Mr. Bali Hai Goes Ballyhoo

April 1935 issue of Ballyhoo
April 1935 issue of Ballyhoo
"When the advertising men get there."
“When the advertising men get there.”

Mr. Bali Hai made a terrific find recently: this April 1935 issue of the humor magazine, Ballyhoo. As far as the humor goes in this issue, I guess you had to be there — seen with today’s eyes, it’s pretty un-funny stuff. Maybe it’s because some of the jokes are offensive, maybe it’s because humor was simpler back then, maybe it’s because there are references I just don’t get, or maybe it’s because even in April 1935 it was stupid. Regardless, it’s compelling stuff — it’s shocking sometimes to be faced with just how remote and exotic these lands were to the world back then, and how condescendingly the native cultures were viewed.

Setting aside, if you can, the really cringe-worthy take on island natives, there is some neat artwork. Mr. Bali Hai has scanned in the whole magazine to share. Be sure to look at some of the pages full-size to get all the detail. This cartoon here to the left is worth a closer look — it’s a sadly accurate prediction of what the future held, at least for parts of Hawaii.

Mr. Bali Hai has also posted about it on Tiki Central, where it has spurred a discussion on what this era is called — it definitely is part of the time when Americans were beginning their romanticised love affair with all things tropical, but it pre-dates the golden age of that era, when tikis ruled the scene. Sven calls it the “Pre-tiki Polynesian Pop era,” while I opt for the more shorthand “Bamboo Era” — there were a lot of cool old jazz bars done up in a tropical theme back then that were a neat mix of art deco and bamboo/rattan, and not a tiki in sight. Mr. Bali Hai wants to take it a step further, and asks what to call Victorian-era tropical fascination — he offers up Steamtiki, which suits me fine.

"There's been too damn much missionary work around here!"
“There’s been too damn much missionary work around here!”

One thought on “Mr. Bali Hai Goes Ballyhoo

  1. Thanks for the shout-out. I’m still trying to figure out who’s actually talking in that last cartoon.

    As for the quality of the humor, if you look at slightly more respectable periodicals from the same era (like Esquire), it’s pretty standard fare.


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