Is the Poorz Still Funny?

by kara on May 13, 2014


I’ve wondered occasionally why teabagger types haven’t complained about some of their portrayals in the lamestream media. Take Snuffy Smith, for instance. He’s violent, lazy, cheats at cards, steals chickens, makes moonshine, etc. It got me thinking…. are hillbillies still fair game?

Snuffy Smith is part of an inane comic strip that debuted in 1919. It is one of the longest-running comic strips in history, coming into popularity in the 1930s, which was another decade when Americans became over fascinated with hillbilly culture.

Snuffy is the banjo-eyed hillbilly hero of a shithole called Hootin’ Holler. He wears a huge, broken down Kentucky colonel hat and a pair of tattered, poorly patched overalls. He has a a corn cob pipe and a rifle. He lives in a shack with his fat, sycophantic wife who loves cooking and cleaning and milking and churning as well as henpecking her husband  and gossiping with the other ugly and moronic parodic hillbilly wives. Snuffy abandons his fat wife and child for long periods of time to mooch off of his buddy Barney Google’s meager opportunities at grift. Snuffy Smith’s squalid adventures with his brain-damaged buddies attempts to deal with urban life are supposed to be hilarious.

“Maw” Smith is homely, obese, has boobs hanging past her waistline, acts as a slave to Snuffy’s lazy master, and gossips like hens with all the other useless women/chickens over a fence.




























I’ve always hated Snuffy Smith. Even as a kid I hated Snuffy Smith. I could wrap my head around  Hagar the Horrible (old days), and B.C. (cavemen), but I always wondered what the fck was wrong with Snuffy Smith and his clanspawn of deranged brain-addled hillbillies of Hootin’ Holler. Drunk, poaching chickens, brewing rotgut and aiming at each other’s heads with antique muskets, the barbaric horde couldn’t put together a sentence, and look to have suffered massive birth deformities. Whether it is inbreeding or guzzling fracked flaming tap water, residents of Hootin’ Holler are abnormally short or fat with atrociously bulbous features. The Smith baby looks like an old man. I hated Snuffy’s mangling of the English language, his mountain patois, the impenetrable gibberish and the way that all the characters are drawn so that they appear to be talking out of the sides of their mouths.

Snuffy Smith is a violent gun fetishist who shoots at anyone he doesn’t like, makes “corn-likker” moonshine in a homemade still, constantly cheats at poker and checkers, horse racing and prize fights and steals chickens from his neighbors by tossing them in a sack. He is a grifter who is in constant trouble with the sheriff who he has to bribe with money he gets from god knows where – welfare?

He is seen as a defender of frontier democracy, refusing to kowtow to judges and other authority figures and prizes personal independence and cultural tradition over morality and work. He is cut in the mold of the American folk hero.He  is too thoroughly repellent and antiauthoritarian to be all that funny and frankly could not understand why anyone did. It just doesn’t make any fckng sense. It didn’t make sense to me 30 years ago and it doesn’t make sense to me now.

The Hillbilly is an ambiguous melange of admiral traits like freedom and independence with negative ones such as poverty and uncouthness, as this definition quoted from the New York Journal of 1900 illustrates:

“a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammeled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him.”

It’s kind of unbelievable that this lazy cretin is still appearing in newspapers in 2014. But then, The Hillbilly has remanned relatively unchanged, it remains remarkably consistent since the 1930’s.

The Hillbilly’s backward retardation highlights the progress more upstanding Americans in the cities or the suburbs have made. These fools haven’t crawled out of the primordial ooze, according to legend,  because they don’t want to. And because they are poor by choice, middle-class Americans get to feel comfortable laughing at hillbillies – I’d go so far as to say embrace the stereotype as a badge of honor. They love their laziness and shiftlessness and unquestioned anglo saxon racial lineage. .Hillbillies allow middle-class white people to offload the venality and sin of the nation onto some other constituency, people who live somewhere—anywhere—else.

The Hillbilly is a figure of both great longevity and widespread recognition in American culture. It has on one hand, the pioneer roots and self-sufficiency, pre-modern authenticity and mountaineer survival skills, and on the other hand, laziness, profligate and deviant violence.*

Moreover, while all of the other names for poor whites may sometimes be used in comic derision, only The Hillbilly evokes a humor that depends on identification. Hence, it makes it acceptable – funny even! – to mock things like, say, hungry kids. In one horrific scene, Maw apologizes to Bessie, the cow, for draining the udder:

Aforementioned starving baby is “Tater”. I guess anything that can make the Snuffy Smiths think of food and still take their minds off the fact they are fucking starving.

I call this one: “Food Desert”

Marshmallows and Cool Whip are all the Snuffy Smith’s can afford. It’s funny because it’s true. The Snuffy Smiths are food stamp deprived, obese diabetics living in a food desert.

Then there is the endemic hilarity of the ignorant and unedumactaed.

Here, “Jughaid”, boasts to”maw” about how he can use an arithmetic book to put lil “Tater” to sleep. “This-un always knocks me out cold!” he screams with joy. Big laughs for Maw, ands all around.

With only kids like “Jughaid” in residence, Hootin’ Holler is doomed to remain the backwater shithole it is, a place where citizens rely on shooting muskets, swallowing hooch and stealing chickens and cheating at poker in place of a viable economy.

Who needs coupons for specific products when the marketing geniuses at Silas’s General Store – where you can redeem food stamps for Diet Coke and frozen pizzas – are putting forth enticements such as STUFF IN CANS. Don’t tell Wal-Mart about “Stuff in Cans!’ They will see it as a valuable revenue stream. Who doesn’t need stuff in cans?  Hobo beans can last for months!  Of course, it bears noting that most of the folks in Holler  likely eschew such things as canned vegetables in favor of four-legged things they can shoot with guns and disembowel.

Retirement funds? Medical care? Forget about it. Not for these hilarious, salt-of-the-earth folks!






Get it? Snuffy Smith’s TOO STUPID to follow the doctor’s instructions!

Looks like the poor as shit residents of Holler will see little benefit from the new healthcare plan. “It must be good fer sumpin’….” says the fat doc, “But Nobody’s Figgered Out How It Works!” The fact that last bit is in bold and all capital letters in the comic above is your key that a) it’s really funny; b) it’s a pointed remark the cartoonist hopes makes a larger splash; and c) it’s true, libtards.

What we don’t know is whether or not the hillbillies of Hootin’ Holler own such unbelievable luxuries as “cell phones” and “televisions” and “refrigerators”, or how they feel about their community being awash in guns to go along with the unemployment and grinding poverty. They have their bootstraps and a hardy sense of self-reliance, and a lot of time on their hands to contemplate the larger issues of their socioeconomic circumstances and what changes to our society might be beneficial to them.

The moral of Snuffy Smith is, that when someone becomes poor, they immediately start boozing, cheating, neglecting their family, and become a socio-economic drain on society until they sober up and find Jesus and start a small business that hires 800 million people, because of the American Dream.

* (for more contemporary examples of re-appropriation, you can attend any number of Tea Party rallies. The classist term “redneck,” originally coined to indicate those who worked so hard and so long in the sun that they sported sunburns in the designated anatomical location, likewise has been commandeered to mean shiftless white people on the dole and shrieking about Obamacare).

Previous post:

Next post: