Chicago's fake vomit industralists

Chicago's venerable gag factory Fun, Inc., was profiled in the Tribune last Wednesday. Fun, Inc. is the home of the finest hand-made fake vomit in the land, made tenderly by a company vomitmaster who keeps his secret recipe close to the chest.

It's the world capital of fake vomit, where it's still made the old-fashioned American way, ladle by ladle, formed and coagulated for the next generation of pranksters and troublemakers.

Helping put the ick in America since 1941, Fun Inc. is a repository of practical jokes, magic tricks and gag items — from chattering teeth to hot pepper gum, oversize sunglasses to oversize toothbrushes to oversize anything. The building, near Grand and Major Avenues in the industrial Hansen Park neighborhood, is where springs were once manufactured and, later, Cracker Jack prizes…

The exact blend is a proprietary secret, but this much is revealed: Production of fake vomit begins with 55-gallon drums of natural latex, which resembles thick milk. Colored bits of foam the size of coarse bread crumbs are added: red, yellow, "natural," two shades of brown, but no green. "Too strong a color," Putnam said.

"It's kind of like Grandma's recipe," he observed. "A pinch of this, two shakes of that. You kind of know when it's right."

The slurry is then ladled onto one Teflon sheet.

The vomitmaster smooths the mixture with the back of the spoon, the way a short-order cook does with pancakes on the griddle. Depending on weather, season and humidity, the pools of fake vomit, 500 to a batch, take overnight to a day and a half to dry. Like snowflakes, no two fake vomits are ever alike, which in the world of manufactured practical jokes is a rare trait.


(Thanks, John L!)

See also: Cheap Laffs: the history of the gag