Just one peanut

(Lots of off-color jokes, some of them gay-inflected, along with a number of peanut cartoons. So: crude, and perhaps not to everyone’s taste.)

Today’s Rhymes With Orange — entertaining if you get the crucial pop culture allusion, incomprehensible if you don’t:


(#1) An elephant at the doctor’s office, with an x-ray showing the contents of his stomach to be a top hat, a monocle, and a cane; in the face of this evidence, the doctor asks the patient if he’s sure that all he ate was one peanut (presupposing that the patient has claimed just that)

How does this even make sense, much less be funny? Even granting the poploric association between elephants and peanuts — which is actually pretty baffling (see below) — why do peanuts come up in #1 at all? We have a trio of men’s accessories and no visible peanuts.

There’s a hint in the bonus commentary on the left: elephant to elephant, “It’s a medical Mister-y”, where the clue is Mister. But the clue is useless if you don’t know your way around the symbolic figures of American commerce.

You have to be a friend of Mister Peanut.

All the patient ate was just one. But the one he ate was the embodiment of elegant masculinity in the form of a peanut, and he was no doubt a tasty tidbit of crunchy goodness.

Background: characters. From my 6/30/18 posting “Characters 1”:

Thomas Nast’s Boss Tweed, Uncle Sam, Denslow’s Wizard of Oz, Archie Andrews, Mickey Mouse, Godzilla, Mr. Peanut, Superman, the Ohio State Buckeye, Herbie the car, Hello Kitty. Not exactly (real) persons, but characters that are like persons to various degrees and in various ways. And all created by artists, all animated — given the breath of life — by visual artists of one sort or another.

Some background facts on the Mr. Peanut character. From Wikipedia:

Mr. Peanut is the advertising logo and mascot of Planters, an American snack-food company and division of Kraft Foods. He is depicted as an anthropomorphic peanut in its shell dressed in the formal clothing of an old-fashioned gentleman: with a top hat, monocle, white gloves, spats, and a cane.


(#2) The classic Mr. Peanut figure

… Planters Peanut Company was founded in 1906, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, by Amedeo Obici and was incorporated two years later as the Planters Nut and Chocolate Company. The factory in Wilkes-Barre has since closed down.

(An illustration in the entry shows a newspaper ad, introducing Mr. Peanut to the public, dated 1917.)

Background: updating Mr. Peanut. From a New York Times story “Mr. Peanut’s New Look? Old School” by Stuart Elliott on 11/7/10:


(#3) Caption: Planters is giving Mr. Peanut a new look, with a gray flannel suit, and a voice (Robert Downey Jr.), as well as a sidekick, Benson

Which inspired a Paul Rudnick “Shouts and Murmurs” humor piece in the New Yorker, reported on in my 12/6/10 posting “The buildup’, as providing

a cascade of double entendres on nuts and with other puns, and a hilarious detailing of Mr. Peanut’s (clandestine) hook-ups with a long chain of advertising mascots, for other foods and much else (San Francisco leather daddy Mr. Clean among them).

But then Benson came along, and it was true love:

… What can I say? I’m nuts about him. And in bed, well, I’ll be discreet, but you know how whenever you pop open a new, freshness-sealed can of Planters it sighs? That’s how I feel.

… So please—understand me. Embrace me. Eat me.

Later postings on this blog.

on 5/17/12 in “Manly superlatives”, on macho Planters ads — pushing peanuts as the manliest nut, and adding tough almonds and pistachios, for example:

(#4)

on 6/1/14, in “May-June turnover”, with another Rhymes cartoon, with a legume / lagoon pun:

(#5)

The peanut — note that to appreciate this cartoon you need to be able to recognize Mr. Peanut — is botanically a legume (like peas and beans and an assortment of other plants).

on 12/12/14, in “Kicked in the mascot”, with a Mother Goose and Grimm cartoon, and more play on nuts, the edibles vs. the testicles:

(#6)

The Mascots — Ronald McDonald, Colonel Sanders, Tony the Tiger, Yellow the M&M, and Cap’n Crunch — view their fallen teammate, Mr. Peanut, with dismay.

— and on 8/14/17, in “Combos”, in a Bizarro cartoon, with Mr. Peanut, a jar of grape jelly, and their (PBJ) sandwich offspring:

(#7)

Two more Mr. Peanut cartoons. From a huge selection.

— Joe Dator in the New Yorker‘s 10/10/11 issue, on language and the sexes, broadly construed: Rick Peanut puts the moves on a woman at a cocktail party:

(#8)

— unidentified artist and what’s described on eBay as a “1975 vintage cartoon”, in which Mr. Peanut exposes himself (punning on nut the edible and nut the crazy or eccentric person):

(#9)

(None of my sources identifies the artist, and I haven’t been able to identify them from the signature. Perhaps some helpful reader will recognize the signature.)

