Initiation gags

It’s good for animators to know about topics of comedy that aren’t in fashion, because they are ripe to be rediscovered, and refreshed for new audiences.  Let’s take a look at the world of fraternal orders. 

For those who don’t know, fraternal orders were/are men’s clubs, where guys could get away from home and act like “real men” for a while.   According to movies and cartoons acting like real men involved wearing funny hats, drinking lots of alcohol, making sacred pledges, using secret handshakes, and going to conventions to do the same things with brothers from other lodges.  It’s full of opportunities for men to make themselves look foolish.  The story lines in these old shows are often  built around the wives disapproval of the men attending the conventions. It’s been done by Laurel and Hardy, The Honeymooners, The Three Stooges, The Little Rascals, The Flintstones and many more.  HERE is a list of famous fictional fraternities.

It is a big subject, so I am going to focus on the initiation ceremonies involved in joining these clubs. There are still initiations and hazing in pledging to fraternities and sports teams on campus.  Sometimes we hear about them in the newspapers when the stunts go horribly wrong.

Making fun of Initiation rituals is part of the tradition of mocking serious things. Fraternal orders, while often good natured, are famous for having very solemn behavior during the ceremonies. To goof on it, you must push it as far as you can.

Here are a few animated examples.  While this sort of comedy is less common, 2 of these are from shows that are still on the air.  First, The Simpsons had The Stonecutters lodge:

In the Fleischer cartoon, Bimbo’s Initiation, Bimbo seems to be kidnapped to join a secret society.

Spongebob had an episode dedicated to the concept of lodge initiations.

Back in the hey day of fraternal orders, an entire business grew from supplying these clubs with costumes, props, and bizarre devices for running meetings and initiating the new members.  Many of these involved electric shocks, firecrackers, and the whacking of butts.  Great grandpa and his pals sure had a weird sense of humor.  Check out some of these pages from the Demoulin Brothers catalog.   As scary as they look, they could inspire some physical comedy.

I swear this next one looks like water boarding.

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