The toy’s full name was Slapstick: An Authentic Comedy Toy for the Whole Family!TM, Slapstick himself being a kind of flesh-colored kidney-bean-shaped almost-humanoid character with googly eyeballs and kind of oozy chunky rubbery skin (which was in fact made of rubber with chunks in it, but no ooze; eventually the ACTC (Authentic Comedy Toy Company) shipped a version of Slapstick with reusable ooze packaged in-box). Slapstick wore a top hat and a fancy waistcoat, which in the commercials Slapstick would raise above his head and say, in his high-toned mid-Atlantic shit-eating voice, “slap me, I’m Slapstick!” The toy had never been intended for more than one production run but tested well, especially with the added stimulus of the commercial. So the Company threw in the noises with a back-button and speaker under the waistcoat. And naturally articulable arms with a movable waistcoat were no huge feat for the engineers. So they delivered on the commercial, sat back, and watched Slapstick become the talk of the town, toast of the season, toy of the year. The ACTC’s president, who had been struggling as president of a struggling toy company and considering suicide offhandedly through the dreary late Maine fall, announced tentatively at the ACTC All-Company Holiday Party, with his sad but bravely smiling wife standing beside him, “it seems we have something of a hit on our hands.” And the only thing anybody could think over the next twenty years (the ones before the year where he actually killed himself, after leaving the sad brave wife and being left by the comely cold new one) was, “that was some kind of understatement, fella.”
Slapstick was made to be slapped. This, to be clear, had always been the plan. Not long into the first production run one could hear the telltale smack of small hand against chunky rubber flesh on every street corner. Slapstick, put simply, was good slapping. The toy didn’t test well with straitlaced religious types, who thought Slapstick gross, his voice high and possibly homosexual, and his jacket-lifting reminiscent of the act of exposing oneself. One conservative pundit, playing probably off the minority negative press, suggested chucklingly that Slapstick resembled in form a piece of human feces. The conservative station on which the conservative pundit performed quickly offered said pundit an opportunity to pursue his stand-up (or sit-down) career elsewhere (or rather nowhere—since most corporate sponsors independently identified him rightly as a biter of the hand that feeds kind of guy). Nor did Slapstick test well with crunchy (i.e. granola-crunching, uptightly liberal) parents, whose collective pet theory held that the toy encouraged physical violence. Fortunately, a large, reasonable contingent of the parentry agreed that a toy was, after all, just a toy.
Certainly there was some mimicry among consumers, e.g. the practice colloquially known as ‘playing slapstick’ (frequently accompanied by the shrieked spoonerism “I’m Slapstick, slap me!”) in which children would pull flannel overshirts or zip-up light jackets over their heads as facsimile waistcoats, exposing their tender young midsections to friendly mock slapping in the hallways of schools across America. In general, though, the injury incurred in such incidents and whatever psychologically ‘violent’ influences Slapstick may have had on the children of America pale somewhat when one considers the sheer amount of fun Slapstick has provided to so many of said children of America and the cultural influence therein, and the Board has weighed his influence accordingly (report on fun caused v. pain inflicted attached), thereby justifying his induction into the Hall of Toys.