August 22, 2006


There are no fascinating stories or heartfelt memories behind this item. I simply nabbed this box of "Party Gags" from ebay a few years ago. It was produced in 1959 by a Chicago outfit called Fishlove, which was a respectable novelty maker that offered favorites like Yakity-Yak chattering teeth, and a line of "giant" products such as sunglasses, combs, and toothbrushes. (A company called Fun Inc. bought them out and still offers some of their line.) This set was "coincidentally" released the same year that S.S. Adams put out a similar boxed assortment called the "Life of the Party" set. And you'll notice that the bright yellow box pictured above coincidentally bears the same phrase.

I suspect that the notion of a prank kit was spawned from the success of magic sets and disguise kits. I love the notion that one price will buy you everything needed for an outrageous evening of laffs. So just what are the ultimate fun-makers that make up this prankster's plunder, this duper's depot, this gagster's gallery, this kidder's cache??? Take a look!...

I sincerely hope that at least one jokester actually cycled through these gags at some pretentious gathering 40 years ago.

I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at each piece of this trickster's trove (okay, I'll stop.) and see how they appear in the "real world," all set up for a madcap evening.

Okay. You're a socially defective numbskull who's ready to start winning over a room full of socialites. Your first step is to stick this faucet on the TV. It's a an easy move and you're guaranteed to get reactions like...
"Whoa, I must be seeing things!"
 "Get out of town!"
 "I've heard of [something to do with water and television] before but this is ridiculous!"
Now you're on your way.

Now that you've bewildered them.. it's time to play upon their fears. The guest with the smallest bladder will be justly punished by way of an encounter with the horrific Spook Hand. Watch as they flee the bathroom in a state of partial undress. Once the shock and humiliation dissipates, the laffs begin to bubble. You're slowly becoming a hero.

Next, it's time to blast everyone's mind with this ghastly syringe illusion. The stunt won't necessarily make sense in the context of a party, but what's important is that everyone is paying attention to you. They'll be thoroughly disgusted, yet inexplicably drawn to you. I promise.

Just as you're explaining the principle behind the Hypno-Phony to the relieved crowd you'll hear the hostess shouting from the kitchen in a rage. She just went for more paper cups and discovered that somehow the authorities have condemned her cupboard, of all things. As she gives up and heads for the chinaware you approach the cabinet and effortlessly remove the lock. The party goes nuts! Yup.. you're at it again. And with this you've made it abundantly clear to the entire guest list that you are simply...the king.

But, wait.. Who's the blabbermouth in the back of the room who thinks he's charming the group with his pathetic anecdotes and name dropping? (while stealing your thunder) Pull the pre-wound chatter teeth from your coat pocket and let 'em go on a nearby surface. Fold your arms and maintain a smug expression. Watch the conversationalist start to stutter as a proverbial light is shone on his shallow ways. You just made a statement without saying a word. He'll have to run out of the room to chase down his date. And once again... it's all you.

You, the new "life of the party," have the attendees eating out of your hand.. waiting for you to lead them into further delight. No doubt, by now you're ready to finally proclaim your "true feelings" for that certain someone whom you've been eyeing all evening. (though, at this point you could really have any woman in the room.) Time to simply wind up the beating heart gag (which is actually the same mechanism as the chattering teeth) and watch her laugh.. right into your arms.

With this the party is as good as over. You just dominated the social scene and found a life partner. All thanks to a little mail-order ad that caught your eye a few months ago...

This fancy color ad is from a 1960 Bancroft's catalog. It really plays up the "spooky" factor (as though the beating heart is supposed to be frightening). I think "two million shivers" is pushing it (and that's a two-to-one shiver to laugh ratio). Looks like those ad wizards did it again.

"What this world needs is a good laugh." A timeless sentiment indeed. Well, I hope you've enjoyed this "explosion of rollicking humor."


Ronn Roxx said...

Wow... very funny stuff! Makes me want to have a party (if only I owned the Party Gags kit). And thanks for showing us how this stuff works in the 'real world' as I don't think I would have figured out what to do with the "Spook Hand" and "Talking Teeth". Thanks for straightening that out for me ;-)

Famous Monster of Mpls said...

Hilarious stuff Kirk! You've convinced me alright! This box of party gags is what my life has been missing all along. If I'm ever going to move up the social ladder, I need to get the necessary tools to do so. The Fishlove company should have hired you as their marketing guru for this box'o party gags. Oh wait a minute .. you weren't born yet in 1959. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Best, Terry.

chuckbaris said...

So this is great. Your gag sets are some of my favorite items of yours that I don't own myself.

On another note, I realized a dream,a fools dream maybe, but never the less a dream. I finally saw one of the original universal monster films on the big screen. Sunday night the wife and I viddied The Creature from the Black Lagoon in glorius old school 3D. The print was literally in pristine condition and the 3D was actually quite fun. As far as I know I've just added something else to my list of things that Kirk D. has not accomplised. So if you're keeping score at home, that's The Thing, mystery of the desert, and Creature in 3D on the big screen.
The score is 2 to 0 champy. Time for another rousing game of shower rescue.

Kirk D. said...

Ronn- I'm happy to contribute to your understanding of the things that matter in this world.

Terry- There's a hole in your heart and it's shaped like the Fishlove Party Gags set!

Chuck- I'm actually quite thankful that you attended this particular event, because of all the Universal movies you might have seen on the big screen, you picked the very one... that I too have seen on a big screen! I saw 'Creature' in wonderful 3-D at the University of Arkansas Greek theater when I was nine years old. And here's where I've topped you forever... I saw it through the eyes of a child! None of this "oh, the print is just pristine" business. I was as good as swimming in that Black Lagoon! And I am the man that I am today because of it.
You, my friend, just got served!
I may just drive out to the Mystery of the Desert now to bring you down to an even zero.

Todd Franklin said...

Har har fun post!!

Dave said...

I remember when our Mall first opened and it had Spencer's Gifts in it. They sold a bunch of these gag gifts like this. I was able to see by looking at them in person how glad I was I had never ordered any of them.

I always wondered about the X-ray glasses until I took at Consumer Ed class in my enior year of HS. All they were was cheap plastic glasses with feathers pressed between both plastic lenses. I guess kids were supposed to be dumb enough to think the feathers were bones. LOL.


Anonymous said...

I visited Disneyland in Anaheim in 1983. I purchased the suction cup faucet pictured in your kit at the Magic/Joke shop on Main Street; by itself but it had the card with the "hilarious" uses on it. I thought it was the greatest prank item ever. Later that night I stuck it to my forehead to amuse my sister. It left a deep purple hickey on my forehead for two days. I was 10 years old.
Your blog rules.

Chad in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Kirk D. said...

Thanks Chad for sharing your excellent story. That's so perfect!
I love that it came from Disneyland too.
Reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Bart glues a novelty faucet on his forehead and has to visit the doctor to have it removed. But you lived it!