Animation studio Rankin-Bass won the Christmas TV Special Universe with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964. Then the company skipped animated puppets for old-fashioned animation with Frosty the Snowman. CBS debuted the half-hour show–based on the holiday hit made popular by Gene Autry–on December 7, 1969. Kids have been putting on hats and dancing with brooms ever since. They’ve also been trying to mimic one of the dirtiest comics in stand-up history.
That would be Jackie Vernon, who stars as Frosty and was hailed in his 1960s heyday as “the King of Deadpan.” Vernon’s dumbfounded stare, slack-jawed delivery, and bizarro-world one liners set a template adopted by oddball stand-ups such as Mitch Hedberg, Steve Martin, and Steven Wright.
That was the Jackie Vernon that primetime TV audiences enjoyed. By night, he was also was a “blue” comic who worked filthy, specializing in Friars Club roasts and wee-hour Playboy Club gigs. One of Vernon’s signature bits featured him describing horrific scenes of grotesque, stomach-turning sexual excesses, punctuated by the line, “And I thought to myself–gee, what a neat guy!”
Somehow, somebody at Rankin-Bass heard Jackie’s blisteringly obscene routines and thought, “That’s our Frosty!”
In 1983, Jackie Vernon starred in the motion picture for which he is best known after Frosty the Snowman: the cannibal horror comedy Microwave Massacre, which became an early home video hit. Vernon plays a schlubby construction worker who unintentionally kills his shrewish wife, chops up her body, and then accidentally cooks and eats her. This gives him a taste for microwaved female flesh that he satisfies by slaughtering and consuming streetwalkers, thereby prompting the classic line, “I’m so hungry, I could eat a whore!”
Think of that classic line the next time you catch an airing of Frosty the Snowman. And check out Jackie (who had a fatal heart attack in 1987) staying relevant by recounting the charms of a miserable town called Ferguson…