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March 29, 2013

Student Satire

April Fool's Day seems a good occasion to honor the grand tradition of student satire.

As early as 1981, Case Western Reserve’s student newspaper, The Observer, honored April Fool’s Day with a special edition. With a special motto, “The birdcage liner of Waste Restroom Preserved University...” the editors proceeded to lampoon tenure, Cleveland weather, university fundraising (”Extortion: Mega bucks for CWRU” featuring quotes from Lemme Attem, Commander of the Major Gifts Task Force) career planning, sororities (”SAE bids for frosh; told ‘not for sale’”), and sports (”Action frisbee: game of steel”). Even the masthead was fair game, describing the Observer as “published sometimes by a few disco people from some University in Ohio from September to May, except when we have exams.” Classified ads included “Wanted: Edible, flavorful food. Contact dorm students.” In later years the special edition acquired its own title, The Obscurer.

But student satire was not confined to April Fool’s Day. Both the Case and WRU student yearbooks incorporated a particular brand of student humor aimed equally at students and faculty. These inside jokes, puns, and cartoons were often incorporated into the advertising section. Draw your own conclusions about the significance of that placement. The humor sections were most common during the early years of the 20th century. They seem to have gone out of fashion by the mid-1940s. Some choice examples can be seen in the University Archives Student Yearbook collection in Digital Case.

At Reserve, student satire needed a broader platform for its full expression. From 1924 till 1942 the students published the Red Cat. Puns, both visual and textual, limericks, cartoons, one-line jokes, and satirical essays filled the pages. Campus personalities and events and the news of the day were the targets of the Red Cat writers and artists. In the first issue the editors explained themselves, “Next to football there is perhaps no college product which attracts as much attention and appeals to the reader as much as the humorous magazine... The debut of the Red Cat heralds great things for the literary and artistic side of the University.”

The University Archives holds complete runs of The Observer, student yearbooks, and the Red Cat and welcomes users who wish to explore, or simply appreciate, our students' humorous perspective on university life.

RedCat_1926-06_cover.jpg RedCat_1927-09_cover.jpg RedCat_1928-02_cover.jpg

Examples of Red Cat covers from the 1920s

Posted by jmt3 at March 29, 2013 01:12 PM

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