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Spectator Article: the future of cartooning

July 30, 2020 in Comment, General

A rare mass-gathering of Private Eye cartoonists in 2013 (Rob Murray standing, 9th from right)

Rob Murray writes in response to Nick Newman’s Spectator piece (see previous post):

Nick Newman, one of the UK’s best and most prolific gag cartoonists, has written an article for this week’s Spectator about the challenges facing our art form. He very kindly gives me a mention.

It makes for sobering reading: the number of open-call outlets for cartoonists has dropped massively in recent years; meanwhile, younger artists seem to be dissuaded by the likelihood of rejection, or simply prefer the perceived glamour and relative accessibility of monetising their work through social media platforms instead.

These are trends I recognise. When I was starting out as a cartoonist in the 2000s, more experienced nib-wielders would often tell me how unlucky I was to have missed out on Punch (which had folded several years earlier) – a magazine that would publish dozens of gags per issue, often phoning cartoonists out of the blue to offer them a double-page spread on which to go crazy.

These days, Private Eye is the undisputed champion of gag cartoons in this country, and I’m delighted to be counted among its regulars. The Spectator and The Oldie also provide a fair few spots – and encouragingly, there are new titles embracing the art form, such as the recently launched Critic magazine.

The issue of young cartoonists coming through is a tricky one to solve – and something of a doubled-edged sword.

One of Rob’s first Spectator cartoons © Rob Murray

I sold my first cartoons to Private Eye and The Spectator when I was 26; I’m now 39 and I’m only aware of two – yes, two – cartoonists younger than me who currently sell to these magazines.

At the risk of falling into fogeyisms, the evidence does seem to suggest that younger artists are dissuaded by the demands of the job: it’s great fun, but can also be hard graft – and it can take many, many rejections before you even sell your first gag. When I started, I was working long hours in a ‘proper’ job – then spending late nights at the drawing board to meet self-imposed deadlines for work that would never be published. But without doing that, I would never have broken through.

At the same time, every cartoonist is fighting for their inch of white space in these magazines – do I really need some young star player rocking up and giving me a run for my money? In a word, yes.

Without new talent coming through and attracting the attention of the editors, even the most cartoon-friendly magazines might eventually run out of decent material, and give up on the gags.

And yet the audience for cartoons remains strong and enthusiastic. They are hugely popular with readers – and people are immediately intrigued when I mention what I do for a living.

A very early © Rob Murray from Private Eye

Like any artist, the cartoonist needs to adapt to the marketplace. It’s true that it can be difficult (if not impossible) to make a living by relying exclusively on the best-known publications. And even with fewer new cartoonists on the scene, competition for space remains fierce.

To some extent, I see these big-name magazines as my shop window – the place I can show off some of my best work, and reach a big audience. I then try and use those credentials to find well-paying jobs elsewhere – often by tempting the editor of a more obscure or niche title to add my work to their pages, when they’ve previously never even thought of using cartoons.

Instead of assuming the art form will become extinct on the printed page, we should all be finding ways to create our own markets and ensure that cartoons are here to stay.

Why does no one want to be a cartoonist any more? The lack of new blood doesn’t bode well for the industry’s future

July 25, 2020 in Comment, General

Written by Nick Newman for (and courtesy of) The Spectator with bonus cartoon content.

‘Nightmare!’ is how The Spectator’s cartoon editor Michael Heath has been describing cartooning for at least 30 years, but it’s truer now than ever. Eighty years ago, cartoonists were so celebrated that waxworks of Low, Strube and Poy were displayed in Madame Tussauds. Today, all that remains of Low is a pair of waxy hands in Kent University’s British Cartoon Archive. We are a vanishing species.

A © K.J. Lamb cartoon from Cherwell Magazine done during the time Kathryn was still at college.

