Frazier posted his own samizdat in his office: a rejected cartoon that he submitted in the late 1970s, lampooning the "I Heart New York" campaign, then at its apogee under Mayor Ed Koch. "I did a cartoon of a Cossack chasing a Hasidic Jew and wearing a T-shirt that read 'I Heart a Pogrom,'" Frazier recalls. "It was too horrible to publish."
Several of Frazier's cartoons were published in the humorist George Meyer's short-lived magazine Army Man: America's Only Magazine. For a time in the 1980s Meyer, who later became a writer for The Simpsons, was the Random House of American samizdat. A never produced film script he wrote for David Letterman had, David Owen wrote in The New Yorker, "a second life, in the Simpsons rewrite room, where for several years the show's writers would guiltily consult it whenever they were stuck for a joke." While circulating that script Meyer typed up the first issue of Army Man, eight pages long, which he laid out on his bed and printed in editions of 200. "For years, it circulated in samizdat on college campuses," wrote Owen, who told me that his profile of Meyer itself circulated in samizdat for five years, until a new editor came across it. The New Yorker's editor at the time, Tina Brown, commissioned the piece but never ran it. "She thought The Simpsons was passé," Owen said.
Army Man was dark and brilliant. It showcased the work of Andy Borowitz, Roz Chast, Merrill Markoe, and many others who went on to fame and fortune in Hollywood and elsewhere. A feature like Frazier's "My Ideal Woman"—a graphic description of a man—would be impossible to reproduce anywhere except in a rental apartment in Boulder, Colorado, in 1988. In its second issue Army Man teased a major upcoming feature: "Mother Teresa, the Nun You Love to Hate." This was four years before Christopher Hitchens first put the paddle to the beloved Catholic saint-in-waiting in his notorious 1992 Nation column "The Ghoul of Calcutta."
A reprintable example of Meyer's humor would be his list of Chapter 11 filings: "Tommy's Resume Servise. Nite-Owl Skywriting Co. The Pink Pork Chop." And so on.
More typical would be this "Jolly Comedy Joke" from John Swartzwelder, who also became a writer for The Simpsons: "disgruntled man at breakfast: They can kill the Kennedys. Why can't they make a cup of coffee that tastes good?"
Another much admired typescript handed around by the Army Man claque was Harry Shearer's relentless fifteen-round pummeling of Jerry Lewis's muscular-dystrophy telethon. The piece was commissioned by Clay Felker's magazine New West in 1976. At various points in the article Shearer (whose credits include several voices on The Simpsons) mentions how Lewis's factotums kept trying to usher him away from the center of the telethon action. It appears in retrospect that they should have tried harder, in order to keep observations like these out of circulation:
Nobody causes muscular dystrophy, and almost nobody gets it.
The day before the show, [Jerry] did a promo with a fat lady from Channel 8 in Honolulu and concluded it by yelling, "Watch the show and getta hunka nooky."
Every Muscular Dystrophy telethon ends with Jerry's singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," a peculiar choice of songs to address to crippled people.
New West "bumped it for a Mary Murphy profile of Dino DeLaurentis (key detail—he falls asleep on a transatlantic flight, his head in her lap)," Shearer remembers. "I guess I sent a bunch of copies around, trying desperately to get it published somewhere. A lot of people read it"—both before and after he managed to sell the piece as an insert to Film Comment in 1979.