“Ya can join today!” “What? YAAAAAAAYYYYY!”
And so ended the opening credits to one of the most influential TV shows of my young life, so influential in fact that I took Rolf up on his offer and DID indeed join his Cartoon Club, getting myself a badge, signed photo and a quarterly newsletter in return. Ah, happy days!
Rolf’s Cartoon Club was unmissable viewing for my younger self, filled with cartooning tips, interviews with cartoonists and animators and a great mix of classic, Hollywood cartoons and other lesser known fare. It felt like half an hour dedicated especially to my interests, and I loved it. Rolf was like a gentle grandfatherly figure, except one who drew cartoons and made funny noises as he did so. He was awesome.
Rolf was a huge influence on my early cartooning days, not only from his Cartoon Club but also via his excellent books ‘Your Cartoon Time’ and ‘Your Animation Time’, fascinating, helpful guides showing youngsters like me how to draw and dispensing invaluable advice that I still find myself using to this very day. The cartooning seeds were already sown in my brain as a child, but Rolf helped them grow with his enthusiasm and insight, turning those seeds into strong, cartoony oaks (I may have stretched the metaphor a bit there, but you get my meaning).
So I was delighted so see Rolf receive the BAFTA Fellowship Award on Sunday, honouring the affable Australian’s contribution to television over the decades, ranging from Rolf’s Cartoon Time, his Cartoon Club, Animal Hospital and Rolf on Art (which I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the sniffy comments made by broadsheet columnists who seem to think that art was created solely for art critics).
Here’s Rolf accepting his well-deserved award in that warm, friendly manner which characterises all his work. Sadly, Rolfaroo couldn’t be there.
Congratulations, Rolf! And thanks for all the help.
IN AN attempt to add a bit of a variety to my seemingly endless stream of blog posts centred around my work for The Dandy, I thought I’d start throwing in some other bits and pieces here and there, sometimes comics related, but sometimes – like today – they’d be based around some of my other interests and fancies, such as comedy, writing, and books.
Happily, the book I thought I’d bring to your attention today ticks all three of those boxes. Hooray, job done! We can all knock off early.
What? Oh yeah, you’ll be wanting the review, then.
Mr. Lonely was a novel written by the late, legendary comedian Eric Morecambe, after his second heart attack made him consider slowing down and turning his talents from television performing to writing. It’s been out of print for about thirty-odd years, but was recently re-released by those fine folk at The Friday Project, giving Morecambe completists and fans (such as myself) a chance to finally read the novel.
The old axiom ‘write what you know’ holds very true with this book, as the novel centres around the misadventures of Sid Lewis, a working-class comic who starts off performing in the music halls and clubs, before landing a BBC gig that sees his career skyrocket. Sound familiar?
There is a lot more that will be familiar to fans of Morecambe and Wise throughout the book. The quips and gags can almost be heard in Morecambe’s voice (a man is described as looking ‘old enough to remember Madame Butterfly as a caterpillar’, another is described as talking ‘only to prove he’s alive’ for example). All that’s missing is a ‘wa-heeey!’, a turn to camera and some extensive glasses-waggling to punctuate them.
The jokes and occasional slapstick, along with a reference to Des O’Connor and a fleeting appearance from one of Morecambe and Wise’s producers, leave the reader in no doubt as to who the author is, but if you are expecting the book to bring you sunshine, then prepare yourself, dear reader.
For you see as well as being funny, the book doesn’t shy away from the darker side of showbiz, covering the trials and tribulations of working on the comedy circuit, performing to drunks in the dingiest dives imaginable. Sid himself is not an entirely sympathetic character either, cheating on his wife with a selection of girls he meets backstage or at Television Centre, and who is in possession of some attitudes that are, shall we say, less than politically correct . There’s also a fair amount of tragedy among the titters, all of which give the book a darker edge than one might have expected from a man who danced with Michael Aspel and who played piano badly with Andre Previn.
How much of the book’s content reflects an author who was increasingly disenchanted with the showbiz life we shall never really know, especially with so much of Morecambe’s DNA shot through the novel. Indeed, even Eric himself appears in one chapter!
However, perhaps that is to read too much into the novel. What we DO know is that the book is by turns tragic and comic, and throws a (sometimes) unforgiving light on the world of showbusiness. It’s a great read which maybe runs out of steam towards the end, in which some of the characters may be rather simply drawn and it’s possibly not for those who are easily offended, but overall I’d say it’s far from (wait for it…) ‘ruggish’. Ithankyew.
Now cue the song…
LISTEN UP, agents! I’ve a VERY IMPORTANT mission for you all – you MUST go to your nearest newsagents, and pick up the latest issue of The Dandy which is out TODAY, for it contains many, many hilarious comic strips that if you MISS will mean the END OF THE WORLD. Or at least you’ll have a much less cheery week.
I’ve got three strips in the latest issue, and as befitting a comic boasting a ‘Men in Black‘ parody on the cover (drawn by the wondrous Wayne Thompson), the first of these is my ALL-NEW MiB spoof, Cavemen in Black, which relocates the alien-busting antics to the stone age, and replaces extra-terrestrials with extra-large dinosaurs. I’ve had a lot of fun with it, primarily because I GET TO DRAW DINOSAURS. Hooray!
The second strip is another adventure for that pesky pensioner, Bad Grandad, who this week hits the Dandytown swimming pool where he causes more mayhem. Like last year’s pool-set Harry and his Hippo that I drew, I saw this as the perfect chance to sneak in a host of Dandy cameos, classic and new alike. Can you identify them all?
Then finally we come to the second strip for the conjuring calamity, Al Kazam (who also hosts the joke page, proving he really is magical by being in two places at once). This week, Al performs a trick that you SHOULDN’T TRY AT HOME, KIDS!
As well as my triple-whammy of terrifcness, there’s also more Desperate Dan by Jamie Smart, Mr. Meecher by Wilbur Dawbarn, Chronic the Hedgehog by Rick Eades as well as the all-new antics for revived classics Bully Beef and Chips (by Wayne Thompson) and the legendary Beryl the Peril, by the equally legendary Steve Bright.
So get to it, agents! The Dandy 3583 is out NOW for a mere £1.99. Buy it, or we’ll have to wipe your memory to help you forget your shameful error.
- Agent F.