When I was a kid, sometimes I would pantomime that I had a giant nose and was smoking an imaginary cigar and I’d say “ha cha cha cha!” What a hilarious five year old vaudeville performer I was. I picked that up from some old Chuck Jones cartoons, though I couldn’t tell you which — until a few nights ago when I was watching Tom and Jerry by myself around midnight (… and I’m single, ladies!).
In the 1967 episode Surf-Bored Cat, Tom gets an octopus stuck on his head, and when one of the octopus’s tentacles looks like a big nose, he breaks the fourth wall and hams it up: ha cha cha cha! You can watch it on Dailymotion (the chacha moment occurring at 3:30):
There are similar impressions in other cartoons of the 50s and 60s. I even knew as a kid that they were referring to some known personality, maybe Groucho, and that adults probably got the joke. I just thought it was funny. But who the hell were the cartoons referring to?
Naturally I googled “ha cha cha cha” and found Jimmy Durante, the Schnozzola himself. Durante was a performer and comedian with a long career in show business and had a number of catch phrases. There’s even a section on his Wikipedia page detailing his presence in animation.
So that’s who I was imitating. Many of those cartoons were rich with jokes and allusions to performers, comedians, and musicians past, and I suppose there were numerous fans of Durante among the animators, including Chuck Jones. If I have kids I’ll definitely make them watch some of the classics. It’s good to start with the fundamentals. Ha cha cha cha!