There is a lack of new blood in the industry that doesn’t bode well for the future. When I was a student, getting published in Punch and Private Eyewas seen as the pinnacle of a career in humour. Many tried —and succeeded — from an early age. K.J. Lamb was selling gags to the Eyewhile still at Oxford. Ken Pyne was published in Punch when just 16 — as was Grizelda in Private Eye. The FT’s Banx was also a Punch stalwart by the time he was 20. That was then. Now we are all middle-aged and there are few youngsters snapping at our heels. The last time six cartoonists met at a Spectator party we had a combined age of over 350. In a recent photo of Eye cartoonists, featuring 45 of the top names, only one was under 30.

Punch cartoon from 1983 by a youthful © Jeremy Banks

Yet there’s every indication that cartoons are as loved by the public as ever. They are tweeted, shared, posted on Instagram; they go viral and get printed out and stuck on fridges. Pocket cartoons, pioneered by Sir Osbert Lancaster in the 1930s, are a particularly British art form and one that is still prized. Editors place topical gags on the front pages of newspapers, a practice rarely seen in France, Germany or America.

So why the dearth of new cartooning talent? The simple answer is that the opportunities have narrowed. Since the death of Punch, the main outlets for freelancers are Private Eye, The Spectator and the Oldie — and competition is fierce. Private Eye receives more than 500 submissions per issue and publishes up to 50. Every newspaper used to have regular pocket cartoonists — now only a handful survive. In straitened times for print media, the cartoons are often the first to go. Many of us lost work when lockdown was announced.

Another problem is financial. Some publications haven’t raised their rates since before the fall of the Berlin Wall, while others pay as little as £50 per cartoon. Compare that with the New Yorker, which is reported to pay between $700 and $1,400 per gag, depending on the artist’s ‘seniority’. One British publisher once asked me: ‘If we pay more, will the jokes be any funnier?’ I wish now I had said yes.

It isn’t just the lack of money that’s deterring new talent. There is also fear of failure. Rejection is a way of life for even seasoned cartoonists and today’s snowflakes can’t cope with it. I recently encouraged a promising young cartoonist to try The Spectator, which he did with immediate success. I still warned him: ‘You will get rejected. Everyone gets rejected.’ After two issues of ‘no thanks’ he has abandoned cartooning.

We veteran cartoonists do try to encourage the next generation, although it’s akin to committing professional suicide. The Cartoon Art Trust’s Young Cartoonist competition — judged by Fleet Street cartoonists — receives 1,000 entries a year. We joke that the objective is to identify the talent and then break their little fingers, but we stupidly don’t, and instead celebrate new stars and extra competition. Former winner Will McPhail is now a New Yorker regular; Rob Murray draws for Private Eye and the Sunday Times; Ella Baron for the TLS. All were in their twenties when they won, which suggests the talent is out there.

© Rob Murray’s first cartoon in Private Eye.

Oliver Preston, chairman of the Cartoon Art Trust, thinks alternative outlets distract comic artists. Graphic novels such as Kingsman, which was turned into a successful Hollywood movie franchise, are a more enticing means of earning aliving. Also, the ability to self-publish online cuts out editors who say, in the words of Heath: ‘You are not funny, Mr So-Called Funnyman.’ Ruby Elliot is a young illustrator better known as ‘rubyetc’ on Instagram, where she has 277,000 followers. Through her website, she sells merchandise, artwork and subscriptions to her cartoons.

Jon Harvey, the creator of Count Binface (who stood against Boris in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat in the last election), is the sort of sharp-minded political gagster who in another era would have drawn up his ideas and sold them to publications. Instead, he puts his jokes on Twitter to boost his online profile. It’s quicker, the response is immediate and, as he quips: ‘The editor of my Twitter page is more likely to take it.’ The theory is that getting noticed online may lead to commissions for radio and TV. He describes the internet as a ‘Wild West’ of opportunities for those who know how to self-promote or nurture a following.

For those of us brought up on dead wood who still find magic in newsprint, it may be too late to grasp these opportunities. So we continue to live the ‘nightmare’. How long the nightmare continues remains to be seen.

