Eugene the Jeep and Popeye

Popeye Dog

On March 16, 1936, Eugene the Jeep made its first appearance in the Thimble Theatre strip that starred Popeye.  The Jeep was a yellow creature, somewhat like a dog.  But, unlike a dog, Eugene walked on his hind legs and had magical powers.

From Where Did Eugene the Jeep Come?

In the comic strip, Eugene the Jeep’s origin was explained by the fact that Olive Oyl’s Uncle Ben found Eugene in Africa and then gave it to Olive.  Animated episodes, however, provided different takes on Eugene.

In animated versions of Popeye, the animators treated Eugene the Jeep largely as a “magical dog.”  In The Jeep (1938), Popeye gave Eugene to Olive Oyl and Swee’Pea.

But a few years later in Popeye Presents Eugene the Jeep (1940), Popeye received Eugene from Olive.  In the episode, he acts like he had never seen the “baby puppy” before.

Near Misses With Movies

Eugene the Jeep almost made it onto the big screen with Robin Williams in Robert Altman’s 1980 movie Popeye. An early screenplay by Jules Feiffer included Eugene the Jeep.

But reportedly it was difficult to make the magical creature believable in the live-action film.  So, he was taken out of the story. Some of his magic remained, though, as the writer gave some of the Jeep’s characteristics to Swee’ Pea in the movie.

But although Eugene the Jeep missed out on that movie, he is still around. For example, he is the school mascot for a couple of high schools.

At one point, Eugene the Jeep was scheduled finally to make it to the big screen by appearing in a 3D Popeye movie directed by Gennedy Tarakovsky (Hotel Transylvania). But Tarakovsky left the project in 2015 after disagreeing with the studio, which wanted a more modern version of Popeye.

The video below features a screen test of animation from Tarakovsky’s film, including an appearance by Eugene the Jeep.

We will have to wait and see whether Eugene the Jeep appears in the final version of the new Popeye film.

What is your favorite Eugene the Jeep story? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Gravity Got Me Again: Mitch Hedberg

    Mitch Hedberg

    The brilliant stand-up comic Mitch Hedberg was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota on February 24, 1968. After starting his comedy career in Florida and then moving to Seattle, he got a big break by appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman in 1996.

    Hedberg went on to make people laugh onstage and to work on television and film. His unique pattern of speech and comedic style, partly created because he suffered from stage fright, makes him one of the most identifiable comedians. He was also simply brilliant.

    This video appears to show Hedberg’s first appearance on Letterman. He was on television with David Letterman ten times in his career, but this video clearly is an early performance (and some on YouTube note it is that first appearance).

    Unfortunately, Hedberg died at the young age of 37 in a New Jersey hotel room on March 30, 2005. The medical examiner listed cocaine and heroin as the cause.

    Fortunately, though, his work is still finding new fans and making us laugh today. He is missed.

    “I write jokes for a living, man. See I sit in my hotel at night, I think of something that’s funny and then I go get a pen and I write it down. Or if the pen’s too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain’t funny.” — Mitch Hedberg

    What is your favorite Mitch Hedberg line? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    The Mary Tyler Moore Episode, “Chuckles Bites the Dust”

    Chuckles the Clown

    We are very sad to hear that Mary Tyler Moore passed away today.  The iconic multi-cam television shows The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show made her a regular feature in many households.  Many have seen her in reruns, and she was a constant presence to those who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s.

    The Dick Van Dyke Show ran on CBS from October 3, 1961 to June 1, 1966.  The writing, characters, and acting make it a clever and funny show.  But one of the many wonderful things was that the loving relationship between Laura Petrie (Moore’s character) and Rob Petrie (Van Dyke’s character) seemed so real.

    The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which ran on CBS from 1970 to 1977, is often listed as one of the greatest television shows of all time (as is The Dick Van Dyke Show).  TV viewers and critics often cite Moore’s portrayal of a single working woman for breaking new ground on television.

