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September 20, 2022 2:18 AM   Subscribe

Nearly completely forgotten in this age is an early Rankin/Bass cartoon that aired on NBC in 1970, The Tomfoolery Show (WIKIPEDIA), which animated nonsense works from Edward Lear, Ogden Nash, and Lewis Carroll, as well as containing original silliness. Seventeen were made, but most seem to be lost. Four episodes are preserved on Youtube by video rarities collector Anthony Gonzalez: one, two, three, four. Here's a playlist I made with all four. Some highlights are inside. WARNING: contains puns, limericks, and things that don't fit into traditional systems of logic.

Rankin/Bass is known for often using Japanese animators, but it seems this show was animated in the UK, which may explain why it looks a little (just a little) like Monty Python or Yellow Submarine in places. See Ways and Means (linked below) for an example.

Whether you will like these or not depends on whether you're of a certain turn of mind. It's a style of humor that's kind of out of fashion now, but they've grown on me a bit. Maybe they'll grow on you too, like a wart, or a fungus. (music sting)

Episode 1:
Good Old Nonsense #1 (limericks)
Cooking Lesson: Elephant Cacciatore
Tonight we attack the Grimble Grumble (a spoopy favorite)
Ways and Means

Episode 2:
The New Vestments
The Continuing Story of The Four Little Children Who Went Around The World, Chapter Two
Let's Have Some Limericks #1
Cooking Lesson: A Loaf of Bread as Big as A Railroad Car
The Habits of The Zilly-Zilly Woo-Wee Bird
The Little Father

Episode 3:
A Kite Flies A Tree
Let's Have Some Limericks #2
The History Of The Seven Families of The Lake Pibble-Popple, Chapter 2
Cooking Lesson: Angel Food Cake and Devil Food Cake
Mr. and Mrs. Discobolus
Bad Child's Book of Beasts (contains stereotypical Chinese voice, alas)
The Rickety Rake and The Caramel Cake

Episode 4
Good Old Nonsense #2 (more limericks)
The History of The Seven Families of The Lake Pibble-Popple, Chapter One
Cooking Lesson: Christmas Pie
Sing Along With Mr. and Mrs. Spiffy Sparrow
The Alphabet

Thanks to Richard Bensam, who introduced me to this whatever-this-is, and to the patrons of MST Club, who sat through an episode late Sunday night. That's the kind of thing we get up to late or night, take it as boast or warning.
posted by JHarris (20 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I hadn't heard of this before, but the "looks a little ... like Monty Python" does a disservice to Halas & Batchelor, one of the UK's most famous animation houses.
posted by scruss at 5:39 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]

I have the vaguest of memories of watching this show on Saturday mornings as a little kid. Will definitely have to dig into these later to see if the jostle anything in my weary old brain.
posted by briank at 6:28 AM on September 20 [2 favorites]

I just checked these, and since it's not here, have a fifth one! ( link)
posted by BiggerJ at 6:42 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]

Nice find BiggerJ! Five down, twelve to go.

scruss: I'm not an animation historian. I tried to find an angle that would communicate something about the show that might give people something in their experience to latch onto, and decide if they wanted to investigate further.
posted by JHarris at 7:40 AM on September 20

Wait. The video linked on is only seven minutes long, a full episode is more like 22 minutes.
posted by JHarris at 7:42 AM on September 20

Also, it's interesting that the show presents the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo as a generally jovial figure, considering that the work of Norman Lear in which he figures is a sad one.
posted by JHarris at 7:47 AM on September 20

(music sting)

Is a band-aid appropriate for a music sting?
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:31 AM on September 20 from Norman Lear...

Edward Lear.

Norman Lear made tv shows like All In the Family. Though, a Rankin/Bass-Norman Lear production could be quite awesome.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:16 AM on September 20 [5 favorites]

I can't look at these right now, but OMG thank you! Like briank, I had the vaguest memories of this show. I was 4 or 5 when it came on, and only barely had learned enough reading to remember the title. (I later wondered whether it had something to do with Tom Lehrer...oh, no. No it does not.)

I had done the usual bad google search but never found anything, so I'm super stoked about this!
posted by allthinky at 11:47 AM on September 20

Watching the first episode, the show really reads like "Laugh-In for Kids" to me, which makes sense given that that show was at its peak around then. I wondered how I hadn't seen this as a kid, but then read a YT comment that the show was on Sundays, and that was church-going time. Thanks for posting, JHarris. Right up my alley of TV curiosities. Now if we could only find the one episode of the legendarily bad Turn-On via YT...
posted by the sobsister at 1:03 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]

Gaaah you're right, it's Edward Lear. I've been doing that a lot lately. I'll see if I can get a mod to fix it.
posted by JHarris at 2:00 PM on September 20

Why I keep confusing the Lears Edward and Norman I can't say. I think they're the only two Lear people I know. Do you think either of them invented a jet at some point?
posted by JHarris at 4:30 PM on September 20

Succotash has an identity problem.

And I guess that’s all we’re going to learn about that.

Thanks for the post!
posted by salishsea at 4:50 PM on September 20

That's one of a number of jokes I don't get. "Pennies are pence to me" is another.
posted by JHarris at 8:29 PM on September 20

JHarris: The YBB is also featured in one of Lear's nonsense alphabets, from which the other main characters also hail.
posted by BiggerJ at 9:14 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]

Succotash has an identity problem.

That's one of a number of jokes I don't get.

I assumed that and some of the other things in the first episode were either supposed to be silly by way of sheer non-sequitur-ness, or possibly referencing something specific in UK culture that I'm not familiar with...either way, I just gave a mental shrug and ignored it. On the other hand, I immediately laughed at the joke in the "Spots of Greece" title long before it was overtly revealed within the song, so it's a mixed but worthwhile bag.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:36 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]

Well, yay. Someone copyright claimed all of them and had them taken down. I mean, it's not like these are available anywhere that I can see. Someone just decided the show deserves to languish in obscurity.
posted by JHarris at 10:01 PM on September 20

That someone seems to be Richard J Goldschmidt Jr, which is the name attached to the complaint. A Google search indicates he is probably a legitimate rights holder.

Which, if the show were available literally anywhere, I would let pass without complaint, but it's not. It's never been released, as far as I can tell, in any other form, physical or streaming. It's just rotting, slowly passing out of the memories of anyone who cares.

If Richard J Goldschmidt Jr is reading this, geez, way to steward this thing you presumably care about? At least release the damn thing in a paid format so people can see it again for the first time since 1970.
posted by JHarris at 10:54 PM on September 20 [3 favorites]

If he does read this, and decides this post means there's a market for it and does put it up somewhere, either free or paid, then I guess that's okay, although it's a dreadful shame that Gonzalez got a copyright strike in the end of all this. If it means the seventeen episodes of the whole show can eventually be seen by people and not languish then that may even be a net positive. But please don't let this show just die. It's older than me and it's still subject to strict copyright laws. What a terrible state of affairs.
posted by JHarris at 11:15 PM on September 20 [2 favorites]

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

I can't believe the callousness of taking something like this down for no gain whatsoever.
posted by TheFerridge at 1:59 AM on September 21 [1 favorite]

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