With many thanks to The Spectator for allowing us to reproduce this piece.

You can see an item featuring Nick on this story from BBC Newsnight (around 37 mins in)

How to draw a virus: spare a thought for the Covid-19 cartoonists

June 9, 2020 in Comment, General

Written by Guy Venables originally for The Spectator (with a smattering of bonus content cartoons):

While stumbling the 30 yards from bed to work, the freelance gag cartoonist is usually trying to decide which of the hundreds of news stories to draw a hilarious cartoon about that day. It used to be one of the most difficult decisions of the morning. Now, however, that question has been replaced by “are there any new angles to be had from the one, same, monolithically large single news story of the decade?”

My mother, similarly, at the end of the second world war, asked her own mother whether the newspapers would keep going because, obviously, there would be no more news to speak of now the war was over.

Cartoon © Guy Venables

Cartoonists evolve, like finches, on separate islands and rarely meet. That said, in the first week of lockdown each of us imagined we were the only ones to think of the link between the “man on the desert island” visual cliché and social distancing, so much so in fact, that the Private Eye cartoon editor asked us all politely to go back to bed and try to think of something else. So we all switched our attentions to loo rolls and stockpiling.

Then Easter came around and we all individually sent The Spectator “Jesus being told to roll back the stone and get back in the cave.” Then we all drew Joe Wicks. Then baking. A new type of mental filtering process had to be adopted, and cartoonists aren’t good at “new” (although a strangely large proportion of us have been adopted. Some several times). A proportion of us decided to concentrate on non-topical cartoons.

Cartoon © Guy Venables

But as Pete Dredge asked us all: “Do we draw everybody two metres apart even if it’s nothing to do with Coronavirus?” We didn’t know for sure but decided against it, as it would use up too much paper.

As things progressed and the death count rose there was a shift from looking at the situation to looking at the virus itself. Attack the villain of the story as we always say (We don’t always say that but we COULD). But how do you draw a virus? Somebody drew the virus. It was round with knobbly bits on. Right. We all drew gags about round things and added knobbly bits so you could tell it was biting satire. Then Matt from the Telegraph did it better and we all went back to bed again.

In my own personal sphere, it was a problem of pretence that bothered me. Now that my wife was at home all day the withering truth was slowly dawning on her of just how little work I actually do. I spend the afternoon trying to convince her that a hammock is a legitimate workplace.

I think of an idea but realise Nick Newman has already done it in the Times. Then I realise I’d just read the Times.

Long gone are the cocktail parties and trendy gatherings to which the cartoonist is never invited. Now he must rely on his own wits and hard work. Having never done this before we revert to our standard emergency operation of copying old Punch cartoons and hoping nobody notices.

Cartoon © Guy Venables

Another angle is of course to throw withering scorn at whoever’s in charge. This can limit the people to whom one can send the actual cartoon. Politically it’s a good idea to choose a point right in the middle of politics and shoot outwards. That way, come the revolution you can pin your badge on whoever runs the firing squads.

Cartoon © Guy Venables

I draw a gag about Dominic Cummings that gets lots of likes on Facebook and go back to the hammock, blissfully unaware that an hour beforehand, from some distant garret, Banx had sent a similar but much better Cummings gag to the Financial Times.

With thanks to The Spectator for allowing us to reproduce the piece.

Infectious Laughter

March 31, 2020 in General

Cartoon © Pete Dredge

Naturally many cartoonists have been indulging in some sick humour whilst trying to cope under lockdown. These are from the bunkers of Procartoonists members, including the very funny and worryingly accurate Dredge cartoon above.

© Sarah Boyce

Of course most of us are used to working locked down at home. This is Sarah Boyce’s take on home working.

© Neil Dishington

It has even allowed us to revisit the cartoon cliche, well demonstrated here by Dish.

@ Jeremy Banx

The over-seventies are particularly locked up under lockdown. This from the FT by Banx.

© Guy Venables

And of course we can’t touch each other. This from the ceiling of the household of the great master Guy Venables.

© KJ Lamb

Another art inspired cartoon this from Kathryn Lamb for The Spectator. A bit too much face touching going on there too.

© Dave Brown

Naturally a little bit of politics is inevitable as Boris belatedly tries to hold back the tide. Here the ‘Cnut’ Johnson is rendered by Dave Brown for The Independent.

© Andy Davey

More on Boris’s effort on containment from Andy Davey….with a rather precient final frame.

© Steve Bright

In international news Donald Trump’s every pronouncement is – as usual – going viral, as perfectly illustrated here by Brighty.

© Roz Asquith

Roz Asquith takes a wry look at how some people might work from home.

© Rebecca Hendin

A public information strip by Rebecca Hendin for The New Statesman

© The Surreal McCoy

With people struggling to travel back to their own countries an archive cartoon from the Surreal McCoy seems very apt.

© Glenn Marshall

While you lot all worry about catching Covid 19 I’m in blind panic that I’m down to my last 250 toilet rolls!!!

© Tat Effby

This by Tat Effby shows the toilet roll I missed buying!

 

© Colin Whittock

Colin Whittock also concerns himself with the toilet paper crisis.

© Rupert Besley

Some distance learning from Rupert Besley.

© Wilbur Dawbarn

More spatial awareness. This by Wilbur.

© Andrew Birch

Birch concerns himself with how criminals are having to adapt now we’re all permanently at home and burglary is less of an option.

© James Mellor

On a more positive note this is James Mellor’s tribute to the key workers who are being overwhelmed at the moment.

© Royston Robertson

and here’s a VERY true cartoon by Royston for the Nursing Standard.

© Graeme Bandeira

Graeme Bandeira has been producing some wonderful and moving cartoons for The Yorkshire Post. This one has been shared particularly widely.

© Nick Newman

and finally applause to Nick Newman for this cartoon in The Sunday Times.

Thanks to the PCO members for allowing me to pilfer their work.

Remember folks to clunk, click every trip and always use a condom.

PCO Cartoon Review of the Year 2019

January 1, 2020 in General, News

Cartoon © Brian Adcock, The Independent

Glenn Marshall reporting from behind the paracetamol bottle:

Once more it is time to look back with the traditional (well, third year running) PCO ‘Cartoon Review of the Year’. It was always going to be a very hard task to not just fill it with cartoons about Trump and BORXIT® so in the end I just gave up and ran with it!

So to set the tone here’s a great drawing from © Chris Burke.

Martin Rowson sums up the plight of cartoonists facing a metaphor shortage in 2019.

I’m having to restock my Brex-mageddon bunker as most of my haul is now well past its sell-by date. I should’ve taken © Andrew Fraser’s Valentine’s Day advice in Private Eye and just bought tinned goods rather than Greggs vegan sausage rolls and doughnuts.

This © Colin Dukelow cartoon from Private Eye sums up what many felt about the ‘B’ word by the end of the year…probably by the beginning of the year too.

In March Brexit was taken off the menu for a few more months. Cartoon served up by © Mike Stokoe in The Spectator.

Moving on to April the heavily redacted Mueller report was released. Loved this cartoon by •••• in the •••••••• •••••

Illustration by © Steve Bright

In Sports News: May saw Liverpool ‘pipped’ (GERIT?) at the post for the Premiership title by the WONDROUS Manchester City. Eat that Klopp (the PCO strenuously denies any bias in their reporters) After coming so close I really can’t see Liverpool ever winning the Premiership! (Nosramarshall)

In June ‘stable genius’ Donald Trump visited the UK. © Royston Robertson shared this cartoon to mark the occasion. Really Royston could post this daily, or even hourly, and it would still be applicable.

In more Trump news: In July Trump told four Democrat congresswomen ‘go back to the places they came from’. This was Steve Jones’ lunar take on it tying in with the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. (Private Eye)

I loved this Boris arse-faced Mona in The Guardian by Steve Bell. No idea what the story was, but I’m a Mona Lisa obsessive. I’m writing this review, so I’m putting it in.

A lovely drawing of the Time magazine ‘Person Of The Year’ (cue FUMING Donald) Greta Thunberg by © Andy Davey from The Evening Standard

© Wilbur Dawbarn’s Greta-inspired back to school clothing range, product placed in Private Eye.

Retail News: In October it was announced that, following a spate of high street closures, Debenhams was facing financial difficulty. © Sarah Boyce may have put her finger on why with this Private Eye cartoon.

Back to climate change: © Kathryn Lamb had this seasonally adjusted cartoon published in The Spectator….

… and this inflammable Private Eye cartoon by Clive Goddard. Sadly this could be a current scene from the Australian Met Office.

A cartoon by © The Surreal McCoy from Prospect which could virtually apply to any of 2019’s news stories.

Cartoon by © Nick Newman, The Sunday Times.

In November Prince Andrew pizza expressed his views on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal to Emily Maitlis. I suspect he’s someone else who may shy away from being interviewed by Andrew Neil in the future.

On that subject here was a rather prescient cartoon by © Kipper Williams actually from a June issue of The Spectator!

Also in November Boris visited flood-hit Yorkshire mostly to gargle his campaign message. Illustration by © Rebecca Hendin for The Guardian.

And still on matters aquatic (and to mention someone other than Bojo) here is Dave Brown’s cartoon for The Independent of Jezco and Joswin getting their campaign messages across…or not.

©Zoom Rockman in Private Eye visits the polling station.

As we head into the New Year here’s another excellent cartoon by •••• from the FT showing you can get new life out of a cartoon metaphor Mr Rowson.

© Brian Adcock, bookends the year with this offering from The Independent.

So what fresh horrors will 2020 have in store? I expect A LOT more about him, him, and more him!

Thanks to Procartoonist members for the use of their cartoons.

Happy New Year from the PCO.

Cartoon Museum re-opening

July 8, 2019 in Events, General, News

Clive Goddard writes:

Spread over two nights last week, so that the maximum number of people could turn up, London’s new Cartoon Museum opened its doors and let a few highly important guests have a good gawp around. The glamorous Cartoonerati turned out in force to see the newly renovated (if not quite finished) museum which has moved to a large basement in Wells Street, Fitzrovia. 

It was one of those rare hot and humid days in the city which tested the air-conditioning to its limits and reduced most of the attendant humans to sweaty, ink-stained wrecks. However, there was cold wine provided as well as unidentified little things on plates and a communal defibrillator to keep everyone conscious. Speeches were made by Oliver Preston, new director Becky Jeffcoate, our own Steve Bell who had selected and hung the artwork for the show, and Baron (Kenneth) Baker of Dorking (the 84 year old politician not the bloke who used to trundle around inside R2-D2).

The new museum has the same floor area as the old one but is now all on one level and has a safer, cheaper lease so it should be safe for a while yet.

Gerard Whyman, the PCO’s trusty lens-man (©The Sun 1974), came all the way from Newport and took these photos. Which was nice.

 

Nick Newman perusing the comics gallery.

Museum director Becky Jeffcoate being very amused by Mr Goddard’s colonoscopy anecdote.

A sun-bronzed Glenn Marshall pretending he drew the Hogarths. (Ed: What do you mean pretend? Hogarth’s and my work are virtually indistinguishable!)

A cut-out Kate Charlesworth enjoys a glass of fizz.

All photos © Ger Whyman

NB If anyone has any good pictures of Opening Part II let us know and we’ll add them.

by Royston

Remembering the cartoonists’ cartoonist

April 14, 2016 in Events, General, News

Honeysett Roundtable

Royston Robertson writes about taking part in a tribute to the late Martin Honeysett at the Cartoon Museum in London:

Martin Honeysett is described by Bill Stott as “the cartoonists’ cartoonist” in a foreword to the excellent A Taste of Honeysett book that accompanies the current Cartoon Museum exhibition. So it was fitting that a bunch of his fellow inkslingers got together this week to pay tribute to him.

