“Li’l Abner” Creator Al Capp Harasses John Lennon And Yoko Ono

The great American diplomat and Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson may have well been talking about Li’l Abner creator Al Capp when he said, “Nothing so dates a man as to decry the younger generation.” In the final decade of his life, Capp launched vitriolic attacks against everybody and anything that didn’t adhere to his extremist views, even going so far as to label student protests against the Vietnam War as “mugging, vandalism and thievery.” Another example is this video clip of Capp going to meet John Lennon and Yoko Ono just so he could verbally berate them:

Capp’s antics became the subject of a colorful documentary–This is Al Capp–that premiered on NBC’s “Experiments in Television” on March 1, 1970. What makes it especially relevant to Cartoon Brew is that the special was co-directed by animation designer and director Ernest Pintoff, who created classic cartoons like Flebus and the Oscar-winning Critic. (Pintoff and his writing partner Guy Fraumeni also directed two other documentaries for the series–”This Is Marshall McLuhan” and “This Is Sholem Aleichem.”)

Somebody has posted onto YouTube the first twenty minutes of the Al Capp documentary (update: it was deleted, but the first six minutes are below). Capp comes across as a one-man Fox News Channel–reactionary, naive, and intellectually vapid. Still, it’s somehow entertaining to hear such hostile bile coming from the mouth of a famous cartoonist. After all, I think this may be the only instance of a cartoonist’s political ideas being the subject of a documentary on network television. The special also features quotes from John Steinbeck, and onscreen appearances by legendary cartoonists Milton Caniff and Walt Kelly, underground cartoonists Spain Rodriguez and Trina Robbins, and other notables like William F. Buckley, Paul Krassner and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

The presentation of the material is topnotch, and even in live-action, Pintoff’s animation sensibilities come through loud and clear. He employs energetic quick-cuts, intimate close-up interview shots and cheeky juxtaposition of image and sound. The results are playful enough to make even Capp’s rantings seem semi-tolerable.

UPDATE: Cartoonist Scott Shaw! wrote a comment about seeing Al Capp speak in person at the University of San Diego in the late-1960s:

I was present at Al Capp’s memorable presentation at UCSD in San Diego in 1968 or 1969, at the height of his anti-hippie bias. It’s a long story, but the short version is that Capp came out and engaged the audience of long-haired students (including myself – a huge fan of LI’L ABNER, despite the fact that I, too, was a hippie – and a small group of comic fans, most of whom formed the first San Diego Comic-Con). Things seemed very friendly and upbeat until Capp suddenly took offense at someone clapping (after the cartoonist called an end to the surprisngly good-natured back-and-forth verbal jousting). He walked out on the huge audience, which soon dispersed…except for my still-in-shock group of fan-friends. We hung around inside the gym for a few minutes, not realizing we were there alone…when Capp re-emerged from wherever he’d been to deliver his speech to our tiny group of less than a dozen people. I imagine that he had been just informed he wouldn’t be compensated for his presentation if he didn’t deliver it.

(Top photo via If Charlie Parker was a Gunslinger…; story link via Mike Lynch)


  • Hulk

    Interesting. A one man Fox news indeed. I felt bad for John and Yoko but all the same I’ve never been a fan of hippies either. I come from the generation after them not the generation before like Al. I don’t agree that he was berating them just because they were young…maybe he had the same problem with them that I did…he found them to be pretensious and hypocritical. I believe phony and fascist was the term he used. I wouldn’t go that far but still…he had a point however obnoxiously he made it. The direction and editing on this was terrific!

  • http://justforspite.blogspot.com Gene Hole

    regardless of whether or not you disagree with Capp’s point of view, to discount his perspective with mere name-calling like “a one-man Fox News Channel—reactionary, naive, and intellectually vapid” is not a logical counter-argument.

    argue against the points made, not the way they are made.

    yes, he is at times in the documentary “vitriolic,” and “hostile,” but to call someone “extremist,” simply because you disagree is absurd.

    extremists are people without regard for the lives, property, and dignity of their opponents and any innocent bystanders in their way. did Capp ever commit vandalism, physically assault those he denounces, kill or injure anyone? All he uses are words and pictures, Amid- words and pictures don’t constitute extremism.

  • JeffM

    I always find it humorous how the left can’t seem to take their own poison when given back to them. THey can rail against the right all they want, but when someone dishes it back, they freak and start the name calling.

