Barney Google is a little ne’er-do-well, fond of sports and gambling. He loves a brown-eyed nag named Spark Plug more than he loved his wife. Today, we don’t see much of him, but spend our time with his friend Snuffy Smith. Neither Barney nor Snuffy would hesitate to steal a chicken, but Snuffy’s wife and son adore him so he gets away with being a lazy scamp.
Why stealing chickens, cheating at poker, cheating at checkers, making moonshine and shooting at revenuers, being lazy, irresponsible, and ornery, fishing when the fish aren’t biting, laughing at his own jokes, and mangling the English language make Snuffy Smith only more endearing continues to mystify and please.
People across these United States were urged by the Chicago Herald and Examiner (No fees of any kind) to join the Secret & Mysterious Order of the Brotherhood of Billy Goats or the Sisterhood of Nanny Goats (their shared codeword: OKMNX – OK, ham and eggs). Then, in 1928, Barney Google, his Exalted Angora, ran for president. “All you have to do, Barney, is to fool all of the people all of the time!” His slogan: “Butt In and Win!”
Billy DeBeck wasn’t the only one. By the time Barney Google met Snuffy Smith in Hootin’ Holler Al Capp had introduced Li’l Abner in Dogpatch— also a ridiculous exaggeration of Appalachia. The comics have never been a place for political rectitude; interacting with them, nevertheless, we can learn what makes us laugh.