72 Facts About Al Capp


Alfred Gerald Caplin, better known as Al Capp, was an American cartoonist and humorist best known for the satirical comic strip Li'l Abner, which he created in 1934 and continued writing and (with help from assistants) drawing until 1977.

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Al Capp wrote the comic strips Abbie an' Slats and Long Sam (1954).

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Al Capp won the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award in 1947 for Cartoonist of the Year, and their 1979 Elzie Segar Award, posthumously for his "unique and outstanding contribution to the profession of cartooning".

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Al Capp was born in New Haven, Connecticut, of East European Jewish heritage.

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Al Capp's brothers, Elliot and Jerome, were cartoonists, and his sister, Madeline, was a publicist.

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Al Capp's parents were both natives of Latvia whose families had migrated to New Haven in the 1880s.

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Al Capp was eventually given a prosthetic leg, but only learned to use it by adopting a slow way of walking which became increasingly painful as he grew older.

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Al Capp became quite proficient, advancing mostly on his own.

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Al Capp spent five years at Bridgeport High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut, without receiving a diploma.

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Al Capp liked to joke about how he failed geometry for nine straight terms.

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Al Capp lived in "airless rat holes" in Greenwich Village and turned out advertising strips at $2 each while scouring the city hunting for jobs.

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Al Capp eventually found work at the Associated Press when he was 23 years old.

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Al Capp changed the focus and title to Mister Gilfeather but soon grew to hate the feature.

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Al Capp moved to Boston and married Catherine Wingate Cameron, whom he had met earlier in art class.

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Also during this period, Al Capp was working at night on samples for the strip that eventually became Li'l Abner.

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Al Capp based his cast of characters on the authentic mountain-dwellers he met while hitchhiking through rural West Virginia and the Cumberland Valley as a teenager.

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In later years, Al Capp always claimed to have effectively created the miniskirt, when he first put one on Daisy Mae in 1934.

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Al Capp lampooned popular recording idols of the day, such as Elvis Presley, Liberace ("Loverboynik", 1956), the Beatles ("the Beasties", 1964)—and in 1944, Frank Sinatra.

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Al Capp always made it a point to send me a spent condom whenever he happened to see me in a restaurant.

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Al Capp was just as likely to parody himself; his self-caricature made frequent, tongue-in-cheek appearances in Li'l Abner.

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Al Capp turned that world upside-down by routinely injecting politics and social commentary into Li'l Abner.

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Al Capp has been compared, at various times, to Mark Twain, Dostoevski, Jonathan Swift, Lawrence Sterne, and Rabelais.

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Al Capp was involved with the Sister Kenny Foundation, which pioneered new treatments for polio in the 1940s.

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In 1948, Al Capp reached a creative peak with the introduction of the Shmoos, lovable and innocent fantasy creatures who reproduced at amazing speed and brought so many benefits that, ironically, the world economy was endangered.

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Al Capp followed this success with other allegorical fantasy critters, including the aboriginal and masochistic "Kigmies", who craved abuse, the dreaded "Nogoodniks" (or bad shmoos), and the irresistible "Bald Iggle", a guileless creature whose sad-eyed countenance compelled involuntary truthfulness—with predictably disastrous results.

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Al Capp received the National Cartoonists Society's Billy DeBeck Memorial Award in 1947 for Cartoonist of the Year.

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Al Capp briefly resigned his membership in 1949 to protest their refusal of admission to Hilda Terry, creator of the comic strip Teena.

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In December 1952, Al Capp published an article in Real magazine entitled "The REAL Powers in America" that further challenged the conventional attitudes of the day: "The real powers in America are women—the wives and sweethearts behind the masculine dummies.

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In 1950, Al Capp introduced a cartoonist character named "Happy Vermin"—a caricature of Fisher—who hired Abner to draw his comic strip in a dimly lit closet.

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The article recounted Al Capp's days working for an unnamed "benefactor" with a miserly, swinish personality, who Al Capp claimed was a never-ending source of inspiration when it came time to create a new unregenerate villain for his comic strip.

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Al Capp was able to refute the accusation by simply showing the original artwork.

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In 1954, when Al Capp was applying for a Boston television license, the Federal Communications Commission received an anonymous packet of pornographic Li'l Abner drawings.

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Allen Saunders, the creator of the Mary Worth strip, returned Al Capp's fire with the introduction of the character "Hal Rapp", a foul-tempered, ill-mannered, and inebriated cartoonist, (Al Capp was a teetotaler).

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One of Al Capp's grandchildren recalls that at one point, tears were streaming down the cartoonist's cheeks while he was watching a documentary about the Jonestown massacre.