    Lennon and his ilk were filthy communist. Sorry if I don’t have a soft spot in my heart for communist. They have killed more innocent people than all wars combined, including many artist/cartoonist, just for doing nothing more than NOT being communist.

    Bravo to Al Capp for confronting the left head on.

  • Chuck R.

    Ha ha! I think Al Capp is great, and it really is a highly entertaining film, with lots of great artwork to show. I think the filmmakers have a more even perspective than you do, Amid.

    Capp’s sentiments are definitely not extremist (he deplores the KKK as well as students who beat up teachers, so what?) Yes, his more pointed criticisms sometimes miss their mark. John Lennon, for instance, wasn’t what I’d call filthy or obscene. He was extremely narcissistic and had a ridiculously simplistic view of world politics. Capp folly is in thinking he could win an argument with a guy with greater star power -particularly someone who thinks he speaks for all mankind. Al should have just ignored Lennon’s bed-in for peace like the Khmer Rouge did.

    Anyway, great video! The montages reminded me of Ward Kimball’s television work for Disney. Excellent stuff!

  • CeeJ

    Sigh. I hate it when my favorite non-political blogs show their political bias. It’s usually very disappointing.

    I watched all three clips, and I’ve yet to see these “extremist views” that you accuse Capp of having. He’s caustic, brash, and I don’t always agree with him, but I don’t see any extremism here. Quite the opposite. One clip talks about protesters: He pays respect to revolutionaries of the peaceful type, but likens them to animals once violence and intimidation come into play. I couldn’t agree more, and the same hold true for many of the anti-war protests you see going on today.

    Remember: just because someone loudly disagrees with your liberal world view does not make them an “extremist.”

    “A one-man Fox News Channel—reactionary, naive, and intellectually vapid.” Please. As if the other news networks are bastions of reasoned thought and punditry. Lou Dobbs, Keith Olberman, Jack Cafferty, Nancy Grace? Yeah, ok.

    But thank you for posting these clips. I think I found a new hero. :)

  • doug holverson

    OMG! He talks like Walter Matthau! I always imagined him sounding like Col. Sanders. *Gasp!*

    He was was an influence on me. Gawd, my signature character is like Wolf Gal on steroids! He hated Hippies for being young Turks when he was an old fart. I hated Hippies for being old farts when I was a young Turk. He did do flayboyant South Park type parody with Russ Meyer type fanservice all in a way that still managed to be Hays Office squeaky clean enough for family funnies readership. Plus that type of crankiness beats Trudeau pandering to the PC Yuppies or Breathed pandering to the PC Fanboys.

    BTW, Li’l Abner is being reran at http://www.comics.com

  • Paul N

    I’ve always admired Capp’s art style – guess that’s all there is to admire about him…

  • Kevin Martinez

    Such is the nature of newspaper comics creators. Some of the hacks are the nicest, most genial men ever and can laugh at themselves (Bil Keane, Bob Weber Jr.) and some of the most talented come off as jerks and a-holes (Bill Watterson, sometimes Schulz).

    I must say, even with that in mind, Al Capp’s ideas are off-the-walls.

  • Bob Schooley

    My mother worked as a waitress in Palm Beach Florida in, I think, the late 40′s/early 50′s. She could care less about his politics, but I remember as a kid her telling me that Capp was the meanest, most abusive person she ever served.

  • Jenny

    Bill watterson isn’t an asshole, he just likes his privacy. Oh, and it makes me sad that people actually admire such an a****e.

  • Gobo

    JeffM, we don’t really need that kind of nastiness here. Especially when you take the time to call out “the left” as being namecallers while calling John Lennon a communist. That’s kind of immature.

    Al Capp was the ultra-conservative rabble-rouser of his day, and it’s kind of fascinating to think that a cartoonist was the Rush Limbaugh / Michael Savage of that time. I can see Lennon inviting him in simply for some good footage; he knew he’d get snarked at.

  • Keith Paynter

    So that’s who that guy in the clip was…this clip was from David Wolper’s Yoko-approved documentary Imagine: John Lennon. What an arse!

