Goldberg's April 1 strips offered a variety of tongue-in-cheek set ups, including fake cartoons, spurious announcements, and puzzles that, when assembled, formed the words "April Fool." One gets the sense that, while other artists drew strips such as The Katzenjammer Kids about merry jokesters, Rube Goldberg himself was one of those kids!
Being a sensitive person who seemed to like people, Goldberg rarely -- if ever -- stooped to playing practical jokes on others. He might lacerate you with slashes of his comic wit, but he probably wouldn't put salt in the sugar bowl. Instead, he sublimated his impulse to prank into his work, and his April Fool's Day comics often ripped away the facade and laid bare the desire to trick. This can be seen in his April 1st strip of 1914 that makes fun of the common tricks of the day:
|April 1, 1914|
Early in his career, Goldberg had been the victim of a cruel practical joke. In 1905, as a newcomer to the staff at the San Francisco Bulletin, the 22-year old cartoonist had been ostracized and hazed by the jaded newspapermen whose ranks he was attempting to join. Rube was assigned the job of attending an evening football game and drawing a cartoon about it for the next day's edition. He carefully prepared his desk top, laid out with his drawing tools and paper so that when he returned to his office in the early hours of the morning after a long day he could get right to work and do his best. When he returned however, he found his materials inside his desk, which was nailed shut. Something snapped in Rube Goldberg that night. With his jaw set and eyes burning in anger, he nailed shut the desks of everybody in the office. When his co-workers discovered what he had done the next morning, they laughed and suddenly, the young man was one of them.
In his 1920 April Fool's joke, Goldberg made a satirical play on one of his favorite themes, technological progress. He drew a large black spot and told his readers, represented in the strip by a motley crew of slack-jawed boobs, to glue it into the center of a record and stare at it until they could see the "actual face of the person whose voice you hear." His characters, Mike and Ike, in the adjacent panel break through the panel border and comment on the main strip while pointing to the date inscribed below their feet. The strip is a masterful tour de force.
|April 1, 1920 - courtesy of Jennifer George, Rube Goldberg Inc. and The Bancroft Library|
|April 1, 1918 - (from the collection of Paul Tumey)|
|April 1, 1919 - courtesy of Jonathan Barli and Rosebud Archives|
|April 1, 1921 - courtesy Jonathan Barli and Rosebud Archives|
|April 1, 1915 - from the collection of Paul Tumey|
All in all, the Rube Goldberg April Fool's Day comic strips represent a delightful and clever assortment of comics by a screwballistic master.
That is All,