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The time Johnny Carson almost/sort of/not really wrote for a comic book – Groovy #1

June 18, 2012

This is the first issue of Marvel’s short-lived Groovy, a 1968 humor magazine that utterly failed to tickle America’s funny bone. The cover makes it look like a comic book, since it has the dimensions of a comic book and the classic Marvel 12 cent font from that company’s classic 1960s era. But there’s no Comic Code Authority seal to sanction the contents (potentially exposing 1960s youth to all manner of *gasp* perversion and, horror of horrors, zombies — WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?). There’s zero sequential storytelling within.

So it has the silhouette of a comic book, but it’s not a comic book.

It plays as a wan simulacrum of any issue of Mad. As such, there are brief text/pictorial pieces within, like this one, a “Freak-Out Funnies” celebrity piece which may as well come with an accompaniment of crickets:

The only time when this premier issue (there would SHOCKINGLY only be two more) picks up any sort of steam is when Johnny Carson pops in to say hello. Yes, that Johnny Carson. In the first decade of his lengthy tenure on The Tonight Show, Carson published a couple of books to a) entertain and b) make some damn money. One of them was 1967’s Misery is a Blind Date, which consisted of one-liner jokes illustrated by artist Whitney Darrow Jr. Some of them are reprinted here, in what you might call a Reader’s Digest selection of the choicest (one assumes) cuts, and they’re a bit more ribald than what you’d normally find in a mag from this time and of this shape and size. Take for instance this opening salvo, which tackles the age-old awkward father-to-son gauntlet that is the birds and the bees talk:

It’s like a semi-dirty Family Circus.

Are there jokes about topless lady beanpole sunbathers? YES THERE ARE:

Looks like Paul Reubens. EXCELSIOR.

And it goes on like that. To Carson’s credit, his part of this is the only time that I even threatened to crack a smile. There are other similar features, but they lack a certain something. Don’t get me wrong, the Blind Date stuff isn’t knee-slapping, but it doesn’t make you want to tear the mag/comic/whatever to shreds. All that was needed was a chortling Ed McMahon to seal the comedy deal, I suppose. (Incidentally, the reprint status of this section means history was robbed of some mythic Stan Lee-Carson collaboration. OH WELL.)

Apart from Carson’s refried segment, Groovy was/is unfunny in as cringe-worthy as you can get from with the printed page. Now that I think of it, it’s like a Jay Leno monologue, but with printed words and pictures.

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