Nothing kills comedy like sentimentalism, and nothing brings sentimentalists out of the woodwork faster than a holiday. This has probably always been true, but it was definitely true by April of 1922, when Life Magazine took aim at its competitors in an article headlined “Contents of the Easter Issue of Any Humorous Magazine.” The byline is “D.P.,” but if this is not by Dorothy Parker, it’s by someone even unluckier than George S. Kaufman: Although the same issue of Life includes Parker’s poem “To Myrtilla, on Easter Day,” credited to her full name, her 1926 poetry collection Enough Rope includes enough poems originally attributed to “D.P.” in Life Magazine that if there were another D.P., he or she would probably have complained. The piece is a Jazz Age version of “women be shopping”—including taking a shot at “women be shopping” as a premise, nearly 75 years before The Nutty Professor—and it’s cutting, apt, and hilarious. Although some of the precise strains of humor targeted here have gone the way of Prohibition, their descendants are easily recognizable today. Jokes about hipsters bear the distinct features of 1922’s jokes about Avenue A flappers, jokes about women being frivolous are very much still around, and the only reason we don’t run sentimental cartoons about the spirit of peace anymore is that we’ve been at war for 18 years running. But there’s something very reassuring about the idea that, although you can pretty quickly locate terrible comedy from any culture in any era—it’s often what survives—looking a little closer often reveals contemporaneous critics blowing a well-deserved raspberry. –Matthew Dessem
Contents of the Easter Issue of Any Humorous Magazine
One illustrated joke based on the theory that women attend church on Easter morning less to derive benefit from the service than to display their new hats to the congregation.
Three illustrated jokes, variations of the above theme.
One cartoon showing the world wearing an Easter bonnet.
Two illustrated jokes showing the harrowing effect on Father of the bills for his wife’s and daughter’s Easter finery.
Five jokes, without illustrations, along the above lines.
One poem about the way Grandma used to look in her Easter hat, supposedly written by Grandpa.
One poem comparing the cost of Grandma’s Easter hat with the price of those to-day, intimating that times have changed, and not for the better, since Grandma was a girl.
Three illustrated jokes dealing with the Easter costumes of Avenue A flappers. The joke, in each instance, begins with the words “Hully gee!” supposedly uttered by one of the flappers.
One drawing of the devil gleefully returning to business at the conclusion of Lent.
One drawing of Spring emerging from a large Easter egg.
One drawing entitled “Little Willie’s Dream After Dinner,” showing Willie cowering in bed, while a gigantic Easter bunny sits on the footboard.
Poem to Phyllis, congratulating her on the becomingness of her Easter hat.
Poem to Phillida, implying that the writer’s heart will be found entangled in the trimmings of her Easter hat.
Poem to Amaryllis, stating that the author’s affections are held fast by the ribbons that tie her Easter hat.
Poem to Chloe, hinting that though her manner is demure and her eyes innocently cast down, she is not unaware of the devastating effect on the local swains of her Easter hat.
Cartoon of the spirit of peace soaring over a deserted battlefield, entitled, “Easter, 1922.”