When I asked Mark Arnold what his favorite Popeye Cartoon was, he provided me with a formal essay! This is an incredible answer!
Popeye always seemed to be around in my home since birth. I loved the character and had many toys featuring the character including a plastic marionette, a bendy, a soft toy that made a jigging sound when shaken, plastic figures with a spinach car, puzzles, comic books, coloring books, etc. I still have these toys today.
Unlike now, Popeye seemed to be on TV all the time, at least once or twice a day. There were the black and white Fleischers, the color Famous Studios and the color King Features cartoons. Many poo-poo the 1960s King Features efforts, but my favorite Popeye cartoon of all time happens to be one of them. It is a short entitled “It Only Hurts When They Laughs”. For years, I lost track of this particular cartoon and mistakenly assumed it was one of the 1950s Famous Studios shorts.
When Popeye collections came out on video and DVD, this particular cartoon was always missing. At the time, I didn’t know it by title, but I knew it because of the storyline and that it made me laugh. The cartoon starts off with Popeye doing his scat-singing (always a good thing), sand flawlessly by longtime Popeye voice artist, Jack Mercer. Brutus (voiced by Jackson Beck), and Popeye, are both on their way to see Olive Oyl (voiced by Mae Questel). This is a typical story, and the boys get into a fistfight at Olive’s house. This time Olive says, “Boys, boys, you must stop this fighting! Now I’ve got to finish the dishes, and to be sure that you’re not fighting, I want to hear you both laughing while I’m in the kitchen,” and she makes them laugh. They do laugh, kind of hesitantly at first, but then they really let the belly laughs fly. Olive leaves the room, and the twist is Popeye and Brutus keep laughing as they sadistically beat each other up! At one point, Brutus comes after Popeye with an ax! We never see the results. The boys keep laughing. OIive finishes the dishes and comes in to check up on them, discovering that her house has been destroyed and the boys covered in multiple bruises and torn clothes.
Though still not officially on home video, the short is available streaming on Amazon Prime and Dailymotion.
I know people tend to hate these 1960 Popeye TV cartoons, but for some strange reason I have had a soft spot for this particular one, which really stayed in my memory. Like I said, I mistakenly thought it was one of the Famous Studios ones for years and then, since it hadn't been released to home video, I thought I had imagined it. My childhood memory is strong of Popeye and Brutus bashing each other over the head with chairs while laughing!
Happy 90th Birthday, Popeye!
Note: Mark Arnold is a pop culture historian with over 10 books to his credit including books on Harvey Comics, The Beatles, Underdog, The Pink Panther, Dennis the Menace, Disney, The Monkees and more!
It Only Hurts When They Laughs