08 January 2007

ONUSPEDIA: Lord Pemberton Gimble and Lord Pemberton Gimble

A few days ago, C.A. of Warragul, Australia, chided me gently for omitting a reference to Lord Pemberton Gimble in the first Onuspedia entry, 'Skwandro'. As Lord Pemberton Gimble deserves more than a mention, it is published below as an Onuspedia entry in its own right.

If you find that the Onuspedia is missing content when you look to it for the definitive Word, please inform me. If there is, indeed, an omission, I will rectify the situation as soon as possible. As this is only the second Onuspedia entry ever published, you could well be correct.

Lord Pemberton Gimble and Lord Pemberton Gimble

A comedy act first launched at a Harvard students' review, October 14, 1927.

The next day, Lewis F. Cunningham, Professor of Ametics, Department of Ancient Near East Languages, Harvard, sent a glowing review to the Boston Globe. The letter of regret from the Globe survived, but no copy of the review. However, a draft letter of his was later quoted by the greatest authority on the act, Arthur L. Schoonimaker.

. . . I had to wipe my eyes over the Snelling syntax quip. It does my old heart good to think that you boys were listening in class. One word of advice, however. I was unreserved in my review for the Globe, but between us, I would advise: keep to the salutary; you need not stoop to body humor, nor to those Wodehouse Lord inanities. Yes, I am not made of dust and clay! I know quite well what's popular on Main Street! But remember, Ametics has existed for thousands of years, and is more popular than ever because of its importance, whereas that populist (what does he write about? nothings!) . . . Here today, I warn you . . . but enough . . . Xtougli pharq!

'Lord Pemberton Gimble and Lord Pemberton Gimble' were K.B. Livesay II and Arthur L. Shivel III, students of Cunningham's who graduated in June 1927. Along with their professor, they decried Wodehouse's populism, but respected his popularity. Being the sons of businessmen, they didn't give a hoot whether something would be the bee's knees in 2004. Now was long enough — and they planned to watch their market. They had a natural verve in front of a crowd, and identical intentions to stave off returning to Chicago and their fathers' mercantile world, forever. As Schoonimaker wrote: They planned their act with a background of money and a recent grounding in something so useless, they used it.

In the late '20s, there were so many comedy acts in America and so much pressure for material, that a pro's joke went:

'Nobody steals my jokes!'
'How'd you manage that?'
'I never tell them!'

Livesay and Shivel would have read that in Variety, and of court cases that failed to protect a comedian's material but lost him heaps. Other comedians figured there was nothing they could do when their best jokes were told by someone who couldn't even get the timing right. Livesay and Shivel had a fresh attitude. 'Sure we're loaded, but we're not chumps,' Livesay wrote in the Blade, 'We won't be broken into, and we don't give anything away.'

Their original act was called simply 'Lord Pemberton Gimble and Lord Pemberton Gimble'. There is no surviving script, but Schoonimaker called it: a scientifically mixed cocktail of 30% monocled Lord to Lord farce, 30% poke-in-the-eye burlesque, and the killer 33+%: ametics language in-jokes.

They'd been poor students at ametics, but they calculated that it didn't take a linguist to write ametic-language in-jokes and jibes at discredited ametics experts. As for protection, Shivel said in the Blade, 'We're Brinks Safed. What other wise-cracker would even know who's the straight guy?'

After achieving only mixed success in New York and Chicago, the act hit its stride in late 1928 when it played for literary societies from town to town in the mid-west (once the humour was removed in Peoria and the act's name changed to 'The Tablets Speak: Ametic Wisdom for Today'). By June 1929, the stride had slowed but not the expenditure. Livesay and Shivel, hounded by creditors' and fathers' demands, planned to move their act to Paris, France, with new material. Instead, in August 1929, both took up positions on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

'Lord Pemberton Gimble and Lord Pemberton Gimble' was an act that was never copied.

It is rumoured that 'The Tablets Speak: Ametic Wisdom for Today', a three-part multimedia series, is in pre-production for National Geographic .


Rifts in the Aemetics World, Peter S. Cunningham, ed., Hyophitlahrÿz Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, 2004

Funny You Should Laugh: A History of Intimidating Humor, Arthur L. Schoonimaker, Thespis Publishing, Schenectady, New York, 1966

Thirty Days to Remembering Ten Brilliant Business Plans You Should Avoid, Sydney Forster, Resolution Business Books, Walla Walla, Washington, USA, 1987

Ten Days to Memorizing Seven Business Plans That Failed, Sydney Forster, Sydney Forster Publishing, www.sydneyforsterinstantprint.com.au

An expert is someone who always makes sure of the spelling.


Anonymous said...

Hello Anna Tambour,

Gently chided indeed; forsooth you have brought forth another gem. And behold the Onuspedia doubles.

At this rate, it may yet have several entries. And live to see many more days. The world is your oyster. But you didn't need C.A., or any other interlocutor, to apprise you of that tantalising fact.

Your work is very fine. Lazy you are not.

If I may borow a phrase, "I feel like a man" !

8th Jan '07

Anonymous said...

Writer's cramp? What writer's cramp? Delightful!

anna tambour said...

Delighted to read your 'delightful', Faren!
And as for CA, there's nothing like a spur to get a hack moving!