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The lost legend of the Shmoo

April 10, 2009


A fictional creature depicted in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner cartoons, the Shmoo was an utopian creature. Boneless, with a shape resembling a budding yeast cell, the Shmoo is described in ‘Li’l Abner: a Study in American Satire’ as being…’a small white squash with two tiny legs, a pair of eyes and wispy moustache hairs. Nothing else. It was a rather amorphous object…the Shmoo laid neatly packaged eggs (Grade A) , gave milk (Grade A) and died of sheer ecstasy if you looked at it with hunger in your eyes.

The Shmoo loved to be eaten because food makes people happy. Anything that makes people happy makes a Shmoo happy. Fry a Shmoo and it comes out chicken. Broil it and it comes out steak. Shmoo eyes make splendid suspender buttons, Shmoo hide cut thin is fine leather. Cut thick, it is the best lumber. Shmoo whiskers make magnificent toothpicks. The Shmoo, in a word, takes care of all the world’s wants and we can never run out of Shmoon. They require minimal care and are ideal playmates for children.

The frolicking of schmoon is so entertaining (such as their staged ‘shmoosical comedies’ ) that people no longer feel the need to watch television or go to the movies.


“ Of course, it was merchandised to death.  I think they even had shmoo toilet seats. ”

—Al Capp, 1977
The Shmoo entered daily language-phrases such as ‘What’s shmoo?’ and ‘Happy Shmoo year!’ were widely used. In 1948, $25 million worth of Shmoo products were sold. This is in 1948 dollars. Wikipedia says this is the equivalent to $215 million of today’s money. In other words, the Shmoo was huge. He was depicted on earmuffs, clocks, wallpaper, duvets &c.

Shmoos were air-dropped to hungry Berliners by America’s 17th Military Airport Squadron during the Soviet Union’s tense blockade of West Berlin in 1948. “When the candy-chocked Shmoos were dropped a near-riot resulted.” –Newsweek 9-5-49 (and 10-11-48).

Today, the usage of the word ‘shmoo’ has been more or less restricted to a relatively obscure area of biology- due to its similarity to a budding yeast cell, it has become a mascot of sorts for yeast biologists, as a moniker for the budding yeast cells.

Ironically, the lovable and selfless Shmoos ultimately brought misery to humankind because people with a limitless supply of self-sacrificing Shmoos stopped working and society broke down. Seen at first as a boon to humankind, they were ultimately hunted down and exterminated to preserve the status quo.

‘Kill shmoos- they’re  BAD because they’re so GOOD!’   ‘The reason Shmoos is th’ worst thing that kin happe to hoomanity -is wif Shmoos around, nobody  has to fight nobody else-nor cheat nobody else- nor work thar hearts out fo’ nobody else!!- An wifout THEM sports-th’ whole world would come to a stop!!

The Shmoo has even been compared to Christ as a force of complete goodness which ‘hoomanity’ cannot accept and therefore destroys.  Al Capp said, though, that

” The Shmoo didn’t have any social significance; it is simply a juicy li’l critter that gives milk and lays eggs … When you look at one as though you’d like to eat it, it dies of sheer ecstasy. And if one really loves you, it’ll lay you a cheesecake— although this is quite a strain on its li’l innards …”

Nobody doesn’t want a Shmoo!

You can read more about the  Shmoon  here and here.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2011 4:36 am

    We love Schmo the Mo

  2. July 15, 2011 5:05 am

    i want to know why i can’t post this to fb

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