End note 1. Elephants and peanuts. Everywhere, gain and again, responsible organizations debunk the idea that elephants have an affinity for peanuts. So, from Smithsonian Magazine, on 8/21/09, “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Asian Elephants”:

4. Peanut-loving elephants are a myth. Elephants, Asian or otherwise, don’t eat peanuts in the wild, nor are peanuts a typical diet for captive elephants. In fact, most elephants don’t even appear to like them very much.

(In any case, peanuts are very small, and elephants are huge animals with gigantic appetites.)

The question is where this silly idea came from in the first place. Most sites just debunk away, and leave it at that though I’ve seen a few that speculate that the spread of peanuts as a popular American snack food and the spread of wild animal exhibits (prominently featuring elephants) as part of traveling shows were roughly contemporaneous and so got connected in the popular imagination. Might have been, but I’d like to see someone who’s actually traced the history properly.

End note 2. “Chuckles Bites the Dust”. I can’t leave elephants and peanuts without an appreciation of one of the most wonderful sitcom episodes of all time. A cousin of the cartoon in #1.  From Wikipedia:

“Chuckles Bites the Dust” is an episode of the television situation comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show which first aired on October 25, 1975. The episode’s plot centers on the WJM-TV staff’s humorous reaction to the absurd death of Chuckles the Clown, an often-mentioned but seldom-seen character who starred in an eponymously titled show at the station.


(#10) MTM and Chuckles in better days (from a 11/22/16 Daily Disclosure piece on the TM show)

Plot: News anchor Ted Baxter is hired as the grand marshal for a circus parade, but is ordered by Lou Grant to turn down the “honor”. Ted is upset and tries to rally Mary to his side. Mary agrees that Lou acted a bit hastily, but then tells Ted that Chuckles the Clown has been asked in his place and has accepted.

The next day, as Mary and Murray are watching Ted deliver the live newscast, Lou rushes into the newsroom in shock and tells the staff that Chuckles has been killed during the parade. He had dressed as the character Peter Peanut, and a rogue elephant tried to “shell” him, causing fatal injuries. During a commercial break, Lou orders Ted to adlib a eulogy for Chuckles, with disastrous results.`

The next day at the studio, the unusual circumstances of Chuckles’ death provoke a wave of workplace jokes, especially by Lou, Sue Ann Nivens and Murray Slaughter (e.g. “You know how hard it is to stop after just one peanut!” and “He could’ve gone as Billy Banana and had a gorilla peel him to death.”) They dissolve into helpless laughter, except for Mary, who is appalled by her co-workers’ apparent lack of respect for the deceased. They try to assure her that they mean no disrespect for Chuckles. Their reaction is simply an emotional release, a response to humankind’s fear of death: “Everyone does it.” Mary shames them into uncomfortable silence by answering, “I don’t.”

At the funeral, the jokes continue until the services are about to start, at which time a final scolding by Mary encourages her friends to become properly somber. However, Mary alone begins to giggle uncontrollably as the minister recounts Chuckles’ comedy characters and comic routines. She tries to stifle her laughter, but cannot contain herself as Reverend Burns delivers the eulogy:

“Chuckles the Clown brought pleasure to millions. The characters he created will be remembered by children and adults alike: Peter Peanut; Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo; Billy Banana; and my particular favorite, Aunt Yoo-Hoo. And not just for the laughter they provided — there was always some deeper meaning to whatever Chuckles did. Do you remember Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo’s little catchphrase? Remember how, when his arch-rival Señor Kaboom hit him with a giant cucumber and knocked him down, Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo would always pick himself up, dust himself off, and say ‘I hurt my foo-foo’? Life’s a lot like that. From time to time we all fall down and hurt our foo-foos. If only we could deal with it as simply and bravely and honestly as Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo. And what did Chuckles ask in return? Not much. In his own words, ‘A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.'”

Mary’s friends, and the other attendees, are shocked by her laughter. The minister, however, asks the mortified Mary to rise, and assures her that her laughter is actually in keeping with Chuckles’ life’s work. “He lived to make people laugh. Tears were offensive to him; deeply offensive…So go ahead, my dear: laugh for Chuckles.” Mary then bursts into helpless, heartbreaking sobs.

You can view the full show here (#11). And my 11/15/09 posting “Chuckles Bites the Dust” has a brief obit for the writer of the episode.

One Response to “Just one peanut”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I might have thrown in a nod to the New Yorker’s Eustace Tilley.

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