Robot 6

Hobo cats of the Internet

tumblr_n3p71aAmtH1tvt977o1_500People have dressed up cats and taken pictures since at least the 1800s. They even came complete with captions. “What’s delaying my dinner?” asks a cat in a baby’s high chair. Comedy gold! There’s probably a good chance that cat pictures were shared at an even earlier date. Who knows if Egyptian hieroglyphics were merely ways for our ancestors to exchange silly cat pictures? “Puppies are tractable when rightly understood,” said Harry Whittier Frees, “but the kitten is the most versatile animal actor, and possesses the greatest variety of appeal.”

The truth of those words have never been more apparent in the internet, where cats are flippin’ everywhere. You’ve got cats asking to eat cheeseburgers. Cats watching you watch porn. Grumpy cats. Keyboard cats. Cats that have the bodies of pop tarts with a rainbow trailing behind them. It’s gotten to be to the point that young people these days think they invented cat humor. Adam Koford remembers, though. His site, Hobotopia (recently moved to Tumblr) reprints strips originally drawn by his great-grandfather, Aloysius “Gorilla” Koford. These strips were titled “The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats.”

Why has “The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats” been lost to the mists of time? It’s a difficult question to answer. The black-and-white art, printed on weathered and brown stock, is pleasant and cheerful. Such huggable little heads they have! It’s quite advanced for a strip printed in 1912. Koford provides a possible explanation in the captions of his inaugural reprint, which depicts feline character Meowlin Q. Kitteh being chased by an invisible dog: “The strip did not last long due to a run-in my great-grandfather had with none other than William Randolph Hearst. … Hearst scribes insinuated Aloysius was an actual trained gorilla and purported to have evidence in the form of banana shipping statements.” Koford claims the strip only lasted a year. Curious, as more than 2,500 strips have been published on Hobotopia. Old Aloysius must’ve published 100 strips a day.

Kitteh and his friend, Pip, are hobos, traveling the open country: sky over their heads, a tune on their lips, a bindle over their shoulder and nary a care in the world. Kitteh is a fan of stogies; Pip is a fan of leaves. They dig around for anything to eat. “Hobo stew + red wine = crazy delishis,” says Kitteh. I’m no foodie, but that does sound pretty tasty.

You may notice that the dialogue is rendered in unique colloquialisms. It is well-entrenched in the tradition of George Herriman (Krazy Kat) and Walt Kelly (Pogo) by replicating regional dialects through unique spelling and grammar structure. What is surprising is how contemporary some of it sounds. Phrases like “Don’t taste me, bro” and “Do not want” could’ve easily been uttered at some point in the past decade. It just goes to show you how some archaic things just come back around to being modern if you wait long enough. Seriously, if I didn’t know any better, I’d assume that Adam Koford made up this story about his great-grandfather and created a strip that successfully drew comedic parallels between modern meme lingo and the colorful language of old.

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