  • http://www.itsthecat.com Mark Kausler

    In a way it’s too bad that Al was such a mean old man toward his last years. I always liked his sardonic chuckle, as if he could see the humorous side to almost any thing he said or others said. His latter-day reputation turns off a lot of potential fans. Be that as it may, L’il Abner was a great strip, I loved it as a kid, and I still enjoy re-reading it today. I would like to see the 1961-1977 Abners reprinted in book form as Denis Kitchen did with the earlier strips. I want to see for myself the infamous “Joanie Phonie” sequence that outraged so many people when it ran in newspapers in the 1970s. I have seen only sporadic samples of the story, and a lot of the dialog balloons were censored! I guess L’il Abner reprints from his conservative era wouldn’t sell, but I would like to read them, if only for the fantasy, story-telling and artwork alone!

  • Kevin Martinez

    Actually, thinking about it, I could see how Bruce Tinsley and Scott Stantis could be considered Capp’s modern-day successors in the field of newspaper comics, both in art and ideology.

    oh, and Watterson IS an a**le. Read his “Cheapening of Comics” essay. “Calvin and Hobbes” wasn’t even four years old at the time, yet Watterson thinks he has the right to insinuate every other newpaper cartoonist is a hack that would rather play golf than write and draw.

    I say that as perhaps one of the top 20 Calvin and Hobbes fans.

  • amid

    Gene Hole: There is no argument against a guy who compares the SDS to the KKK. That would be like comparing John McCain to Hitler. It’s designed purely to offend with no rational counterargument.

    But to clarify further, the problem with Capp at this time is that he positioned himself as a guy who exposed hypocrisy, yet he only found that hypocrisy in the country’s disenfranchised (students, minorities, war protesters) while completely ignoring the hypocrisy of our political leaders and media of the time. It’s typical big bully mentality: picking on the weakest kids on the playground.

    If you look at the history of satire, the greatest and most honest satirists from Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain to Daumier and Nast are those who aimed their sight on the powerful and challenged the establishment, not those who worked in tandem with it. And how closely was Capp intertwined with the establishment? According to journalist Seymour Hersh, it was no less than Richard Nixon who helped throw out a sexual assualt charge against Capp, from an incident that occured during one of Al Capp’s visits to a college campus in Wisconsin.

    • http://ThoseAmericanGirls.com Debbie American

      LOL we luv u Amid Hooray! xoxo

  • http://www.autodaddy.blogspot.com tom

    I think that the “left” reacts against what they perceive to be truths that are being ignored. Back in the sixties and early seventies, two of the hot button topics that the counterculture protested against were what they perceived to be a lousy, unwinnable war in Vietnam and a corrupt government under Nixon, and time has shown that they were right on both counts. Today, “leftists” (a word that seems to only be used by Fox and Co. these days) are protesting the Iraq war and the shadowy governmental stylings of the Bush administrations. Must I connect the dots?

    As for Al Capp; in this documentary he sounds like a major, rabid a-hole. It doesn’t ruin Lil’ Abner for me, but I don’t like Capp one bit. I think his right leg had the right idea to move on and leave him behind.

  • J Lee

    Capp was actually considered pretty liberal back in the 1940s and 1950s — along with Walt Kelly’s Pogo, Capp’s Li’l Abner was the only mainstream comic strip of the time that satirized the HUAC/McCarthy hearings. That’s why his ideological change caused such a shock on both the left and right in the mid-1960s.

    Pintoff of course went on after this to become a live-action director of a number of TV series (I remember running into his name on the director’s credit of a late 1970s episode of “The White Shadow” and wondering if this was the same guy who was know for his animation work in the 1950s).

  • http://utopiamoment.ca jack ruttan

    Hope there’s room for a-holes ranting on both sides, without shooting or explosions breaking out. Because stuff is boring if everything you read or watch is nice and always polite. In the meantime, I go Pogo!

  • Hulk

    J Lee, it’s not a surprise that Al Capp (nee’ Caplin) was a former liberal. Someone compared him to Michael Savage(nee’ Weiner) in a previous post. Savage was at one time part of the beat poetry movement : a disciple of Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsburg before making an extreme right turn and railing against everyone who was less conservative than himself. (and I assume AFTER he named his son “Goldencloud” who, btw is the ceo of Rockstar energy drinks) It seems to be that Capp and Savage were somehow atoning for their previous points of view by denouncing everyone who still had that point of view. ‘He who points the accusing finger has three fingers pointing back at himself’ as the saying goes. Even Ronald Reagan made that same philosophical change albeit more advantageously than Capp or Savage. I guess it’s just human nature.

