When I watch a movie (or read a comic), it’s like there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and things that explode, the kind of movies we call POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who accompanies him. This guy likes some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. CINEMA: What is this on my couch? POPCORN: I dunno what you’re talkin’ about. CINEMA: This white blob of . . . oh jeez, are those eyes?? It has eyes??? What the hell is it? POPCORN: Dude, it’s my Shmoo. CINEMA: Well, don’t just sit there, you mutant, get a napkin! POPCORN: Naw, man. The Shmoo ain’t jism . . . he’s a little cartoon dude. What, you’re tellin’ me you never heard of this? <picks up the beanbag stuffed animal and holds it in Cinema’s face, singing badly> “The new Shmoo, it’s the incredible new Shmoo, he’s gonna please you, the incredible new Shmoo likes yooooou . . . ” CINEMA: No. Stop it, knock it off. Come on, now. POPCORN: Dude, what did you do when you were a kid? Definitely didn’t play outside. You were probably one-a those down-in-the-basement kinda kids, mixin’ up chemicals and trying to make phasers and shit. CINEMA: There’s nothing wrong with exploring your creativity through science, and some of that must be done in the basement. POPCORN: Uh-huh. Well, professor, when most of us were about ten years old, we liked to sit on the couch for hours on Saturday morning. They had these things called cartoons – CINEMA: Yeah, yeah. I knew all about cartoons, you jackass. I had PBS. I’ve just never heard of . . . this, you and your Shmoo. POPCORN: I’m seriously hurt by that, dude. You really let me down. All that college, and whaddaya know? Alright, tell you what, Yoda, I’m gonna school you on something for a change. Go get a notebook or somethin’, man. You might need to take some notes. CINEMA: I’m quite sure I won’t need to know any of this. POPCORN: Alright, but I’m gonna test you. CINEMA: I tremble in fear. POPCORN: So there was this cartoonist dude named Al Capp. He was all super-liberal back in the day, you’d-a loved him. He had this comic strip in the 30s – CINEMA: Lil Abner. Yeah, I know all of that. POPCORN: It was about a family of hillbillies in some village called Dogpatch. It was in, like, the mountains of Kentucky or something. This Abner dude was huge, like over six foot tall, and usually didn’t have a job. When he did, it was, like, testing mattresses and stuff. There was this chick named Daisy Mae, like a big ‘n busty Hammer girl in a polka-dot dress. She was always tryin’ to get hitched to this poor dude – CINEMA: The strip ran from 1934 to 1977, about 60 million readers, 900 newspapers, 28 different countries. Capp’s creations are said to have influenced the way the world regarded the American South. Specifically, the belief that everyone living there was a country bumpkin. POPCORN: Well, they were in Dogpatch. You had Hairless Joe, Moonbeam McSwine, Earthquake McGoon, Big Barnsmell, Stupefyin’ Jones. Your favorite show, HEE HAW, kinda ripped off the dude’s comic strip. Funny, cuz this Capp dude was from Connecticut – CINEMA: So you missed the part where I said that I was familiar with the comic? POPCORN: Capp lost his leg in, like, some kinda streetcar accident when he was a kid. Had this cane and a limp and stuff. He put a bunch-a that in his comic strip. Put a bunch-a political stuff in there too. Like, there was this folk singer chick in the 60s – CINEMA: Joanie Phony, yeah, I’ve seen that. It was a parody of Joan Baez. When an orphanage asked the character to donate ten grand, she responded that she would sing for them instead. Because, you know, that would be worth ten grand. POPCORN: Yeah, well, did you know that Capp came up with the Sadie Hawkins dance? Like, chicks askin’ dudes. You know, the reason you were always in the basement. CINEMA: Yes, Captain Caveman. How does your marshmallow dollop figure into this? POPCORN: Dude, man, you’re so unenlightened. So it was, like, 1948 or something. This Abner dude is just boppin’ along, doin’ his Abner thing, and he hears this singing. It’s all like, shmoooo, shmooooo . . . cuz he’s out there in the Valley of Shmoon. It’s some kinda forbidden place. That’s why this large gal – that’s what he calls her – CINEMA: Large Gal? POPCORN: Yeah, her job is to protect the valley down there. But she doesn’t do a very good job, cuz she pretty much tosses Abner down into the valley. Now when Abner gets down to the bottom, there’s all these little white blobby dudes runnin’ all over the place. <holds up the stuffed Shmoo> They pretty much look like this. CINEMA: So, a bowling pin with stubby legs, whiskers, and no arms, nose, or ears? POPCORN: Yup. CINEMA: That’s the stupidest thing ever. POPCORN: And there’s this, like, naked dude with a superlong beard that goes all the way down and covers up his junk. Cuz, you know, they couldn’t show old-man junk back then. And he’s runnin’ all around too, tryin’ to wrangle up all these creatures. He’s like a . . . CINEMA: Shepherd? POPCORN: More or less, but kinda a parent or guardian too. So Abner makes