AAUGHtober keeps bringing me interesting things.
I’ve become somewhat obsessed with Kanrom, a 1960s publisher of humor publications, often with a raunchy and/or Jewish bent. I’ve talked previously about the fact that they published not one but two parodies of the best-selling Peanuts book Happiness is a Warm Puppy in 1963, entitled Happiness is a Rat Fink and Unhappiness is a Dirty Dog… but I only just discovered that they were so taken with the brief text-on-the-left, picture-on-the-right, square-hardcover “blah-de-blah is” format that they visited it a third time years later, with 1969’s Insecurity is Better Than No Security at All. This was written by Francine Green, Adrienne Kitaeff, Rochelle Larkin, Tippy Larkin, and Joan Slomanson (a mostly-female team, with only Rochelle Larkin being a name that I recognize from other Kanrom publications… and Tippy Larkin being the name of both a then-retired boxer and a trumpet player; I’m trying to figure out if it could possibly be either of those guys!), with art by cartoonist Bill Lee, who was a regular in the magazine circuit and had several unsuccessful forays in newspaper syndication.
The book, talking about various things that can cause insecurity, goes for that “edgy” feel; much of the insecurity is based on having reason to believe that your spouse is sexually unfaithful, but there are also concerns grounded in race, in homophobia, in tearing the consumer warning label off of pillows, and in being concerned that everyone is having an affair but you.
The book is more interesting as a snapshot of the moment than as a humor piece at this point. Take for example this spread talking about the police cracking down on a gay bar. The book came out in the same year as the Stonewall Riots in New York, a key point in US gay rights history that arose from a police crackdown on a gay bar. (I’ve not yet been able to figure when in the year the book was released; it would be interesting to know whether it predated the riots.)
Kanrom’s most visible success came in 1963, when their JFK Coloring Book (which by the way is back in print from my company) stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for 14 weeks. By 1969, their line was already sputtering out… but they would still dip into the Peanuts parody well one more time. This time was not another parody of the Happiness Is format, but a direct parody of the strip; the little-known Oh, No! Charlie Green! came out in 1971.
Insecurity is Better Than No Security at All would have some sort of an after life, but I’m still trying to find out what. The table of contents of the May 2002 Penthouse lists a feature of this name by Bill Lee; I don’t yet know if that was some sort of reuse of this material, or whether Lee just recycled the title.