Wednesday, March 18, 2009


More than one reader has asked if the little guy in my profile is a Nebbish--one of those winsome curiosities created by the late Herb Gardner: as cartoons, later a comic strip, here as dolls (evidently a doll version came first (link)).

The answer is, I think, "no." I pinched it off the (apparently home made) inter office memo stationery at a law firm where I worked in the 70s and early 80s. While it does indeed bear a resemblance to the famous Gardner creations, I think I can spot some telling differences. For one, as I recall Nebbishes always had their eyes closed; here, the eyes are pointy and piercing.

But funny you should ask. As it happens, I knew Herb Gardner, and I was an observer (entirely accidental) at the incubation of the Nebbishes. Herb used to doodle them in his notebook as he sat next to me in Louis Filler's American History class at Antioch College in --oh, perhaps 1955. They had what may have been their first publication in an Antioch College literary magazine. Only later did they get exposure in ash trays, cocktail napkins and suchlike. The NYT reports that there were 750,000 copies of the cartoon ''Next week we've got to get organized," but I think the number must have been 100 million. We at Antioch took it as our class motto.

I don't wish to mislead here: Herb was BMOC at Antioch in those days and I was pretty much of a zero (I eventually flamed out and fled). As a brush with greatness, I suppose this about equals the time that Adlai Stevenson stepped on my toe.

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