    On another note, I saw brief clips in that doc of the animated “Lil’ Abner’ cartoon. No one has really discussed that much. I used to own a tape of those toons and they were extremely poorly made…by any standard …especially since they were made in the 40′s the golden age of animation. Is there anything Jerry or Amid can tell us about those?

    Finally Al Capp created the Shmoo so he’ll always be OK in my book.

  • http://thad-k.blogspot.com Thad

    What did it cost to use those Screen Gems Abner clips I wonder?

    I’m with Mark Kausler and Amid on this one — great artist, and the earliest Abner’s are absolutely great (I want to see those strips too, Mark!). But that’s about all to admire about him. It’s a shame because Capp was once as liberal (or at least appeared to be as liberal) as Walt Kelly.

  • Tom Pope

    Thank goodness that the subject of this documentary is a cartoonist. Otherwise it would be hard to justify making such a shrill personal political statement through a blog which is meant to showcase animation-related topics.

    That said, God Bless America for freedom of speech, whether you’re Al Capp, Lennon, or a blog commenter (as long as you don’t get censored by the powers that be.)

  • http://justforspite.blogspot.com Gene Hole

    “There is no argument against a guy who compares the KKK to the SDS. That would be like comparing John McCain to Hitler. It’s designed purely to offend with no rational counterargument.”

    I agree with you there Amid, but our response should be to let it go, not reply in kind. I just don’t think “extremist” is a term that accurately describes Capp’s crotchety, bitter way of addressing problems he saw in his society. I’ve unfortunately not had access to a great deal of his work, but from what I’ve seen, he was just as eager to attack “the establishment” as the “disenfranchised.” He does state in the documentary that he believes in allowing protest, just not violent protest, and rightly so.

    But enough of this. I don’t wish to drag this thread into a heated debate about politics, since this blog IS the CARTOON brew, not the Politics Brew. I think the documentary itself was pretty cool, I like the editing and intercutting of SFX and cartoons, close-up shots ans all, its very nicely done, thank you for posting it, it is most interesting :-)

  • red pill junkie

    I don’t think Capp changed his politics. I think we perceive him as a liberal-turned-conservative simply because he reamined static in the same position he stood for all his life, while failing to address the rest of the world was moving forward without him. But that is the fate and folly of ALL generations.

    That said, I consider myself to be a very liberal individual, against the war in Vietnam and the present war in Iraq, and yet I couldn’t help agreeing with him in some points. Truly, a student movement that fought for peace and yet resorted to violence should have had a long look in the mirror. And in the end, the “flower power” was defeated by itself amid a thick cloud of LSD and marijuana.

  • http://chippyandloopus.typepad.com/ John Sanford

    I read Watterson’s essay. He’s right on every point, especially in light of the sad state of newspaper comics today.
    So…he’s an asshole because he tells it like it is?

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    At the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, we have a rare recording of a 1960s live talk show hosted by Al Capp. He takes questions from an audience composed of hippies and proceeds to wipe the floor with them. It’s very funny and shows how quick Capp was on his feet. Regardless of whether you agree with him or not, the man was a brilliant debater. If anyone would like to hear that, drop me an email and I’ll post it.

  • http://exitplanetwhom.blogspot.com gavin

    He’s like your cantankerous granddad who spouts seemingly vile bile, but you love him anyway. Yeah, grampa’s a bigot, but he pulls hilarious faces with his teeth out, and makes spinning tops.

    Incidentally, my granddad was a saint.

  • http://thad-k.blogspot.com Thad

    Having a steady supply of racial/sexual slurs to fire off at any argument does not make one a ‘great debater’.

  • Kevin Martinez

    Thad – Well you have to agree that Capp’s debating skills have worked for him. Since he’s accomplished the task of finding an audience, even posthumously.

    That’s the qualities I’d consider a fine commentator to have.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    What racial and sexual slurs? Have you heard the recording I’m talking about or are you commenting on something else?

  • doug holverson

    Kitchen Sink quit printing the books at ’61 mark merely because they went out of business. It’s kind of funny that somebody like Fantagraphics or Dark Horse hasn’t picked up the slack. (Maybe if I win the PowerBall…..)

    I do like the quick editing, montages, and juxtaposition in this. Reminds me of watching “Make a Wish” on Grandpa’s TV (he was both a saint and an Allis Chalmers dealer!) after Sunday School, with my cousin. It’s interesting to know that the style didn’t pop out of a vacuum, but had been worked up by people like Pintoff and Ward over the years.

