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AS I’VE NOTED BEFORE, Will Cuppy is my favorite satirist. His style is deceptively simple: sorta a well-executed theme paper with tongue firmly in cheek. Like I said, “heavily researched fact blended with wonderfully logical, if slightly skewed humor.”

These tidbits, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are gleaned from Will Cuppy’s The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody.

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, by Will Cuppy, with drawings by William Steig, Nonpareil, 1984.

My selection process is particularly straightforward, focusing on people having “the Great” attached to their names. This leaves out Cuppy’s analyses of Attila (nothing but a Hun), 1066’s William (a mere Conquerer), explorer Leif the Lucky, Philip the Sap, and others. But it does include Cheops (Pharaoh = Great House) and Charlemagne (Le Magne = The Great), along with more conventional Alexander, Peter, Catherine, and Frederick.

Cheops. Even before Cheops and the Fourth Dynasty, Cuppy relates, “The Egyptians… were already civilized in most respects. They had hieroglyphics, metal weapons for killing foreigners, numerous government officials, death, and taxes…. They believed that the sun went sailing around Egypt all day on a boat and that a pig ate the moon every two weeks.5

“5. This was called the wisdom of the ancients.”

This and other William Steig illustrations from The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody.

Cuppy notes, “It is very old-fashioned to call Khufu [Cheops’ other moniker] a cruel tyrant for making 100,000 fellahin, or peasants, work twenty years on his tomb. Scholars say he worked them only during the three months of the flood season, when they were not engaged in agriculture and were likely to find themselves at a loose end and get into mischief.”

Alexander the Great. Cuppy’s assessment: “He is known as Alexander the Great because he killed more people of more different kinds than any other man of his time. He did this in order to impress Greek culture upon them. Alexander was not strictly a Greek and he was not cultured, but that was his story, and who am I to deny it.”

Picking up on matters mid-career, Cuppy writes, “Alexander spent the next nine years fighting more battles, marching and countermarching, killing people at random, and robbing their widows and orphans.15

“15. He was often extremely brutal to his captives, whom he sold into slavery, tortured to death, or forced to learn Greek.”

Charlemagne. “Charles the Great,” Cuppy says, “lived away back in the Dark Ages when people were not very bright. They have been getting brighter and brighter ever since, until finally they are like they are now.”

“Pippen the Short [Charles’ father] died in 768, leaving his title jointly to Charles and Carloman, a younger son who soon died suddenly, although he had never been sick a day in his life. By this time Charles was twenty-nine and billed as almost too good for this world, a reputation that has persisted to our own day and is pretty sure to last forever.”

Tomorrow in Part 2, Cuppy assesses Peter, Catherine, and Frederick, each a better than average Great. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 

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