Why humour is so important in the creative world
At February’s Nicer Tuesdays, we explored the role of humour in the industry with illustrator Min Heo and Blink Industries’ head of comedy, Charlie Perkins.
Tuesday evening wasn’t like any other Tuesday evening. The second Nicer Tuesdays of the year brought us laughs and dollops of insight as we welcomed two new speakers to the online stage. At the beginning of this year, we changed the format of Nicer Tuesdays to make it more succinct yet in-depth at the same time. Now featuring two speakers talking around a specific theme, on Tuesday, we hailed illustrator Min Heo and Blink Industries’ head of comedy Charlie Perkins to discuss the importance of humour in the creative world.
At a time where we could all do with a few more laughs, February’s Nicer Tuesday provided us with exactly that. From the story behind sassy kittens and comically self-reflective rabbits, to a lesson on how to commission funny tales for TV, Min and Charlie shed light on two very different aspects of how humour plays a role in their work.
First off, we heard from Min who dialled in from the Bay Area to discuss her delightful and chucklesome four-panel comics. Taking us through her character development, colour palette and, importantly, how she injects humour into a comic, the illustrator fulfilled her ultimate goal of spreading a little cheer and making people happy through her joyful work.
Next up we met Charlie Perkins, the London-based producer and current head of comedy at Blink Industries. If you were wondering what such an interesting-sounding role involves for the industry-leading production company, tuck in below to find out more about what Charlie does and how she is challenging comedy in turn.
Min Heo (Copyright © Min Heo, 2020)
Blink Industries: Progress episode of Off The Air for Adult Swim (Copyright © Adult Swim, 2020)
“It’s all about taking time to absorb my life, doodle and turn them into a story.”
Since graduating eight years ago, Min Heo has been illustrating funny stories and characters for a variety of outlets. Well known for her undoubtedly cute and silly works which are cheerfully light hearted, you may have seen Min’s work in the likes of The New Yorker, Vogue and The New York Times. With a number of established clients, Min also takes stock of her life by turning everyday observations into four panel comics; an ongoing process she spoke of during February’s Nicer Tuesdays. The illustrator likes to keep it light hearted, and explained how any kind of situation from a YouTube video to her sister unapologetically remarking on her cuteness, can become the inspiration for a comic.
Comics weren’t always Min’s cup of tea. She tells us that as a strong willed nine-year-old, Min abandoned the comic arts lifestyle for a while as the young illustrator “refused to do anything I wasn’t good at.” Luckily for us however, she went back to the medium when she discovered it was an apt way to communicate her sense of humour, something she still does to this day. Obsessed with “anything small cute and fluffy,” Min combines the two: humour and her unequivocal style which never fails to put a smile on one’s face.
Discussing her process, Min’s sweet spot of inspiration comes when she feels zoned out. When she has an initial idea, she quickly jots it down and then explores the idea in various iterations. In this instance, which she shared with us on screen, Min took us through how a passing line in a conversation led her to imagine a snake in high heels. As the idea developed through a number of sketches – each one as hilarious as the next – Min revealed how she pushes ideas through illustration which consequently often result in the fully fledged story for a comic.
After discussing the pros and cons of creating work for Instagram which saved her from being “a starving artist”, Min offered some advice on how to create a successful comic. “Keep the ending unexpected and build that up until the end,” was one tip for creating a successfully funny comic. Other than that, playing off your own sense of humour is another good shout. In a talk full of entertaining comics, useful anecdotes and technical pointers, Min’s take on the importance of humour was one to remember.
Min Heo (Copyright © Min Heo, 2020)
Min Heo (Copyright © Min Heo, 2020)
Comedy can challenge our beliefs by holding a mirror up to society
Charlie Perkins had been surrounded by comedy for a while before becoming head of comedy at Blink Industries. She started out by producing live comedy sketch shows at university, taking the up-and-coming shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and went from there. In a career peppered with radio, scripted comedy, commissioning and more, the London-based producer opened her Nicer Tuesdays talk with a whistle stop tour on how she’s ended up where she is today. In her career to date, she’s developed a niche avenue of comedy that’s seen her flourish in her role today, an unconventional kind of comedy which centres art school grads who make really funny work, but not necessarily in the traditional sense.
Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is a unique example of this, the hit cult comedy show produced by Charlie and her colleagues at Blink Industries. Discussing the importance of this show and how it brings something “distinctive in its attitude and tone” to the British comedy circuit, she said: “It feels important that we can work on things that are allowed to be different and that can take creative control.” Citing the importance of artists being able to do their own thing without being moulded into something else – something she’s experienced before while working at more bureaucratic companies – Charlie’s role as head of comedy gives light to unique forms of humour expressed through authentic artwork.
Another example of this is Off The Air, the latest in the Adult Swim series and guest curated by Blink Industries which is as disturbing and surreal as you might expect. Featuring dozens of artists which are no stranger to It’s Nice That including Nadia Lee Cohen and Raman Djafari, Charlie discussed the making of this episode and how “to be distinct and to have creative control on what you’re putting forward.” In projects such as this, it’s often about finding a balance between what you’re putting forward while offering something new too. A “dream job” for Charlie, she took the Nicer Tuesdays audience through the ins and outs of putting a show like this together, and touched on the value of comedy which can often challenge us, the same way all good art does.
She shed light on how she sees the balance between light and dark in humour and how to strike it in a show. Other topics she touched on include how to tailor different comedy peoples’ work into a coherent show, the craft of comedy and how it operates in society, how humour seeps into everything we do and can act as a mirror to society, and last but not least, the difference between humour and comedy. Charlie and Min’s talks will be available to view in full in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned to watch the full talks if you missed it, or if you want to rewatch them again.
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