    This is kind of interesting on personal level because I’ve started to pick up Li’l Abner reprints on eBay. Even got a squeeky Shmoo to keep the plushie Purple People Eater and resin Rat Fink company.

    And I’m wondering what would happen if one mixed Mud Mushrooms into their Mockaroni….

  • Mike

    Great clips and great comments. When I saw the quote in the article comparing Al to Fox News Channel—”reactionary, naive, and intellectually vapid” I thought-why is it that left politics have to be force fed to me everywhere I turn, even for entertainment? But the comments section restored my faith in the open minds of the readers of this blog. I agree with the comments of the classic liberal Al, protest is patriotic, but without violence and with love for your country. Protesting with violence while hating your country is called a revolution, not a political protest.

  • Chuck R.

    Amid, you’re oversimplifying when talking about great satirists and the establishment. I’m sure every working cartoonist today envisions himself as an heir to Daumier or Nast, bringing down the bloated and powerful with a mighty stroke of the “mordant pen”. But that’s vain self-righteousness. There’s no comparing Daumier (who was almost a lone dissenter jailed for his caricatures of King Louis Philipe) with modern cartoonists, pundits, and late night monologuers who can malign any sitting president with absolute immunity. The attacks on Nixon, Bush and the Clintons are cowardly pile-ons.

    From the 60′s until the 80′s, radical liberal thought dominated politics, science, Hollywood, the mainstream press, popular music and college campuses. When Al Capp redressed John Lennon, he was going up against the establishment.

    When did baby-boomers become the “disenfranchised”? Even with outstanding student loans, they were the most powerful and privileged generation in civilized history. And who said Al Capp was out to expose hypocrisy? He was out to expose idiocy, and it wasn’t hard to find. Even Ralph Bakshi knows that.

  • AJ

    If Al Capp were alive today he would choke on his own vomit over what has happened to his concepts of “conservative” and “liberal” over the last 38 years.

    Whereas Walt Kelly would merely chuckle and say “I told you so.”

    And CJ says:
    Remember: just because someone loudly disagrees with your liberal world view does not make them an “extremist.”

    Remember, just because someone disagrees with your conservative world view does not make them a “liberal.”

  • http://www.tombarrettanimation.com Tom Barrett

    It is common knowledge, although no one here has mentioned it yet:
    Al Capp’s comic strip was drawn for almost a decade NOT by Capp, but by the great Frank Frazetta! It was only after Capp wanted to reduce Frazatta’s pay check that he left Capp and started painting those beautiful covers he is known for. I wonder how much of the art in the documentary is actually Frazettas?!

  • Hulk

    Tom Barrett:
    Is there a link to any website that shows Frazetta’s Lil Abner work more in depth?

  • http://dmgermain.blogspot.com David Germain

    Yeah, he could pretty much be Bill O’Reilly’s long lost father. Yick!

    Incidently, Canada’s dealing with our own version of Al Capp right now. Only he’s not nearly as creative or articulate.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1TM4dQBKA8

  • http://www.cafemetropolis.com/hamfisher.pdf Kevin Dougherty

    Shameless self-promotion be damned but…earlier this year I did a comic strip for a local arts weekly detailing the feud between Al Capp and Joe Palooka creator Ham Fisher. It’s quite a tale of egos and ambition. Linked below.

    Al Capp’s obnoxiousness is almost quaint by today’s standards. I doubt I would have been a big supporter of his back then but I agree with a previous post that his position was more a case of being rigidly stuck in a bygone era than being an ultra-conservative…at least by contemporary standards. He was a bit of a lost soul. At the very least, I think he was sincere, which is more than I can say for a lot of the theatrical, incendiary talking heads I see on (the very entertaining) Fox news channel.

    http://www.cafemetropolis.com/hamfisher.pdf

  • Mike Fontanelli

    I agree with John Steinbeck – LI’L ABNER was a brilliantly written, beautifully drawn and frequently hilarious comic strip, especially in its heyday, from 1942 to roughly 1964. In fact, when Steinbeck accepted his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, he joked that the prize rightfully should have gone to Al Capp!
    And Steinbeck was hardly alone amongst the intellectuals and literati in his high regard. (John Updike also championed Capp, calling ABNER a comic strip with “fire in its belly and a brain in its head”.)

