Tuesday 21 January 2014

Hold the You-Know-What

This is one of Friz Freleng’s favourite gags:

E.O. Costello’s now-dead website Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion had the following explanation:
Mysterious catchphrase that pops up in a fair number of Warner-released cartoons, including Pigs is Pigs (Freleng, 1937), The Fighting 69th 1/2 (Freleng, 1941), The Gay Anties (Freleng, 1947), French Rarebit (McKimson, 1951), and Wackiki Wabbit (Jones, 1943).

You can add to that “Jungle Jitters” (Freleng, 1938).

Mr. Costello has an e-mail addendum, saying it appeared in “Behind the Meatball” (Tashlin, 1945). And Pat Caldora writes to say it’s in the Tom and Jerry cartoon “His Mouse Friday” (1951).

Mysterious? Well, we do know animator Phil Monroe took credit for it. He told historian Mike Barrier:
For instance, I first worked for Friz in the middle '30s, and he had this one picture, I forget what the name of it is, but it was a mechanical machine that made a sandwich; the old cartoons used to do that all the time, use a gag like that. It was a Rube Goldberg machine that made a sandwich. I stuck in the gag "Hold the onions"—a sign comes out and stops the machine and says, "Hold the onions." Well, the only thing you remember about that cartoon is that one gag. He used that damned thing for years.

Monroe, incidentally, got the animation credit on “Jungle Jitters.”


  1. It's interesting to see how the gag went from being a major one comedy-wise in the early uses, to pretty much just a throwaway gag by the mid-1940s, simply there to bridge a few seconds from one far better gag to the next.

  2. Eric O. Costello21 January 2014 at 17:18

    Hey! Somebody remembers the ol' WBCC!

  3. It was "Pigs Is Pigs" (1937). Phil worked on it, and that's where the "automated sandwich machine" was seen.

  4. I've always wondered if this was like an inside joke, like one of the animators didn't like onions and they put this joke to reference him?

    1. Possibly, unk. I always assumed it was used as a gag because it was said at diners or drug store counters.