12 Pop Culture Cavemen (and Cavewomen)
The caveman movie National Lampoon's Homo Erectus will hit theaters in September. The sitcom based on the GEICO Caveman ads will premiere in October. But cavemen are nothing new to pop culture. A man (or woman) who resembles us but does not understand or fit in with the confusing modern world is a wonderful device for both comedy and adventure. These 12 cavemen and cavewomen are not ranked; who am I to rank cavemen? They are in chronological order.
1932 Alley Oop
The comic strip Alley Oop has been in news papers for 75 years, outliving two of his three illustrators. Oop is your everyday dinosaur-riding caveman who lives in the kingdom of Moo when he isn't time-traveling to different eras of history. He was also the subject of a #1 pop hit by The Argyles.
B.C. is a comic strip by Johnny Hart, who died this past April. The strip will continue under the production of Hart's daughter and grandson. B.C. was also the caveman character, playing straight man to all the silliness going on around him. The strip took on a religious theme in 1977, which led to some criticism and editorial rejection from some newspapers.
1960 Fred Flintstone
The Flintstones was the first prime-time animated TV series for adults. Original episodes aired from 1960-1966, and for many years after in reruns. Fred and his wife Wilma, and their neighbors Barney and Betty Rubble were loosely based on the earlier sitcom The Honeymooners. Although the setting was a prehistoric age, the Flintstones had modern conveniences such as record players and telephones, which were powered by animals, or in the case of the automobile, "Fred's two feet."
Loana is undoubtably the only character you remember from the 1966 movie One Million Years B.C. All it took was Raquel Welch in a leather bikini to make it a hit.
1977 Captain Caveman
Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, originally a segment of Scooby's All-Star Laugh-A-Lympics, and its own series briefly in 1980. Afterwards, he appeared in The Flintstones Comedy Show. Captain Caveman was thawed from the ice by a group of teenagers and became a crime-fighting superhero with his caveman strength, ability to fly, and a magic club.
Ayla is the protagonist of the Earth Children series of books by Jean Aul, beginning with Clan of the Cave Bear. Ayla is a Cro Magnon who is orphaned at age five and taken in by a clan of Neanderthals. Ayla uses her inborn intelligence and psychic powers to domesticate animals, perform surgery, and invent fire, sewing, and the bra. The 1986 movie Clan of the Cave Bear starring Daryl Hannah was critically panned and a box office flop.
Ringo Starr played Atouk in the 1981 film Caveman. Not as big or fierce as the other cavemen, Atouk becomes an outcast from his tribe, and joins with other exiled cavemen to form a new tribe of misfits. However, the misfits use their brains to create fire and defeat dinosaurs, proving that brains trump brawn in the grand scheme of history. The plot foreshadows the later movie Revenge of the Nerds.
1982 Thag Simmons
Although Thag himself doesn't appear in this 1982 Far Side panel by Gary Larsen, his legend lives on. Scientists have used the word "thagomizer" since at least 1993 to describe a dinosaur's tail spikes. It's now used in reference books and museum exhibits.
The late great Phil Hartman played Cirroc, the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer as a recurring character on Saturday Night Live. He spoke quite eloquently, but always fell back on his caveman background to relate to the jury as a common man.
Brendan Frasier played Link (the "missing link") in the 1992 comedy Encino Man. Two California teenagers (Sean Astin and Pauly Shore) find a frozen caveman in their backyard and decide to take him to school, where he becomes quite popular. The reviews were awful, but it was nice to see Brendan Frasier in a loincloth.
2004 The GEICO Cavemen
GEICO Auto Insurance began running an advertising series with the line "so easy, a caveman could do it." Cavemen who heard that line were offended and complained. Several other ads featuring the cavemen were produced, plus the internet sites Caveman's Crib and Up With Cavemen. The TV series (entitled Cavemen) is scheduled to run on Tuesday nights beginning in October.
Ishbo is the hero of National Lampoon's Homo Erectus, which comes out in September. Played by Adam Rifkin, who also wrote and directed the film, Ishbo is smarter than the other cavemen, and carries a torch for a girl who prefers her men big, dumb, and strong.
Which caveman do you fancy the most?