60th anniversary of wind-up chattering teeth


Ben Marks says: "In our latest interview with Mardi and Stan Timm, the couple who collect novelties such as Girlie Glasses and Fake Barf, we drill down on the history of chattering teeth, which were manufactured by H. Fishlove & Co. as Yakity-Yak. The Timm's describe the gag's inspiration (the inventor was riffing on a 'garage' for dentures), as well as the ways in which Fishlove re-purposed the gag's clockwork motor inside a spooky skull called Mr. Bones and in gift boxes packed with Jockey underwear. "

The Yakity-Yak chompers made their official debut in 1950. "Amazing!" reads the box. "Look! They Walk! They Talk! They're Alive!"

At the time, America was enjoying a Golden Era for toys and games, thanks to the wartime invention of plastics and injection-molding, and these men were turning the industry on its ear. Goldfarb went on to invent games like Battling Tops, Kerplunk!, and Shark Attack!, as well as novelty items like an egg-laying toy chicken called Busy Biddy and the Giant Bubble Gun. Marvin Glass & Associates brought the world Mousetrap, Operation, and Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. Fishlove, meanwhile, produced some of the highest-selling lowbrow gags in the business.

What's making all that ruckus? A little clockwork motor, which Fishlove dubbed a "spring device to activate a novelty."

"The cool thing about Yakity-Yak is that it started just from seeing an ad," says Mardi Timm, who with her husband, Stan, has one of the foremost novelty-gag collections in the world. "These guys—Goldfarb, Fishlove, and Glass—were such geniuses. They would see something, and immediately turn it into an idea."

Yakity-Yak: 60 Years of Teeth That Talk Back