    I would caution Amid, and anyone else who thinks these angry interviews are all there is to Al Capp – to think again. You’d be doing yourself a great disservice. Capp’s work is his REAL legacy, not these angry clips.

    In Capp’s defense, he had the misfortune to live in Cambridge, Mass. – right outside Harvard – during the worst years of the student riots. He was appalled at the violence he and his family witnessed firsthand, which is a matter of record. Unfortunately, this experience colored his opinion of the youth movement forever.
    People should try to at least bear that in mind before they write him off as a mere crank.

    ABNER remains my favorite comic strip of all time. In my opinion, it has never been equalled.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    > Kitchen Sink quit printing the books at ‘61 mark merely because they went out of business. It’s kind of funny that somebody like Fantagraphics or Dark Horse hasn’t picked up the slack. (Maybe if I win the PowerBall…..)

    You’d think they’d release a DVD-ROM of every strip by now! :-)

  • http://saturdayamcartoons.blogspot.com/ Mat

    Wow. I learn new stuff every day. JeffM says that John Lennon was a filthy communist, which I never knew. It must be because of that whole “Imagine no possessions” thing he sang about, something that he hypocritically never practised.

  • http://www.tombarrettanimation.com Tom Barrett

    Hey Hulk:

    That remark he makes about “hunching over a drawing table for
    16 hours a day” really got to me!

    Info about Frank Frazzetta actually drawing the strip for Capp
    and quitting after Capp tried to reduce his pay check
    can be found here:

    THE COMICS JOURNAL #174 – February 1995.

    Classic Comics Illustrators: The Comics Journal Library (Burne Hogarth, Frank Frazetta, Mark Schultz, Russ Heath and Russ Manning) by Frank Frazetta, Russ Heath, Burne Hogarth, and Russ Manning (Paperback – Jul 25, 2005 – Fantagraphics)

    Other links:

    http://www.amazon.com/Classic-Comics-Illustrators-Journal-Frazetta/dp/
    1560976527/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1207230312&sr=8-1

    http://www.amazon.com/Al-Capps-Lil-Abner-Frazetta/dp/1569719594/
    ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1207230179&sr=8-2

    http://www.amazon.com/Al-Capps-Lil-Abner-Frazetta/dp/1569719764/
    ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1207230179&sr=8-3

    http://www.amazon.com/Al-Capps-Lil-Abner-1960-1961/dp/1593071337/
    ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1207230179&sr=8-1

  • Mike Fontanelli

    I’ve always believed artists should be judged by their greatest work, and in that regard Capp owes an apology to no one. The best of it continues to speak for itself, (especially in light of what comic strips degenerated into after he left the scene.) By any modern standard, LI’L ABNER at its best was a masterpiece of cartoon satire.

    It’s true that Capp’s later years were characterized by a dark, self-destructive anger and sadness which was completely at odds with his earlier public persona, and he became increasingly embittered as he left his great work behind him.
    But – this is actually par for the course for satirists, who never seem to be able to mellow with age like everyone else.

    It comes from a lifetime of looking at the world with a jaundiced and cynical eye, I think. All that bile collects and ferments over time, and they usually pay for it psychologically in the long run. Their golden years are usually marked by bitterness. It’s an occupational hazard, I guess; they tend to die angry and bitter. Capp was no exception, and he’s in good company:

    Swift went insane. Twain and Voltaire became reclusive reprobates, as did HL Mencken and WS Gilbert. Hunter Thompson committed suicide, as did Richard Jeni. Ambrose Bierce disappeared on a reckless, suicidal excursion in Pancho Villa’s revolutionary Mexico, and was never seen again…

    They mostly came to bitter ends, the only difference it that Capp’s decline was captured on video tape, and theirs wasn’t.

    Amid – your dismissal of Capp as a “pro-establishment” satirist lacks insight and historical accuracy. In a sense, you’re guilty of the same careless disregard of facts as Capp was in his later years.

    Capp actually had plenty to say about human nature and the status quo.
    Please take a second look at his best work, during his great years: The Lips Of Marcia Perkins (Capp’s hilarious parody of venereal disease), The Case Of The Poisoned Beans, Loverboynik, the Bald Iggle, the Kigmy, the Square Eyes Family, Zoot Suit Yokum, the Chippendale Chair, etc, etc…
    The list is long, and the stories are anything but pro-establishment.

