After the post I made about the various parodies and follow-ups to Happiness is a Warm Puppy (including the two I just reprinted), I received some questions about one that I’d mentioned, but did not show a picture of. Happiness is a Dry Martini is credited to Johnny Carson – yes, the long-running host of the Tonight Show. I’ve seen some sources suggest that Carson really did write it himself, because he was a writer at heart… but at the very least, he had some help. Walter Kempley (a Tonight Show writer before and during Carson’s tenure, as well as a writer on The Dick Van Dyke Show, McHale’s Navy, and Happy Days) is thanked for the contributions he made to the text; in some cases, things like that are a subtle way of crediting a ghost writer, but he may well be someone who just polished a few lines or threw in a few gags.
The art is by New Yorker cartoonist Whitney Darrow, Jr., which puts it a cut above the other books I’ve discussed. The gags are again in the realm of Playboy philosophy, and while some do get their humor from schadenfreude, they are overall less mean than the Kanrom books. Wives are cheated on, but not despised. (Mothers-in-law, on the other hand…)
Formatwise, the book is not square. The spreads are mostly “happiness is” text on the left and picture on the right (although there are a couple that host multiple sayings and no images. The pages are decorated with color, but the drawings themselves are black-and-white. The initial release in 1965 (which is three years after Carson took the Tonight Show chair) was hardcover, and a paperback edition was released in 1968. AAUGH Blog reader Jim, who watched the Tonight Show back in that era, tells me that Carson used to read lines from the book on the air.
The book has not been in print for decades… and I suspect it is likely to stay that way. Interest in Carson is waning, and the copyright on the book is split. The art is copyright by the artist, and the text is copyright by… Cory-Richard Music, Inc.? I can’t quite grasp that one. That name shows up nowhere else on the Internet; it’s not listed as a publisher in the ASCAP or BMI database. It seems odd that Carson would have a music publishing company; Wikipedia makes a passing reference to him being a musician, but all the article backs that up with is his once playing a set of drums at home. The name of the company seems to be a reference to the classic poem “Richard Cory” (the Simon & Garfunkel song of that title wouldn’t be recorded until December of 1965, so it’s not a reference to that work), which is about a rich and successful man who commits suicide.
If you want a copy, there are some used ones available.