friends with the old beardy dude and the shmoos – CINEMA: So, they’re all called Shmoo. POPCORN: I guess. Sometimes they call ’em Shmoo like it’s a name. Other times it’s a shmoo, like a thing, or the shmoo – like more than one – or shmoos. And all the time they’re runnin’ around shmooing and shmooning, going shmoooo, shmooooo in the Valley of Shmoon. CINEMA: You’re high. There’s no way . . . POPCORN: Dude, I’m totally serious. This was a thing, for real. CINEMA: Like when you were in the bathroom stall next to Morgan Freeman. POPCORN: It was him, swear. He was outta toilet paper, so he knocked on the wall next to me. He was all, like, “Say, good man, could you help me with the paper work?” And this hand stuck out under the stall – CINEMA: So he was British? POPCORN: Maybe he was researching a role. Dude, I dunno. But it was him. CINEMA: Alright, alright. Anyway . . . POPCORN: Anyway . . . Abner, like, becomes friends with the naked beardy dude and all those shmoos. Then he finds out something about ’em. CINEMA: They were hallucinations. POPCORN: Naw, man. He finds out that Shmoos are delicious. CINEMA: What??? POPCORN: Yeah, dude. They taste like chicken. Well, they do if you fry ’em. If you broil ’em, they taste more like steak. Roasted, it’s like pork. Baked, catfish. If they’re raw, they taste like oysters. But who’s gonna just lean over and take a bite outta one? I mean, that’d just be rude. CINEMA: You know I’m going to fact-check you, right? POPCORN: No need, dude. CINEMA: So Abner just decided to start eating these other cartoon characters? POPCORN: Yep. I mean, he didn’t eat the old beardy dude or nothin’. Wasn’t like he went back to Dogpatch and went all Leatherface on Mammy and Pappy Yokum. Naw, man, they were already eating the shmoos down in the valley. It was like they were cattle or something. And here’s the thing, dude . . . the shmoos, man, they wanted to be eaten. CINEMA: The Shmoo were suicidal. POPCORN: Not like that, man. They just wanted to be helpful to, like, mankind and stuff. If you even looked at one like you were hungry, it’d jump right into a frying pan. That’s how much they wanted to help us. And they didn’t have to do the shmoo-hump to make babies – CINEMA: So they were asexual. POPCORN: Like you, yeah. They multiplied like rabbits, laid eggs and gave milk. Didn’t have any bones, so nothin’ went to waste. You could use their skin for leather and to build houses. Their eyes made really cool buttons. They didn’t eat nothin’ but air. And they were really gentle, so parents let ’em play with their kids for hours. You know, before they ate ’em and stuff. CINEMA: This is all just so wrong. POPCORN: So the beardy dude is all like, Shmoos is the greatest menace to hoomanity the world has evah known. Abner’s like, Thass cuz they is so bad, huh? And the old guy’s like, No, stupid, it’s cuz they’s so good! CINEMA: One of life’s enduring paradoxes. As shown by a legless cow that can talk. POPCORN: So Abner, he’s thinkin’ he’s on Easy Street now. Ain’t nobody gonna ever have to work again. He kinda herds up all the shmoos and leads ’em outta the valley. They get back to Dogpatch and them shmoo just take right off, like all over the world. CINEMA: Because there’s food for everyone now. POPCORN: Dude, it’s like there’s everything for everybody. Just like Abner thought, nobody was ever gonna work again. Except it wasn’t as good as it sounds. But then, like, J. Roaringham Fatback, they called him the “pork King”, and all these other business dudes – CINEMA: The capitalists. POPCORN: Yeah, none of ’em were making any money now. So they started killin’ shmoos. CINEMA: What? No. POPCORN: That Fatback dude sent out exterminators, like Shmooicide Squads, to take ’em all out. They got all these firearms and stuff. Just mowin’ the shmoo down. And they were just these gentle creatures that wanted to help and were okay, you know, like, sacrificing themselves. CINEMA: Jeez, it’s like they were . . . POPCORN: They were like Marshmallow Jesus, dude. CINEMA: Come on, this is a terrible story. POPCORN: Well, at the end, Abner kinda sees the bad thing he got started. He Anne Franks a couple shmoos outta Dogpatch. Last time we see ’em, they’re headin’ back to the Valley of the Shmoon. And those shmoos, they’re already multiplyin’. CINEMA: So how long did this story go on? POPCORN: Wasn’t long, man. I think the whole thing was done by the end-a 1948. But this shit was huge, dude. Like when something goes viral, but way before the internet. There was a book, The Life and Times of the Shmoo, and it was a bestseller. There was shmoo watches and dolls and fishing lures. There was even shmoo ice cream. CINEMA: Tasted like chicken. POPCORN: Probably. There were shmoo records, like “The Shmoo Sings” and “The Snuggable, Huggable Shmoo”, and a shmoo dance. Politicians were talkin’ about him in their campaigns and stuff. There was some kinda shit going on with Russia and Germany in ’48 – CINEMA: The Soviet Union’s blockade of food to West Berlin – POPCORN: Yeah, that. Dude, we dropped a bunch-a inflatable shmoos on ’em. They