The event was organised to tie in with the last week of exhibition, a career overview of the work of Honeysett, who died very suddenly after a short illness in January 2015.

I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in the roundtable discussion along with Ken Pyne, Jeremy Banks and Nick Newman.

Charles Peattie, who draws the Telegraph strip Alex and Celeb for Private Eye, and had come as an audience member, was also persuaded to take part and share his appreciation of Honeysett. The museum was actually spoilt for choice as a sizeable number of the audience at the well-attended event were fellow scribblers, proving the truth of the cartoonists’ cartoonist tag.

Honeysett cartoon

“God knows what they teach them on those Government Retraining schemes.”

For an hour we discussed the unique art of Honeysett, a genuine one-off in the world of cartooning whose work is often seen as cruel or brutal but is, we all agreed, essentially truthful. And very funny, of course.

We also shared memories of Honeysett himself. Ken Pyne told a story involving Martin, the cartoonist Michael ffolkes, and a very large cake. Ffolkes, and the cake, came off worst. Nick Newman shared a cartoon Martin drew of the three Private Eye editors at the magazine’s 50th birthday party, which can be seen here.

The floor was then opened to the audience and many favourite cartoons were discussed.

All in all, a fitting tribute to Honeysett, who is sadly missed not just for his cartoons but for his good company. The cartoonists retired to pub next door, happy in the knowledge that had Martin been there he would have been utterly embarrassed about the whole thing.

A Taste of Honeysett runs until Saturday 16 April

Martin Honeysett at the 2014 Herne Bay Cartoon Festival

The cartoonists’ cartoonist: Martin Honeysett, summer 2014

From the dusty PCO blog archive, here are a couple of articles written by Martin Honeysett:

Teaching cartooning in Japan
If you are Oldie enough …

 

by Royston

The Round-up

May 22, 2014 in Events, General, Links, News

It’s time for another cartooning news Round-up and we kick off again with a few busy Procartoonists.org members

From The Good Psychopath's Guide to Success © Rob Murray

From The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success © Rob Murray

Rob Murray has illustrated a new book called The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success by Andy McNab and Professor Kevin Dutton (above, left to right).

“Part of the idea,” Rob tells us, “is to get across the message that while people immediately think of serial killers and axe murderers when they hear the word ‘psychopath’, it actually covers a wide range of people and some — like McNab — are functioning ‘good’ psychopaths.”

There’s more on the book at the Telegraph and Mail Online.

Wilbur Dawbarn appeared on Sunday Brunch on Channel 4 and showed hosts and guests how to draw Billy Whizz. You can see the show on 4oD here. Will appears at 22 minutes in and at 1hr 7mins. The show also features comics expert Paul Gravett talking about the exhibition Comics Unmasked.

Nathan Ariss at Studio 106

Nathan Ariss at Studio 106

Studio 106 in Hove is holding an open house every weekend in May, from 11-5pm, as part of the Brighton Arts Festival. Nineteen local artists including the cartoonists Grizelda and Procartoonists’ own Nathan Ariss, above, are showcasing their work and method of working. The studio is at 106 Coleridge Street.

The South China Morning Post cartoonist Harry Harrison, probably the most far-flung of Procartoonists members, celebrates 20 years in Hong Kong with a look back at his favourite cartoons.

In an edition of the Resonance FM show Panel Borders, Tom Sutcliffe talks to Nick Newman, cartoonist and editor of Private Eye: A Cartoon History, and the magazine’s editor Ian Hislop about the Eye’s most memorable and controversial cartoons.

Voteman is coming!

Look out: Voteman is coming!

Feeling apathetic about this week’s European elections? Think again! The Danish parliament decided that Voteman, a cartoon packed with sex and violence, would bring more voters to the polls. It later withdrew the video, but nothing ever dies on the internet and you can watch it here (but be warned!)

