accompanied by part of an actual 1938 Thurber letter (from The Thurber Letters), on New York City life among "our horrible bunch"
The great correspondence sagas, both from Thurber Country (1953)
"File and Forget"
"Joyeux Noël, Mr. Durning"; encore presentation
more from Thurber Country (1953)
"The Figgerin' of Aunt Wilma"
"A Friend of the Earth"
from Let Your Mind Alone!, and Other More or Less Inspirational Pieces (1937)
1. "Pythagoras and the Ladder"
2. "Destructive Forces in Life"
3. "The Case for the Daydreamer"
4. "A Dozen Disciplines"
5. "How to Adjust Yourself to Your Work")
6. "Anodynes for Anxieties"
7. "The Conscious vs. The Unconscious"
8. "Sex ex Machina"
"No Standing Room Only" (with an explanatory note on the early theatrical career of Vincent Price)
from My Life and Hard Times (1933, included in The Thurber Carnival )
Preface to a Life
1. The Night the Bed Fell; encore presentation
2. The Car We Had to Push
3. The Day the Dam Broke
4. The Night the Ghost Got In
9. University Days
10. Draft Board Nights
A Note at the End
from The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935)
"The Greatest Man in the World" read by Keith Olbermann -- Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
"The Topaz Cufflinks Mystery"
"The Curb in the Sky"
"The Bloodhound and the Bug":
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5
from The Beast in Me, and Other Animals (1948)
"Look Homeward, Jeannie" (also in Thurber's Dogs )
from The Years with Ross (1959)
1. A Dime a Dozen: part 1, part 2, and part 3
from The Thurber Album (1952)
7. Gentleman from Indiana (appreciation of his father), part 1 and part 2 (including some of Thurber's obit for John McNulty)
8. Lavender with a Difference (appreciation of his mother), part 1, part 2, and part 3
About Wolcott Gibbs (Thurber on Gibbs, Gibbs on Thurber, and E. B. White's New Yorker obituary of Gibbs)
Obituary of John McNulty (from The New Yorker of Aug. 4, 1956), plus Thurber's letter to New Yorker editor William Shawn of July 31, 1956, about the published text
Special Edition: At the 92nd Street Y Thurber "do," Keith O gives a virtuoso performance
from Getting Even (1971)
"A Look at Organized Crime"
"Death Knocks," Part 1 and
"A Twenties Memory"
"Hassidic Tales, with a Guide to Their Interpretation by the Noted Scholar," Part 1 and Part 2
"The Schmeed Memoirs," Part 1 and Part 2
"Count Dracula," Part 1 and Part 2
"My Five- (or Maybe Six-) Year Plan"
"A Little Sermon on Success" [plus video: The Treasurer's Report]
"Back in Line" [plus video: That Inferior Feeling]
"One Minute, Please!" [plus video: How to Be a Detective]
"Why We Laugh -- or Do We?" [plus video: introducing "a man who needs no introduction," from The Sky's the Limit]; August 2016 encore presentation
"How I Create" [plus video: How to Eat]
"How to Get Things Done" [plus video: Home Movies]; June 2016 encore presentation
"Announcing a New Vitamin" [plus video: the start of How to Take a Vacation]
"Down With Pigeons"
"The Bathroom Revolution"
"The Sunday Menace"
"Ask That Man"
"One Set of French Dishes"
BOB AND RAY TONIGHT
Bob and Ray: The Two and Only (Original Broadway Cast recording)
Act I (plus other Bob and Ray goodies)
Sunday, 4/3/11: The Two and Only: Overture; Wally Ballou (Bob) and Hector Lassie (Ray); Introductory remarks; Wally covers a fast-breaking cranberry story in Times Square -- meet Floyd Smith the cranberry man (Ray)
Video clip: Bob and Ray appear with a young David Letterman, part 1
Monday, 4/4/11: World's largest living lizard . . . some kind of lizard? (Komodo dragon expert, plus Gabe Preston calls in from Washington with breaking news)
Video clip: Part 2 of the Letterman appearance
Tuesday, 4/5/11: "Most Beautiful Face" (plus Gabe Preston tries again)
Video clip: First half of a 1952 outing of the 15-minute NBC TV Bob and Ray Show
Wednesday, 4/6/11: Barry Campbell talks about his Broadway opening (and closing) night
Video clip: Part 2 of that TV Bob and Ray Show: an episode of Mary Backstayge, Noble Wife, with Audrey Meadows as Mary B and actress Jessica Culpepper
Thursday, 4/7/11: STOA (Slow Talkers of America)
Video clip (audio only): No Dragnet Here -- The men of Squad Car 119 are just a locked door away from being on the Case of the Ruffled Shirt Bandit
Bob and Ray: The Two and Only: Act II
Part 1: The Larry Lovebreath Show: Dog trainer; Grand Canyon public service announcement; Truffle hunter
Part 2: Classic sports interview -- Biff Burns and Stuffy
Part 3: News in Depth: Gov't bureaucrat Hap Whatney; Unusual political concession speech; David Chetley analyzes the speech (plus video clip of Chet Huntley's Huntley-Brinkley Report signoff)
Part 4: More News in Depth: Announcement for the Treasury Dept.; Corrupt mayor of Skunk Haven, NJ; Return of Gabe Preston with his breaking story
Part 5: Curtain call -- encores: Kiddie menu; McBeebee Twins
from Write If You Get Work: The Best of Bob & Ray (1975)
Foreword by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., who remembers being interviewed for a job by the fellows
"Elmer W. Litzinger, Spy" (plus Bulletin No. 1)
"Emergency Ward" (plus Bulletin No. 2)
"Spelling Bee," Part 1 (plus Bulletin No. 3) and Part 2 (plus Bulletin
"Lucky Phone Call"
WILL CUPPY TONIGHT
from How to Tell Your Friends from the Apes (1931)
from the Preface
Memoirs of the Jukes Family, or Where We Come In
"The Java Man" (plus background on the Jukes Family)
"The Peking Man"
"The Piltdown Man"
"The Heidelberg Man"
"The Neanderthal Man"
"The Cro-Magnon Man"
"The Modern Man"
How to Tell Your Friends from the Apes, or A Monkey a Day
"The Howling Monkey"
Mammals You Ought to Know, or Why Be a Rhinoceros?
from How to Become Extinct (1941)
"Own Your Own Snake"
from How to Attract the Wombat (1949)
"Are Wombats People?" (the introductory piece)
"More About Wombats"
Pliny the Elder special edition: "The Goose," "The Oyster," and "The Ostrich"
from The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody (1950)
"Alexander the Great"
Afterword by Thomas Maeder (1984)
WOLCOTT GIBBS TONIGHT
About Wolcott Gibbs (Thurber on Gibbs, Gibbs on Thurber, and E. B. White's New Yorker obituary of Gibbs)
"In Memoriam: Robert Benchley" (New York Times remembrance)
"The Mantle of Comstock"
"To a Little Girl at Christmas" -- meet Comrade Jelly Belly
"One with Nineveh" -- Gibbs's 25-years-later reencounter with Lucius Beebe, Part 1 and Part 2
"Glorious Calvin (A Critical Appreciation)" -- "a critical appreciation of Calvin Coolidge as a movie comedian"
RING LARDNER TONIGHT
Presenting the Master, with "Who's Who -- and Why" and the Preface to "How to Write Short Stories"
It was part of his charm: Prefaces to The Love Nest and The Story of a Wonder Man by Sarah E. Spooldripper
The Young Immigrunts (The road to "Shut up he explained"): Part 1, Part 2 (plus Ring Lardner Jr. on The Young Immigrunts), and Part 3 (plus Ring Lardner Jr.'s excerpts from Daisy Ashford's The Young Visiters, the source of the parody)
