Oh that’s good

Following on my 7/7 posting “GN/BN”, about the Good News Bad News joke routine, which the hounds of ADS-L traced back to the early 19th century (at least). Other commenters offered formuations of the idea that there’s a good side and a bad side to everything, the bad comes withthe good, and lots of other things that, however interesting, are not instances of the joke formula (in any of its variants). But then on 7/16, Bill Mullins posted about an entirely different joke formula hinging on the opposition of good and bad.

Bill wrote:

Are you familiar with Archie Campbell’s “That’s Good/That’s Bad” routines? He used to do them on Hee Haw.

And we’re off!

Background: Hee Haw. From Wikipedia:


(#1) Hosts Buck Owens and Roy Clark

Hee Haw was an American television variety show featuring country music and humor with the fictional rural “Kornfield Kounty” as a backdrop. It aired first-run on CBS from 1969 to 1971, in syndication from 1971 to 1993, and on TNN from 1996 to 1997. RFD-TV began airing reruns in 2008, where it currently remains.

The show was inspired by Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, the major difference being that Hee Haw was far less topical, and was centered on country music and rural culture. Hosted by country music artists Buck Owens and Roy Clark for most of its run, the show was equally well known for its voluptuous, scantily clad women in stereotypical farmer’s daughter outfits and country-style minidresses (a group that came to be known as the “Hee Haw Honeys”), and its corn pone humor.

And about Campbell, with descriptions of three of the routines that he was famous for:

(#2)

Archie Campbell (November 7, 1914 – August 29, 1987) was an American comedian, writer, and star of Hee Haw, a country-flavored network television variety show. He was also a recording artist with several hits on the RCA label in the 1960s.

… [Routine A] One of his most well-known segments was “PFFT! You Was Gone”, in which he would perform a short verse of original comedy followed by the standard “Where oh where are you tonight” chorus which would conclude with him and a singing partner, often Gordie Tapp, blowing a raspberry at one another or at the camera.

… [Routine B] One of Campbell’s ‘signature’ routines was to tell stories in “Spoonerism” form, with the first letters of words in some phrases intentionally switched for comic effect. The best-known of these stories was “RinderCella,” his re-telling of the fairy tale “Cinderella,” about the girl who “slopped her dripper” (dropped her slipper). Campbell once told the “RinderCella” story on an episode of the game show Juvenile Jury. At the conclusion of the story, host Jack Barry said “That’s one of the funniest stories Carchie Ampbell tells.” All of Campbell’s spoonerism routines borrowed heavily from comedy routines performed by Colonel Stoopnagle on the radio show Stoopnagle and Budd in the 1930s. (“Colonel Stoopnagle” was the stage name of F. Chase Taylor, 1897–1950.)

… [Routine C] Campbell also performed a routine with various partners generally known as “That’s Bad/That’s Good.” Campbell would state a troublesome occurrence; when the partner would sympathize by saying, “Oh that’s bad,” Campbell would quickly counter, “No, that’s good!”, and then state a good result from the previous occurrence. When the partner would say, “Oh that’s good!”, Campbell would immediately counter with “No, that’s bad!” and tell the new result, and so on.

Routine A, “PFFT!”, is basically just a fart-joke punch line, turning on the raspberry / razzberry / Bronx cheer (a voiceless linguolabial trill imitating the sound of flatulence). See my 6/4/13 posting “whoopee cushion” — there’s a device for that! (A side note: raspberry is Cockney rhyming slang; raspberry < raspberry tart, for fart.)

Routine B, “RinderCella” and similar re-tellings of familiar stories, is a piece of pure language play. The craft lies in being able to produce the Spoonerized / transposed / exchanged text  so that it sounds like you’re just reading an ordinary story. Campbell was a master at this:

(#3) Campbell as the barber, Clark as the customer

And then Routine C, “Oh That’s Good”, which is narratively and pragmatically complex; the viewer is whipsawed between optimistic and pessimistic views of unfolding events, until the story is finally resolved. As here:

 

(#4) Campbell and Clark again

On Campbell’s frequent straight man in these routines, from Wikipedia:

Roy Linwood Clark (April 15, 1933 – November 15, 2018) was an American singer and musician. He is best known for having hosted Hee Haw, a nationally televised country variety show, from 1969 to 1997. Clark was an important and influential figure in country music, both as a performer and in helping to popularize the genre.

During the 1970s, Clark frequently guest-hosted for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and enjoyed a 30-million viewership for Hee Haw. Clark was highly regarded and renowned as a guitarist, banjo player, and fiddler. He was skilled in the traditions of many genres, including classical guitar, country music, Latin music, bluegrass, and pop. He had hit songs as a pop vocalist (e.g., “Yesterday, When I Was Young” and “Thank God and Greyhound”), and his instrumental skill had an enormous effect on generations of bluegrass and country musicians.

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