Probably no surprise here, eh? Cartoonist Rube Goldberg (born this day in 1883) first started doodling for the local papers in his native San Francisco before moving to New York in 1907. In very short order, he was creating several popular comic strips of his own, and famous for the crazy imaginary contraptions that still bear his name, and that kids still pay tribute to (whether they know it or not) when they play the game Mousetrap. In 1911, he started playing vaudeville as well, with an act that combined stand-up, fortune telling and drawing cartoons from audience suggestions. He worked the big time for a number of years. (For example, he headlined at the opening performance of the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, AL in 1914). Goldberg’s strips began to be nationally syndicated in 1915.
In 1930, he wrote the debut feature film of Ted Healy and the Three Stooges, called Soup to Nuts (yes, it does feature crazy inventions). (Incidentally, the movie is amazing–well worth watching). In the 40s, Goldberg graduated from strips to editorial cartoons. He passed away in 1970, long after having merited his own entry in the dictionary.
To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.