    One of the most memorable episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show addressed the topic of death.  But it also was Moore at her funniest in the episode “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” written by David Lloyd.  In the episode, Mary and her co-workers at TV station WJM learn about the death of the clown Chuckles.  They prepare to go to his funeral, with hilarious results.

    I still remember the first time I saw the episode.  And it remains a favorite for many others.

    Like the best episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, “Chuckles Bites the Dust” is both funny and touching.  And Mary Tyler Moore is fabulous in it.

    Moore was born on born on Dec. 29, 1936, in Brooklyn Heights, passing away at the age of 80. It has been forty years since The Mary Tyler Moore Show went off the air.  But people around the world still love Moore’s work. Rest in peace.

    Did you know the house used for exterior shots where Mary Richards lived (2104 Kenwood Pkwy, Minneapolis) is for sale? What is your favorite episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show?  Leave your two cents in the comments.

     

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    Jim Stafford and the “Wildwood Weed”

    Wildwood Weed The changing attitudes toward marijuana, with states legalizing medical marijuana or legalizing it outright, reminded me of a 45 rpm record I had as a kid. I had never seen or smelled pot at that time, but I just liked a funny song called “Wildwood Weed.”

    Jim Stafford recorded the song, which is really more talking than singing. If you had a TV in the 1970s, you probably know who Jim Stafford is. Like Paul Williams (and to some extent John Denver), he was one of those singer-performers who for a period seemed to be on every television show before suddenly seeming to disappear.

    Stafford was a country-singer-comedian who often appeared on The Tonight Show. He had his own summer variety TV show in 1975 called, appropriately, The Jim Stafford Show. You might also remember him as a co-host of Those Amazing Animals from 1980 to 1981. Or you might recall his appearances on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour ‘Revival Show.’

    But before all of that, I knew Stafford from a 45 rpm record playing in my bedroom where he sang a story about “Wildwood Weed.” Below Stafford performs “Wildwood Weed” while hosting Nashville Now. But first he explains how the song was controversial at the time.

    “Wildwood Weed” went to number seven on the U.S. charts in 1974. One of his other songs that I recall from that same year was “My Girl Bill,” which is a little more serious than “Wildwood Weed.”

    Stafford was one of the most likable people on television in those days, and he always seemed to be smiling. So I was glad to hear that he is still performing even if the shows are not on national TV. Since 1990, he has performed at The Jim Stafford Theatre in Branson, Missouri.

    What is your favorite memory of Jim Stafford? Leave your two cents in the comments.  Photo via public domain.

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    That Walking Dead Torture Song: “Easy Street”

    Collapsable Hearts Club In the third episode of season seven of The Walking Dead, “The Cell,” the producers gifted us with an earworm of a song, “Easy Street.”  In the episode, Negan’s The Saviours are holding Daryl Dixon as prisoner.  As Dwight (Austin Amelio) works to break Daryl, he plays the song repeatedly as part of a torture tactic.

    Easy Street” is  performed by The Collapsable Hearts Club, and it was written by Jim Bianco.  Bianco explained to The Independent that he was happy to hear his song used on the show, even if it were being used to torture someone.  “I think the show used it brilliantly,” he explained, “Framing such an upbeat song as a torture advice is a work of genius by the music supervisor.”

    We’re on easy street,
    And it feels so sweet;
    ‘Cause the world is ’bout a treat,
    When you’re on easy street.

    Bianco wrote the song while driving in his car and thinking about those “rare moments” when you are “holding the winning card.” Below is a video of 10 hours of the song.

    There is not much about The Collapsable Hearts Club on the Internet, but the lead singer is Petra Haden, who has done a substantial amount of other musical work.  Bianco is also part of the group, singing backup.  And Brad Gordon plays the horns.

    Currently, Daryl, played by Norman Reedus, is no longer the only person with the song stuck in his head. After the episode, “Easy Street” appeared on the UK Singles Chart, and it also has climbed to #1 on the US Spotify viral charts.

    What do you think of “Easy Street”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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