COLUMN: Gumby’s v. Shakespeare’s is battle for the ages

Both are tasty, though.

Mark Curtin is a Senior Film Studies and English major at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about local issues for the Maneater.

Scarcely a week goes by where I don’t eat Gumby’s Pizza. Unhealthy, certainly, but oh so delicious. Shakespeare’s is the darling Columbia pizza locale that gets most of the attention, but it can’t hold a candle to the home of the Pokey Stix™. The free cups are really good, to be fair, but Gumby’s has too much going for it. Free magnets I can stick on my air conditioning unit? Yes, please. Really, who doesn’t need a tiny Gumby staring at them all night long?

Of course, knick-knacks are merely cheese on the crust for the considerate connoisseur. Most important is the taste. While this is impossible to scientifically compare, informal sources (i.e. myself) claim Gumby’s boasts a thicker, doughier crust than Shakespeare’s. Shakespeare’s is also more generous with the toppings in my experience, though whether or not one likes these things is a matter of personal preference (though some may beg to differ).

Menu diversity is another important factor. Both locations offer a baseline of similar products: pizzas, garlic cheese bread and salad. This comprises Shakespeare’s entire menu – “It’s the pizza, stupid,” as the tagline proudly reads. There’s nothing wrong with doing a few things well, but varied palates may prefer Gumby’s, which also solicits hearty appetizers such as wings, pepperoni rolls and mozzarella sticks. This is in addition to their calzones - folded pizzas with a flair you can’t get just anywhere. Gumby’s also boasts five sizes of pizza compared to Shakespeare’s three.

Wait time is also crucial. I admit to this again being anecdotal (some website should really compile such things), yet I have been to Shakespeare’s downtown location only to find its line out the door. This mostly occurs during Welcome Week or a big football game, but it still normally takes upward of half an hour for my order to come in. Gumby’s, on the other hand, never has a significant wait, and I don’t understand how that’s possible. Regardless, I’ve never had to sit for more than 20 minutes for my order … though I sometimes find myself sitting longer, considering the booths are infinitely more comfortable than Shakespeare’s hard, wooden seating.

Finally, branding. This one isn’t even a competition. No offense to William Shakespeare, but his legacy is spread pretty thin nowadays. You could see his face on a bar of soap and not bat an eye. A green Claymation nightmare and his talking horse sponsoring pizza is a different story. I’ve often asked the employees whether their usage of the character is legal, at which they shrug (it is, though it wasn’t at first. Gumby creator Art Clokey was invited to the quasi-legal original Gumby’s in Gainesville, Florida, with which he was so impressed he gave the owners access to his character for 100 years).

Perhaps the best pizza in Columbia shouldn’t be a competition. Both locales (and others, such as Pizza Tree) contribute to our city’s unique atmosphere, and diversity in eateries is never a bad thing. I’m eminently happy to visit either fine establishment… though there’s no question which I go to more often.

Edited by Bryce Kolk | bkolk@themaneater.com

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