TV's Herman Munster was a Real-Life Artist-Punster
January 29, 2020 2:31 PM   Subscribe

You might not recognize the name, but you'll recognize the face and voice. Perhaps you remember Fred Gwynne from Car 54, Where Are You? (Wikipedia, episode "A Star is Born In the Bronx," which includes Al Lewis, another notable face), or The Munsters (Wikipedia, and a clip from "Hot Rod Herman" with Gwynne and Lewis), or other moments in his acting career (trivia blog). But did you know that the man behind Herman Munster wrote some puntastic children’s books? Atlas Obscura has a great article on Gwynne's punny children's books, part of his artistic hobby / other career (archived fan site).

Atlas Obscura also notes that his punny books have been included in lists of titles for bringing word study to intermediate classrooms (PDF; abstract; see also Polysemy: A Neglected Concept in Wordplay -- abstract; PDF).
posted by filthy light thief (18 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sadly, I couldn't find many excerpts or copies of the illustrated plays on words in his books. Here's The Sixteen Hand Horse read by Grandma "B" on YouTube, which leads to some more videos of people reading Gwynne's books.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:34 PM on January 29


Somehow, despite having a houseful of children's books when my kids were young, we never discovered Gwynne. I feel a loss, because those look awesome.

I'm also feeling a lot of nostalgia for The Munsters. That was some big-hearted goofy fun right up there with Gilligan's Island and Beverly Hillbillies. It's sad that he could never quite escape the type-casting; Buddy Ebsen managed to do it.
posted by sjswitzer at 2:46 PM on January 29


"The two, whaaat...?"

"The two Yutes"
posted by Windopaene at 3:07 PM on January 29 [14 favorites]


Fred Gwynne was capable of so much more than playing Hermann Munster. For example, he was delightful in My Cousin Vinny.
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:07 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]


Fred Gwynne was capable of so much more than playing Hermann Munster. For example, he was delightful in My Cousin Vinny.

He was creepy as fuck in Pet Semetary (1989).
posted by Fizz at 3:41 PM on January 29 [4 favorites]


Fred Gwynne was capable of so much more than playing Hermann Munster. For example, he was delightful in My Cousin Vinny.

He was also not exactly "campy" as Frenchy in The Cotton Club either.
posted by gtrwolf at 4:05 PM on January 29


One of our main catchphrases in college, pulled out for no particular reason except it was funny, was putting on a Fred-Gwynne-in-pet-semetary-voice and saying "Sometimes, dead is better." This was early 90s. Sometimes I still say it very quietly, sad in the knowledge that there is no one around to appreciate it.
posted by rikschell at 5:34 PM on January 29 [4 favorites]


Fred Gwynne was capable of so much more than playing Hermann Munster....
- posted by Nerd of the North

John Updike had a piece in The New Yorker a couple weeks ago, reminiscing about his days writing & cartooning for the Harvard Lampoon.

And he mentioned that Fred Gwynne was also a staff cartoonist for the Lampoon.

Which was news to me - and left me to contemplate the trajectory that led him from mid-century Harvard to Car 54, Where Are You?...
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 6:02 PM on January 29 [4 favorites]


I remember a teacher reading The King Who Rained to us in the 70s
posted by brujita at 7:15 PM on January 29


Gwynne also sang in a Harvard a cappella group, the Krokodiloes. (The Atlas Obscura FPP mentions the singing, but not the group's name. Wiki.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:37 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


I can't wait to share this with my dad. He doesn't like puns, but he loves Gwynne. Hopefully this delights him as much as it does me. Thank you, filthy light thief.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 11:22 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


A nicely done 44 min bio film on Fred on YT to bookmark for a rainy day.
posted by fairmettle at 1:05 AM on January 30 [5 favorites]


I was just thinking about A Chocolate Moose for Dinner a couple of months ago and was so surprised to find out the author when I looked it up! Fond memories of reading that one over and over as a kid, even though most of the puns went way over my head. Definitely much funnier as an adult.
posted by Fuego at 6:59 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


His illustration style is delightful, with a kind of light-hearted precision that I have always aspired to but never mastered, and I could watch his parts from My Cousing Vinny on a loop for the rest of my life. Died way too young, at age 66, from that remorseless motherfucker, pancreatic cancer.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:48 AM on January 30


> Windopaene: "The two, whaaat...?"

I believe in Fred's voice for that character, it is best rendered as "The two hwut?"
posted by Rock Steady at 8:55 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


It was hard to figure out what to put there, but, conceded.
posted by Windopaene at 9:50 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


A nicely done 44 min bio film on Fred on YT to bookmark for a rainy day.

What's a YT?
posted by hal9k at 2:03 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


What's a YT?

A polyamorous SLYT.
posted by fairmettle at 10:46 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


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