Over in the US, the New York Post dropped its comics page. Tom Richmond has something to say about that.

Pat Mills, creator of Charley’s War, talks to the BBC about the epic comic strip and argues that the First World War was the “first sci-fi war”.

The annual Observer/Jonathan Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Competition (they really need a catchier name) is now open. The deadline for entries is 26 September.

Finally, you’ve heard of mini comics, well Forbidden Planet has details on the world’s smallest comic strip, which is drawn on a human hair.

The Round-up

November 10, 2013 in General, Links, News

© Mike Williams @Procartoonists.org

In the wake of recent disappointing decisions elsewhere in the mainstream press, it’s encouraging to see cartoons being celebrated this week in a major newspaper. The Independent is the latest to provide coverage of Private Eye’s new retrospective cartoon book, and PCO members feature prominently in the article, which includes quotes from Nick Newman and is accompanied by classic gags from Ken Pyne and Mike Williams (above), among others. Read the article here.

Bob Mankoff, The New Yorker’s cartoon editor, reveals the exhaustive lengths he and his staff go to in order to ensure cartoons used by the magazine bear no similarity to ones already used.

The latest Asterix book – and the first without co-creator Albert Uderzo wielding the pen – has launched to strong sales. Meanwhile, on this side of the Channel, Stephen Collins has received a nomination for his graphic novel, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, for this year’s Waterstones Book of the Year. Hear from Collins and fellow strip cartoonist Tom Gauld in this video from the Edinburgh Book Festival.

Comic strips, of course, are nothing new – but cartoonists are always finding new ways to approach them.

 

Opinion: People love cartoons,
so why let them go?

October 13, 2013 in Comment, General

Cartoon by Tony Reeve

Private Eye cartoon © by the late Tony Reeve

Nick Newman, cartoonist, PCO member and editor of Private Eye: A Cartoon History, writes for the Procartoonists.org blog:

The sound of 1,000 people laughing out loud at cartoons from Private Eye: A Cartoon History left me feeling elated as I departed from the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

The town hall, the largest venue in town, was packed to the rafters by a sell-out crowd of unlikely Eye fans on a Monday afternoon.

The demographic was definitely more staid than I’d expected, and I wondered how some of the Eye’s more risqué gags would fare on the big screen. I needn’t have worried. Alexander Matthews’ bishop saying of his choristers “God, it’s like everyone I’ve ever slept with is here!” raised the roof, as did Tony Reeve’s little girl saying to woman washing up “Mummy, why are your hands so soft?”, ” I’m twelve”.

Afterwards, the audience was fulsome in their praise and voted with their wallets by buying stacks of books. The story was the same at the Henley Literary Festival, the Soho Literary Festival and the National Theatre. People love cartoons – and not in a wry, chucklesome sort of way; in a roaring boom of belly laughter.

My euphoria was short-lived – returning to London to hear that four of my cartoonist newspaper colleagues had been axed for budgetary reasons. Two of these were the same cartoonists whose work was met with such a rapturous reception on the literary circuit.

Times are, of course, very hard for print journalism – hacks too are being laid off in their droves – but at the same time that newspapers are shedding freelancers, the online departments are desperately looking for ways to enliven the dull, digital, monotonous “swipe-me” editions.

There, the backlit cartoons look bright, cheerful and vibrant. But cartoonists have to be employed in order to do the job and getting rid of exclusive visual content surely can’t be the answer to attracting digital readers.

A week of contrasts left me feeling that the game is up for print journalism, if the demands of the digital age have left papers so strapped for cash that they can’t afford humour and creativity – assets desperately in short supply on Fleet Street.

And if newspapers let them go, it will not be because readers don’t appreciate them.

They do. I’ve heard them. In their thousands.

Editor adds: Many thanks to Nick. He and Ian Hislop, the Private Eye editor, will be doing another talk at the V&A on 19 November. He suggests that anyone wanting to hear how much people like cartoons should go along.