January is historically a dingy, cold and poorly financed month, so we thought we’d have a go at alleviating some of the misery by kicking off 2015 with a series of talks about Humour. And it bloody worked! We had four speakers who all employ humour in their work in wildly diverse ways to see if they could eke a few laughs out of our audience. And eke they did!
London-based sculptor Wilfrid Wood kicked off the evening explaining how he came to make his brilliantly weird and wonderful sculptures. It all started with a Christmas card bearing a banana. His revelation? “Well, bananas are slightly funny.” Wilfrid showed a series of early sketches depicting various lewd acts before moving on to a whistle-stop tour of his key influences, from the work of George W. Bush (terrible) to accidental humour in fine art by the likes of Sarah Lucas and Jeff Koons (much better). Explaining that he tries to achieve “wit” rather than straight-up jokes in his work – “who wants a one-liner on their mantelpiece?” – his presentation included his model heads of the likes of David Cameron and Putin, before moving on to his dog sculptures, which are truly like nothing else we’ve ever seen.
Next up was comics artist and illustrator Matilda Tristram, whose spectacular ability to find humour in the least likely situation proved itself last year when she discovered that she had cancer of the colon while pregnant with her first child. She documented the entire experience in Probably Nothing, a raw and poignant but also incredibly funny book. The process of making it wasn’t so much cathartic, she explained, “but while I was writing and drawing I wasn’t thinking about how frightened I was.” Anecdotes proffered included one about her mum’s inexplicable ability to fall asleep whenever and wherever she pleases, particularly if something especially stressful is happening, to overhearing comparatively ridiculous conversations between trendy Hackney types between rounds of chemotherapy. She also wrote a poem about the endless supply of pointless but exotically-named products you can buy at health food shops, which was as hilarious as it was relatable.
Shimmying back to our seats after obliterating the last remnants of Dry January with free beers we were met with the dulcet tones of Karl Toomey, an art director at our very own sister agency INT Works, to talk about some of his personal projects. These ranged from a weighing scale which offers your weight in celebrities rather than in kilograms or pounds – “we had to stop that when we got a cease and desist letter from Judge Judy. She was on there” – to a poster for an imagined 5-a-side football player named Gary Goals, which was plastered up around Shoreditch, and went viral shortly afterwards. “I bought a cheap SIM card, and when I turned on my phone Gary Goals had 150 answerphone messages. Holy shit balls! It totally kicked off! Gary Goals was a hit!” News of Gary went worldwide, and he received over 3,000 offers to play from all around the world, and more than two hours of voicemails.
Our last speaker of the evening was the inimitable Mr Bingo, who took great pleasure in the fact that he had been called in at the last minute when another speaker pulled out by renaming the evening’s festivities “Slightly Shitter Tuesdays.” He explained that his principle concern is in not taking himself too seriously, and ran us through some of his commercial work for the likes of Jimmy Carr – “the nice thing about working for funny people, I mean, Jimmy Carr is kind of funny, is you get to draw things like them drying their balls with a hairdryer.” He did the fastest ever recap of his Hate Mail project – “basically, strangers pay me to send them offensive postcards" – and swiftly moved on to a full-length rap extolling the wonders of stock photography, to rapturous applause. Nice one Bingo!
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