IN MY DREAMS, I write comedy scripts with Stephen Fry …
… shadow box with Mike Tyson and sleep with Lulu. In reality, I write comedy scripts with Lulu, shadow box with Stephen Fry and sleep with Mike Tyson. Reality really can be so much better than dreams.
It has often been said I was born with a pencil in my hand. I suppose this must have been more comfortable for my mother than being born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I was also born with the inability to take anything seriously. There is no cure.
My mother was Irish and my father is Greek. The Irish side of me insists that laughter is the best medicine and the Greek side keeps looking for how to make money out of it.
Caricatures of Colleagues
Throughout schools and colleges I annotated all my notes with cartoons and caricatures of teachers and fellow students. My first ever commissions were from a school colleague who would give me 5p (a not inconsiderable sum for schoolboys in those days) for caricatures of our colleagues. I was also continuously writing stories, comedy sketches, songs and ‘poetry’ (the quotation marks are my own – I can show you the receipt).
Carefully avoiding careers in brain surgery, particle physics and investment banking, I found myself in the art studios of various publishing companies producing magazines. Most memorable was my time in the UK offices of Marvel Comics where many secret talents were discovered in hot, sweaty darkrooms.
However, by the time I reached the art studio of the Australasian Express (now TNT Magazine) it became clear that I was not cut out for working for someone else and, unflatteringly, they all agreed. By mutual consent, my freelance career as a cartoonist and graphic designer was launched.
Several years followed of streetwalking the pavements of Soho seducing publishing companies, design companies and advertising agencies with my rapidly engorged portfolio. My cartoons began prancing about in newspapers, magazines and adverts as I continued to wedge my foot in the doors of London’s creative studios.
Thus, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, News of the World, The Week and the Girl About Town group of magazines suffered a distinct lapse in taste by succumbing to my hypnotic powers of persuasion during portfolio viewings.
Ever the polymath, I was also designing, editing and writing for a number of magazines for companies as diverse as Abbey National, Marathon Oil and Rolls-Royce.
Constantly brewing in the background was a marriage to the most wonderful woman in the world and the appearance of two great children.
Without my trousers on
Commissions to draw cartoons for books, websites, advertising campaigns and business presentations started flowing in. Many companies are so desperate for entertainment that they often book me to draw quick five-minute caricatures at parties, events and exhibitions. But I don’t sit on my laurels. Certainly not without my trousers on.
The disciplines of cartoons, writing and magazine design came stunningly together during the mid-nineties when I gave birth to Ha! (Humorous Arts) Magazine. Ha! was swiftly to become a unique hybrid of Punch, Mad and Private Eye. (More below.)
My love of humour led to the ‘Stand-Up Comedian’ period with my ‘Cartoon Poetry Act’. My own comic poetry accompanied by a flipchart of cartoons blew London audiences away. It was considered quite unique by some people and I was often gratified by the ease with which I could bring a house down (which accidentally included the curtains at one pub gig!)
As such, I co-founded the Poetry Shack which ran in the West End for four years, showcasing some of the best (and admittedly, the worse) performance poetry and comedy acts. These included Rob Newman, Phill Jupitus, John Hegley and Will Self. Running such a venue exposes one to such an unremitting flow of people’s streams of consciousness and is a surefire cure for any love of performed poetry.
The combination of all this plus the caricaturing merry-go-round led to constant anxiety and panic attacks in 2005. I was amazed to find myself getting the shakes and breaking out in a sweat at the thought of drawing people at a party.
Simplify, man, simplify
Simplify, man, simplify. The stand-up act was dumped and the oft-worn striped blazer consigned to mothballs.
And so it has continued, with the internet age consigning the practice of ‘showing portfolios’ to the moist recesses of nostalgia. Fortunately for me, I grasped the internettle early on and quickly saw the potential it offered for virtually free advertising along with its graphic display capabilities.
And this is where I am. Offering cartoons, caricatures and humorous writing for publications, websites, advertising, business presentations and on-the-spot at parties as a unique entertainment. And being alarmingly charming at the same time.
THE BIRTH OF CARTOONO!
AFTER MY PARENTS were slain by a viciously bad caricaturist at a party one night, I stood under the full moon in the graveyard of forgotten comics and swore my revenge on inferior cartoonists and unfunny performers.
Months of training followed. I pumped up my cartooning muscles and ran for miles every day from one caricaturing gig to another. Until, one day I was ready.
I had the skills, I had sewn my own lycra and spandex costume complete with silly glasses to protect my identity. All that was needed now was a name. What should I call myself?
It was late at night, as I sat at my drawing board when, as if in omen, a stray cartoon came flying in through the window.
“That’s it!” I cried. “Window! I’ll call myself ‘Window’! “
My wife’s tired voice reached me from the sofa where she reclined.
“I think Cartoono! sounds better…”
And that’s how I became Cartoono! with a website full of cartoon and caricature galleries, information and, of course, the ever-present blog.
BACK IN THE mid-nineties, Punch magazine suffered a hiatus. This wasn’t as desperate as it sounds, as MohamedAl Fayed picked up the pieces a few years later and gave it a new lease of life for a few final years before it was finally laid to permanent rest.??During that yawning gap, I was inspired to get together with a few friends and try to publish our own humour magazine. The theory was, to review all the humorous arts and pin it all together with funny articles, cartoons, satire and topical jokes.
We produced five issues over twelve months and distributed them, on foot, around London’s independent newsagents. The sales rate reached 40% by the fifth issue. Two major publishers came to have a look to see if they could turn it into a mainstream newsstand magazine. Both were scared off by the perceived difficulty of selling advertising.
So, I had to stop spending money on it but we could all see that we had created a unique and enjoyable humour publication. It had become a bit of a hybrid between Mad, Punch and Private Eye.
Several attempts to launch it on the web were started with great enthusiasm, but all were eventually doomed by the technical difficulties of updating material.
Now that Wordpress has made it so easy to produce and maintain sites in a very-near magazine style, we see the latest incarnation of Ha! Magazine
A big part of the plan is to eventually archive all the paper magazine stuff online for posterity. This is happening. Another target is to produce something new every day and have a weekly satirical cover to compete with and hopefully outdo Private Eye’s often exceptional offerings.
See the latest issue of Ha! Magazine here!
MY LATEST venture in an attempt to marry the concepts of cartooning with celebrity has been a thoroughly enjoyable project and one which is being brought to the attention of TV producers even as you read this. Watch this space.
IN CASE YOU haven’t noticed, this section is here to draw your attention to the fact that I am a writer as well.
Many London-based magazines have had heir pages besmirched with my humorous prose. I wrote a spoof problem page for one magazine under the female pseudonym Cressida Forthright-Maine. This proved so popular that I received a love letter from a Polish plumber in Turnham Green. I don’t think a comic writer really needs any greater credentials than that.
But behind all the humour and laughs is a skillful creator of the well-edited paragraph and an eagle-eyed trapper of the redundant phrase with a keen aversion to repetition. With a keen aversion to repetition.
As Linda Mattacks says: “When we met up yesterday, he took some copy I’d put together and swiftly and surgically removed all the unnecessary rubbish.” Quite right, Linda.
My poems have been published in weighty poetry journals with readerships consisting of the poets published therein and their cats and I have had short stories published in magazines and in More Tonto Short Stories
As an incentive to myself and others to keep writing, I set up The London Writers’ Group which ran for several years.
IF you would like me to do some writing for you or you have some dull copy which needs an injection of liveliness and, perhaps, humour, LET ME KNOW!