By R.C. Reade, November 14, 1936
Many of the Greg-Jim articles which have long been a feature of The Star Weekly are to-day issued in book form under the title “Which We Did.” The volume, published by S. J. Reginald Saunders, Toronto, contains sketches which have previously entertained Star Weekly readers in addition to several new ones hitherto unpublished.
A representative of The Star Weekly had in Paris recently an experience which shows that the fame of Gregory Clark and James Frise as humorists has spread far beyond Canada. The gentleman in question was introduced to an editor of Le Paris Soir, one of the largest and most successful of Parisian papers and especially famous for its feature articles and high literary standard.
“So you are from the paper that every week has the funny article,” the Paris editor ejaculated, with open arms. “They are wonderful, magnificent, classic!” Both the French and English language were totally inadequate on him.
This from a prominent editor in a country which still regards Moliere as its standard in comedy is high praise indeed and a great tribute to these collaborators’ power of comic invention.
Perhaps one of the great reasons for their success is their spontaneity and naturalness. No man knows what they are going to do next or write and draw next. Neither does Gregory Clark nor Jimmy Frise.
Necessity is often the spur to their invention, when the roaring presses will permit no further procrastination. They are like clever after-dinner speakers who, when unexpectedly called upon, can take a felicitous subject from thin air as a magician draws a rabbit from a hat. This gives their work the charm of the impromptu.
Their admirers invariably ask, “How on earth do you ever think of all the queer things you do?”
Their only answer to that is an expressive gesture which means, “Search me. How do I know?”
Their real reason is that they dip into the stream of current contemporary life, and that rich flow never fails to bring fish to their net. Their acute awareness of what is in the mind of the average man gives their work the authentic stamp of actuality.
Another question frequently put to this writer and his illustrator is, “Do you actually do all the queer stunts you say you do?”
“And the funny thing,” said Greg, “is that people will swallow our most fantastic adventures and refuse to believe some of the very simple things such as dropping a 50-cent piece on the pavement for a prosperous citizen to stamp on and claim as his own.”
“Last summer in the hot spell,” remarked Frise, “when the postman came to my door he said ‘Surely you fellows didn’t fry an egg on the city hall steps? You can’t make me believe that.'”
“I happened to have by me a photograph of Greg and I watching the egg sizzle in the sun with my dog Rusty looking over our shoulders. I showed that to the postman and seeing was believing for him. I am sure now that there is no adventure Greg can concoct which that postman won’t fall for, hook, line and sinker.”
After going through the ordeal this morning of a formal interview for The Daily Star, neither Greg nor Jim were in the mood for any further agony to provide a sprightly birth notice for “Which We Did.”
An efficiency expert would never approve of their methods of collaboration. There is good deal of artlessness in their art. They may arrange a rendezvous in an armchair lunch and the important conference may be adjourned since die without a scintilla of an idea.
Clark may climb to Frise’s tower studio and elevate his short legs to Jimmy’s littered desk while Jimmy drapes his long legs around his drawing board. There for half an hour or more they may commune like Quakers in silence. Then Greg suddenly, like Archimedes, may cry out, “Eureka! I have it,” or they may exclaim simultaneously, for their two minds are so well attuned that they often have a single comic thought.
The reading public that laughs at their printed adventures does not get half the humor that there is in their eccentric modes of joint production.
With regard to Liddell and Scott’s well-known Greek dictionary, there is a famous query as to which half was by Scott and which half was by Liddell. It is just as difficult to unscramble the partnership of Clark and Frise. Greg, of course, is the scribe who plays Boswell to Frise’s Johnson, but a Greg-Jim article without Jimmie as the eternally baffled stooge and without Jimmie’s characteristic illustration would be like “Hamlet” without Hamlet.
Frise in his modesty is apt to deprecate his own contribution, but without Jim’s art and whimsicality there would be no Greg-Jim.
Theirs is no artificial union, a mere stage partnership. Everyone who knows them is aware that they admirably balance one another’s qualities and are, as the slang phrase has it, a pair of naturals.
As it takes two greyhounds to course and capture a hare, so it is necessary for these two humorists to hunt their quarry together. Their book’s title “Which We Did,” bears witness to the duality of their comic existence.
To one who ponders the reason for the Paris editor’s remark that their humor is classic, it is apparent that it is a humor of situations, a factual humor, and not a mere fireworks of verbal wit. Their adventures can be filmed like those of Mr. Pickwick.
And so they have created a living human comedy, giving their readers a vivid sense of their essential reality as the long and the short of the genus homo, and go merrily on their way in their present book as in their past articles perpetuating as veraciously as any Mr. Gulliver, the popular illusion that their life is one long series of laughable, farcical adventures.
Editor’s Notes: This article was published on November 14, 1936 to promote their book, Which We Did (and reprinted again the next week on November 21).
R.C. Reade was a staff writer for the Toronto Star and Star Weekly, who had some of his stories illustrated by Jim in the 1920s and 1930s.