Before, during and after lunch with Michael Heath the other day, I felt the dawning of an idea which I would like to be involved with and which may well appeal to you in a South Bank context. Namely, The Death of the Cartoon. There are still some cartoonists left, but Michael’s habitual groaning about the lack of opportunity, lack of respect and lack of money which cartoonists get made me realise that, for once, he wasn’t just groaning – it was true. Even when you and I were lads, there were cartoonists who were household names – Giles, then Bill Tidy, Larry, Steadman, Scarfe, to name only the English ones. We could even venerate French artists like Sempe, Bosc, Andre Francois…
No more. I challenge the average young art lion to name any fine young cartoonists. They don’t exist. Michael Heath said he thought that Richard Thompson is the best of the young guys, and I know who he means, but I bet most people don’t. The markets have dried up (Private Eye, Spectator, Oldie – not much else) and the concept has dried up. For a long time people would quote cartoon captions (curate’s egg, bang went saxpence, I keep thinking it’s Wednesday, and so on) and would talk about things in cartoon terms (a Thelwell horse, a Searle St Trinian’s girl, a Pont situation) but not any more.
What do you reckon to the idea of a programme in which I went in search of the remaining great men (Searle is still alive – there’s Trog, Langdon, Larry, Tidy…) and tried to work out why the single cartoon is an endangered species? This is just an exploratory letter. I would be happy to suggest more ideas, and talk about it. I think I’d be a good guy to do it, because a)I knew most of the cartoonists via Punch b) I have done television and can handle it, c)I would like to get back on the screen before all my hair goes d)I am not a cartoonist myself and have no professional jealousies and hang-ups. We could leave those to Heath…
Let me know if you think it’s a good idea and which address you like to be written to at.
Oops, I never said, How are you?
How are you?