  • http://gerarddesouza.blogspot.com Gerard de Souza

    Brought to you by Chesterfield’s.
    For cartoonist’s with BIG taste!
    http://www3.telus.net/drard/chester72.jpg

  • Joe Suggs

    First of all, kudos to Mike Fontanelli and Mark Kausler for their excellent, balanced comments and insights below. Balanced comments on Capp are as rare as balanced comments from Capp, because Capp still seems to ignite that passion and controversy that he loved so much, and- I think- because he probably found balance and fairness a little dull. After all, he was an entertainer.

    But Capp was, first and foremost, a Cartoonist and a Caricaturist with two capital ‘C’s- in his drawings, in his dialogue, in his voice, with his persona, with the cigar that he waved, and with the “yak-yak” cackle he gave himself in prolific self-parodies. What he chose not to show, when he could help it, was that he was also a human being, and a very flawed and troubled one, and too many people have chosen to disregard his complex humanity and the genius that came with it in favor of the ever-broadening self- caricature that he perpetrated.

    In that sense, Capp became the greatest (and most tragic) victim of his own once-brilliant brickbat. Do yourself a rather large favor: ignore the man who wouldn’t stay behind the curtain until after you’ve read his strip in its golden age- the forties and fifties. Read “Fearless Fosdick”. Read his deeply affecting essays in “My Well-Balanced Life On A Wooden Leg”. Maybe you’ll get a little of that balance.

  • markjsand

    Capp was on a mission to provoke the free thinking radicals. When one of Johns handlers wanted to throw Capp out he made his
    point which was that behind the free thinking and love was a form of righteous intolerance and conformity which he felt needed to be exposed.

  • Rich

    As a cartoon historian, Amid ought to recognize cartoonish provokations that are intended to get a rise out of people. Capp was the Rush Limbaugh of his day. He had strong opinions and vocalized them in over-the-top ways because he enjoyed watching his uptight, self-important opponents blow a gasket. I think Capp would smile knowing that liberals are still sputtering 30 years later.

  • Diana Green

    At Wondercon this year, I was lucky enough to end up on a panel with Trina Robbins and Al Capp’s granddaughter. Trina was presenting a paper on feral women in Li’l Abner. My paper was unrelated, but I was delighted to talk Li’l Abner with the two of them.
    Capp’s granddaughter is working on a documentary on Al and his work. I will pass this blog item along to Trina in the hopes that she can in turn pass it on and that it will be of some help in her work.
    We discussed some of the issues mentioned in this thread. My take is that Capp’s values didn’t change but that those of society had moved on, leaving him perceived as an anachronism.
    Thanks all for the above, especially the ham Fisher link!

  • top cat james

    I second Mark Kausler’s comments about publishing the latter Capp strips in some form, and I would also like to see the reprinting of the collection of “Nancy” strips, “Bums, Beatniks, and Hippies” (correct title?) that came out in the late 80′s or early 90′s (by Kitchen Sink, I think).

  • http://www.shawcartoons.com Scott Shaw!

    Diana, please put me in touch with Capp’s granddaughter as well. I was present at Al Capp’s memorable presentation at UCSD in San Diego in 1968 or 1969, at the height of his anti-hippie bias. It’s a long story, but the short version is that Capp came out and engaged the audience of long-haired students (including myself — a huge fan of LI’L ABNER, despite the fact that I, too, was a hippie — and a small group of comic fans, most of whom formed the first San Diego Comic-Con). Things seemed very friendly and upbeat until Capp suddenly took offense at someone clapping (after the cartoonist called an end to the surprisngly good-natured back-and-forth verbal jousting). He walked out on the huge audience, which soon dispersed…except for my still-in-shock group of fan-friends. We hung around inside the gym for a few minutes, not realizing we were there alone…when Capp re-emerged from wherever he’d been to deliver his speech to our tiny group of less than a dozen people. I imagine that he had been just informed he wouldn’t be compensated for his presentation if he didn’t deliver it.

    Also, Denis Kitchen would be another person to speak with. He once told me that the “attempted sodomy” charge he faced in Wisconsin around the same time as our encounter with him was actually a setup by a young female member of the SDS, hoping to discredit Capp. Of course, Capp was constantly forcing himself on any women he could get near (the actresses in the originals Broadway production of LI’L ABNER have plenty of stories to tell), so the charges didn’t seem all that far-fetched. Fortunately, Capp wasn’t found guilty.