You Know Me Al
John Lardner's Introduction (1958): Part 1 and Part 2
Chapter I: A Busher's Letters Home
Part 1, Preface and Jack's letters of Sept. 6 and Dec. 14 and 16
Part 2, The busher reaches the bigs -- March 2, 7, 9, and 16
Part 3: Countdown to Opening Day -- March 26 and April 1, 4, 7, and 10
Part 4: The busher makes his big-league debut -- April 11 and 15
Part 5: A major development for Jack -- April 19, 25, and 29
Chapter II: The Busher Comes Back
Part 1, The busher comes back! -- Jack's letters of May 13 and 20
Part 2: After a two-month silence, Jack has big news for Al -- July 20
Part 3, A surprise for Jack -- August 16
Part 4, Back in the bigs -- August 27
Part 5, Big doings in Detroit -- September 6
Part 6, "Boston is some town, Al" -- September 12
Part 7, Bedford, IN, meets New York, NY -- September 16
Part 8, Rain day in Philly; arrival in D.C. -- September 19 and 22
Part 9, In D.C., it's Jack vs. Johnson -- September 22 and 27
Part 10, The "city serious," and Jack's biggest news yet -- October 3 and 7
Part 11, Reversal(s) of fortune -- October 9 and 12
Part 12, Did you see this one coming? -- October 13 and 14
How to Tell a True Princess
Red Riding Hood
Champion (in seven parts):
Part 1 -- We make the acquaintaince of young Michael Kelly
Part 2 -- In Milwaukee, Midge makes connections
Part 3 -- In Boston, Midge makes his mark
Part 4 -- In New Orleans, Midge reads some mail
Part 5 -- Back in his hometown, the champ knows how to deal with a sponger
Part 6 -- Back in Milwaukee, the champ rearranges more old arrangements
Part 7 -- In New York, the champ meets the press
Postscript: How "Champion" and the other stories in How to Write Short Stories (with Samples) found their way into book form
Three New Yorker "Talk of the Town" items about Ring
from The Most of S. J. Perelman:
Intro to Part I and "Strictly from Hunger," Part 1 and Part 2
Intro to Part II and Acres and Pains, Chapter One, Chapters Two and Three, Chapters Four and Five
How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth, Part 1 and Part 2
Perelman the mini-dramatist:
"How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth," part 1 and part 2
from Westward Ha!
I. Goodbye Broadway, Hello Mal-de-mer, Part 1 (It started in Philadelphia) and Part 2 (Departure day looms)
from The Swiss Family Perelman
Chapter 1, "Rancors Aweigh"
Part 1 -- Launching yet another journey
Part 2 -- San Francisco-bound
Chapter 2, "Low Bridge -- Everybody Down"
Part 1 -- The journey begins!
Part 2 -- Hooray for Hollywood!
Part 3 -- "Move over, Asia"
Chapter 3, "The Wild Blue Yonder"
Part 1 -- Aboard the S.S. Grover Cleveland
Part 2 -- Putting on the feedbag
Part 3 -- Hawaii to Hong Kong
Chapter 4, "Mama Don't Want No Rice"
Part 1 -- Breaking news!
Part 2 -- "You rat!"
Part 3 -- On the town in Hong Kong
The Great Ice Cream War
Ham Radio, Part 1 and
From In God We Trust -- All Others Pay Cash:
Chapter I -- "We Meet Flick, the Friendly Bartender"
Chapter II -- "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid," Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
E. B. WHITE TONIGHT
From The Second Tree from the Corner":
Foreword (1954) and Introduction (1984)
"Air Raid Drill" (plus E.B.W. notes on the notes reprinted from The New Yorker's "Notes and Comment" page)
"Afternoon of an American Boy," Part 1 and Part 2
"The Second Tree from the Corner," Part 1 and Part 2