I think I’m quite funny. Most people think they’re quite funny. But there’s a cavernous leap between making your mates titter in the pub with that Sea World anecdote and being funny every day, making a living out of being funny and having to be funny to a deadline. That’s why my respect for cartoonists is so high, and some of the best are collected together in this brilliant new book, Private Eye: A Cartoon History.
Edited by Nick Newman, it includes more than 1,000 examples from across the five decades of the satirical magazine’s existence. It’s interesting that while some cartoons from the 1970s say are still easily able to raise a smile, others are bafflingly other-era.
In his entertaining foreword Nick reveals that the Eye receives about 500 unsolicited cartoons every couple of weeks, and as such: “Rejection is the glue which binds rival cartoonists together – and the experience which defines us as a breed.”
The book not only fetes the best examples of the Eye’s cartoons, it also charts the changing nature of the art form and (by extension) the changing nature of magazines’ role over the past half a century.
Nick also tries to dig into what makes a great cartoon; it comes down he believes to charm.
“The great thing about cartooning, for some of us, is that you don’t have to be able to draw particularly well. Some cartoonists are true artists, but many are self-taught, and one of the most highly-paid scribblers draws stick-men. But what you do need is charm – and that unifies the Eye’s cartoonists. However the bleakness of the sentiment, however sick the joke, if it’s delivered with charm you can get away with it – and with only a handful of cancelled subscriptions. "
Private Eye: A Cartoon History is available now.