were all full of candy and stuff. Operation Little Vittles or something. Folks were just about starvin’ over there, so it pretty much caused a riot. CINEMA: How have I never heard of any of this? POPCORN: I dunno, dude. People just lost their minds over this little dude. All kinds-a folks were hollerin’ at Capp too. Commies were sayin’ he was making fun of socialism, capitalists were sayin’ he was making fun of the American way of life. He brought ’em back once in a while, but usually had to kill ’em off again. On account of, you know, people gettin’ all riled up. CINEMA: Shmoo is a word in science as well. In microbiology, when a yeast cell rubs up against a yeast cell of the opposite sex, it forms a bulge that’s called a shmoo – POPCORN: I formed a shmoo once when I had to ride really close to this chick on the subway. CINEMA: – and in electrical engineering, when they graph the response of some kind of component over a range of conditions, they call that graph a shmoo plot. I don’t imagine you know where Capp got the name for his little creatures. POPCORN: Sure do, college boy. There was some kinda Yiddish word. It was shmue, something like that. And get this, dude . . . it meant uterus. CINEMA: What?? POPCORN: If you look at him, he does kinda look like an upside-down uterus. CINEMA: Yes, he does. Well, I must admit . . . I’m pleasantly surprised that you had any knowledge of these things. I mean, a comic strip that began in the 30s, a character that wasn’t based on its ability to belch the entire alphabet, and only one female with a heaving, nearly-exposed bosom. I would almost call that progress, my friend. Maybe even maturity. Where on earth did you ever learn about all of this? POPCORN: Hanna-Barbera. CINEMA: Uh . . . Popcorn squeezes the stuffed Shmoo, which lets out a long, gaseous-sounding ‘shmooooo’. POPCORN: Dude, I told you about Saturday mornings. There was a cartoon called The New Shmoo. I was about ten years old, so it was probably, like, 1979 or something. It was right after Fred and Barney. The Shmoo got a job with this gang-a teenagers that solved mysteries – CINEMA: I should have known. POPCORN: They all worked for Mighty Mystery Comics. There was, like, a skinny nerd, some big dumb dude, and some chick with an accent. It was kinda like Clue Club or Speed Buggy or Josie and the Pussycats – CINEMA: – or Goober and the Ghost Chasers – POPCORN: – or The Funky Phantom or The Buford Files – CINEMA: – or The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan – POPCORN: – or Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels – CINEMA: – or, maybe just a little, like Scooby Doo? POPCORN: Maybe a little. Yeah, dude, it was like all-a those. So you seen it then? CINEMA: Well, if you’ve seen one Hanna Barbera show . . . POPCORN: You wanna see ’em all, right? Cuz they’re so damn awesome. CINEMA: Yeah, that’s it. So what made the Shmoo specially made for investigation? POPCORN: He could turn into stuff, dude. Like in this one episode, they had a flat tire and he turned himself into a tire. Then he turned into a blanket when somebody got cold. Then he was a parachute, and maybe, like, a pogo stick . . . CINEMA: And when Mystery Inc. got stranded in an abandoned mine shaft in the woods, did they have to eat him to survive? POPCORN: Naw, man. I never saw that episode. But they did solve the mystery behind the Beast of Black Lake, escaped from Monster Island, and just barely made it outta the Pyramid of Peril. And there was this really cool part where you’d sing along with the Shmoo. He’d turn into, like, a bouncing ball and then bounce over the words so you could follow. I mean, you know, if you could read yet. CINEMA: I’m sure that most of his viewers could not. I don’t suppose this show lasted for long. POPCORN: It went for about sixteen episodes. Then it kinda got mashed into a show called Fred and Barney Meet the Shmoo, even though they never did. Meet him, I mean. That lasted for maybe another year, then he was just gone, man. It’s kinda sad. CINEMA: Well, at least I know why the Shmoo faded into obscurity now. POPCORN: It’s up to me, man. I gotta uphold the legacy. You know, fight for his memory. I’m gonna single-handedly bring him back. I will not let humanity devour him one last time. Tellin’ you, dude, the Shmoo will live on. CINEMA: That’s great. Now get the hell off my couch. – j meredith POPCORN: So, dude, what’d you think about Snagglepuss? CINEMA: This may surprise you, but I haven’t thought that much about it. POPCORN: Dude, Snagglepuss was hot. I mean, I know it was only a cartoon. But still, man. The way that cat moved, the way she talked, and that attitude. It made me feel all tingly when I was a little kid. If I could find a real chick like that . . . CINEMA: You do know that Snagglepuss was a boy, right? I’m not judging, I’m just saying. POPCORN: Nuh-uh, dude. CINEMA: Yes, he was, and he’s long been rumored to have been the first gay cartoon character. POPCORN: Oh shit, I’m gay. CINEMA: Just for animation. So you’re ani-gay. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.