    • Thom Whalen

      I was also at Al Capp’s UCSD speech in 1970 and my recollections are the same as Scott’s. Capp seemed to be enjoying his repartee with the long-haired radicals, giving as good as he got, if not better (e.g., “They [radicals at the back of the auditorium] just had a group grope and they found themselves”], when he suddenly made some angry comment and walked off the stage. My impression was that he had been planning such an exit all along and was looking for an excuse. He didn’t find a good one so he went with the best that he could muster. I returned fifteen minutes later to find that he had returned and was talking to a much smaller audience. Someone said, as Scott mentioned, that he had been told that he wouldn’t be paid unless he gave his whole speech. I always liked Li’ll Abner but was disgusted at his false performance that evening.

  • http://www.shawcartoons.com Scott Shaw!

    Mell Lazarus, the brilliant cartoonist who did/does the syndicated newspaper comic strips MISS PEACH and MOMMA, is another person Diana should speak with. Back in the early 1950s, Al Capp was co-owner of Toby Press, a comic book company that published a full line of funnybooks that included a variety of LI’L ABNER-based comics. Mell was one of Toby’s editors and even wrote THE BOSS IS CRAZY TOO, a wonderful novel based on his experiences there. From what he’s told me, Mell has nothing but positive memories of Al Capp, both personally and professionally.

  • yolik

    John Lennon sure was one hell of a wealthy (dirty) communist!

  • doug holverson

    Probably half of what’s wrong with this picture. On one hand you have a filthy rich Socialist. On the other half, you have a self righteous conservative that associated with Nixon and Agnew.

  • caitlin manning

    This has been a fascinating discussion to read. I am the documentary filmaker, granddaughter of Capp’s who is working on a film about him with co-director Sam Green. One of the things that has so intrigued me about my grandfather was his apparent 180 degree political shift, made sometime in the mid-60′s. (By the way, he was a supporter of Adlai Stevenson, there is even footage of him at the TV FILM museum in Los Angeles at an Adlai Stevenson rally announcing his support for the campaign.) He certainly is obnoxious at the bed-in, and I have always wondered what is in the outtakes….. anyway, anybody who has footage of Capp please contact me. I am also looking for a hot animator/motion graphics person to work with me on the project. If anybody is interested they could send me a link to sample work or send a resume…I have shot a number of interviews, including with Mel Lazarus, Denis Kichen and Larry Charles, director of Borat. Larry is a big fan and acknowledges Capp’s influence in his own work. . .

    Also would love specific references to satire of HUAC in Li’l Abner.

  • doug holverson

    I’m going to try to get Pat Moriarity interested in your project. He recently won a Golden Toonie, was the Rolling Stone Hot Cartoonist of 1996, and did animations for the Wildman Fisher documentary and Charlie Burton.

  • http://www.PatMoriarity.com Pat Moriarity

    Uh, well, thanks for pointing this out to me, Doug! A new documentary about THAT guy would be awesome.

    I don’t know, I’d love to do some animation work for a documentary about Al Capp! What cartoonist wouldn’t, really? He’s a big, big fish in the world of comics. But– my animation work is kind of experimental and generally weird, and I’m not sure how I’d fit in, unless there’s a hallucination sequence, or temporary madness in the film! ha ha
    I don’t quite know what I’m doing, as much as just playing with flash animation programs. But, Caitlin, don’t be shy if you want to contact me.

    http://www.youtube.com/PatMoriarityDotCom

  • Kris Puri

    How come he always came in drunk? I don’t think I ever saw his eyes because of that weird criss cross cap. I do like the Hot Fries snack.

  • Boo Malackachoo
  • blankend

    I love Capp’s opiniopn of the movie, ‘Easy Rider’.

    His comment was, “Thank God, it had a happy ending.”

  • http://zeteos.blogspot.com/ mick

    The lad lacks manners

  • David

    Al Capp was quite simply the greatest cartoonist that ever lived. Li’l Abner was a stroke of genius.

  • Gabriel Gentile

    Uhm, to everyone who’s supporting Al Capp… You might want to have a look at this…

    http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/document/letter-al-capp-mlk

    Gee, what a swell guy, huh?

  • Gabriel Gentile

    Oh, and hey, lookie here…

    http://comicscommentary.blogspot.com/2012/01/al-capps-sex-scandals.html

    Fine, upstanding champion of morality you hooked yourselves, there.