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Al Capp gave money anonymously to charities and "people in need" at various points in his life.

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When she refused his advances, Al Capp became angry and told her that she was "never gonna make anything in your life" and that she should "go and marry a Jewish dentist.

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In 1971, investigative journalist Jack Anderson wrote that Al Capp had exposed his genitals to four female students at the University of Alabama.

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Al Capp pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted adultery, while charges of indecent exposure and sodomy were dropped.

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In point of fact, Al Capp maintained creative control over every stage of production for virtually the entire run of the strip.

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Al Capp originated the stories, wrote the dialogue, designed the major characters, rough penciled the preliminary staging and action of each panel, oversaw the finished pencils, and drew and inked the hands and faces of the characters.

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Al Capp had a group of assistants who he taught to reproduce his distinctive individual style, working under his direct supervision.

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Al Capp enjoyed adding a distinctive glint to an eye or an idiosyncratic contortion to a character's face.

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In 1959, Al Capp recorded and released an album for Folkways Records on which he identified and described "The Mechanics of the Comic Strip".

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Al Capp provided specialty artwork for civic groups, government agencies, and charitable or nonprofit organizations, spanning several decades.

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Vice President Spiro Agnew urged Al Capp to run in the Democratic Party Massachusetts primary in 1970 against Ted Kennedy, but Al Capp ultimately declined.

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Besides his use of the comic strip to voice his opinions and display his humor, Al Capp was a popular guest speaker at universities, and on radio and television.

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Al Capp remains the only cartoonist to be embraced by television; no other comic artist to date has come close to Capp's televised exposure.

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Al Capp appeared as a regular on The Author Meets the Critics and made regular, weekly appearances on Today in 1953.

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Al Capp hosted similar vehicles on the radio—and was a familiar celebrity guest on various other broadcast programs, including NBC Radio's long-running Monitor with its famous Monitor Beacon audio signature, as a commentator dubbed "An expert of nothing with opinions on everything.

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Al Capp portrayed himself in a cameo role in the Bob Hope film That Certain Feeling, for which he provided promotional art.

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Al Capp was interviewed live on Person to Person on November 27, 1959, by host Charles Collingwood.

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Al Capp appeared as himself on The Ed Sullivan Show, Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, The Red Skelton Show, The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and guested on Ralph Edwards' This Is Your Life on February 12, 1961, with honoree Peter Palmer.

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Al Capp freelanced very successfully as a magazine writer and newspaper columnist, in a wide variety of publications including Life, Show, Pageant, The Atlantic, Esquire, Coronet, and The Saturday Evening Post.

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Al Capp was impersonated by comedians Rich Little and David Frye.

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Al Capp resumed visiting war amputees during the Korean War and Vietnam War.

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Al Capp toured Vietnam with the USO, entertaining troops along with Art Buchwald and George Plimpton.

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Al Capp served as chairman of the Cartoonists' Committee in President Dwight D Eisenhower's People-to-People program in 1954, which was organized to promote Savings bonds for the U S Treasury.

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Al Capp published a column challenging federally funded public television endowments in favor of educational comics—which, according to Capp, "didn't cost a dime in taxes and never had.

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Al Capp is listed in the 1942 Mingotide Yearbook, representing the first graduating class from Endicott Junior College.

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Al Capp's studio provided special artwork for various civic groups and nonprofit organizations as well.

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Al Capp was the Playboy interview subject in December 1965, in a conversation conducted by Alvin Toffler.

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Alongside his long-established caricatures of right-wing, big business types such as General Bullmoose and J Roaringham Fatback, Capp began spoofing counterculture icons such as Joan Baez.

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Al Capp became a popular public speaker on college campuses, where he reportedly relished hecklers.

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Al Capp attacked militant antiwar demonstrators, both in his personal appearances and in his strip.

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Anderson and an associate confirmed that Al Capp was shown out of town by university police, but that the incident had been hushed up by the university to avoid negative publicity.

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Al Capp was accused of propositioning a married woman in his hotel room.

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Nixon and Capp were on friendly terms, Hersh wrote, and Nixon and Colson had worked to find a way for Capp to run against Ted Kennedy for the U S Senate.

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On November 13, 1977, Al Capp retired with an apology to his fans for the recently declining quality of the strip, which he said had been the best he could manage due to declining health.

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Al Capp is buried in Mount Prospect Cemetery in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

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Al Capp was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2004.

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Al Capp had a knack for popularizing certain uncommon terms, such as druthers, schmooze, and nogoodnik, neatnik, etc.

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Capp is the subject of an upcoming WNET-TV American Masters documentary, The Life and Times of Al Capp, produced by his granddaughter, independent filmmaker Caitlin Manning.

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