cover image Cheap Laffs: The Art of the Novelty Item

Cheap Laffs: The Art of the Novelty Item

Mark Newgarden, Inc Picturebox. ABRAMS, $19.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-5599-8

The creator of the Garbage Pail Kids turns his attention to the""once thriving, if marginal, industry devoted to the creation of a modest product of questionable quality, taste, originality and necessity for fleeting high-impact diversion""--in other words, the novelty item--in this suitably quirky and expertly designed catalogue. There's the""Funny Dribble Glass,"" designed to leak its contents on unsuspecting drinkers in such a way as to convince them that the mess is their fault; the""Beatnik Beard,"" aimed at 1960s youngsters hoping to look like a friend of Kerouac (slogan:""Dig That Beard! Crazy Man!""); and the""Trick Smashed Finger,"" intended, naturally, to trick someone into thinking you've been terribly hurt. Classics (the hand buzzer; the fake dog poop) share space with others less familiar (a dishtowel emblazoned with morose slogans, possibly designed as a booby prize; a box labeled""Don't be an alcoholic"" containing a small pair of fake breasts along with the suggestion to""drink milk""). Additional information on the items' dates, manufacturers, dimensions, directions and intended audience is carefully compiled, making this a delightful tour of the cheap and the weird.