A man’s sitting in front of a PC. His wife’s looking over his shoulder at the screen, which displays the words “ME ME ME ME ME ME”. “I’m just updating my blog”, he says.
OK, it’s not very funny the way I tell it. But when I saw the cartoon in Private Eye, coffee came out of my nose.
I love cartoons – good ones, that is. Not dreary smugfests such as Fred Bassett, or the used-to-be-funny Garfield, or the everybody-in-the-world-gets-it-but-me impenetrability of Doonesbury. I mean the comedy bombs of The Perry Bible Fellowship, the bile of Steve Bell, the profanity of Get Your War On, the one-shot gutbusters in Private Eye or the inspired lunacy of Gary Larson.
I like Gary Larson so much that I nearly put myself in hospital carrying the two-volume Complete Far Side, which weighs roughly the same as a house, around a Mancunian shopping centre for two hours. With hindsight, I should have bought it on the way out of the shopping centre, rather than immediately on arrival. Still, it was worth it to see my favourite cartoon of all time lovingly reproduced on thick, glossy paper (a man visits a doctor’s surgery with tiny cow heads growing all over him. “I’m sorry,” says the doctor. “You’ve got cows.”)
Other than in newspapers, though, cartoons are thin on the ground. Private Eye runs them, of course, but that’s still largely a current affairs title; it’s a similar story with the Spectator and the other heavyweight news analysis titles. In the world of consumer magazines, though, cartoons are a rarity. Edge runs a strip on the letters page, and PC Format ran an (ill-advised, I reckon) strip featuring one of its own journalists (nooooooo!!!!!), but that’s about it.
Cartoons are particularly thin on the ground in my neck of the woods, the tech sector. I don’t think it’s because technology can’t be funny (Private Eye’s managed to get good mileage from iPod jokes, such as an orangeman with an iProd) or because tech doesn’t have characters (Jobs, Gates and Ballmer are crying out for the Steve Bell treatment). So there must be some reason. Maybe it doesn’t fit with the glossy, high-tech sheen of the tech press, or maybe it’s because publishers don’t think cartoons are worth the money (although you can say more in a one-panel cartoon than in a seven-page feature sometimes). Maybe it’s because good cartoonists aren’t interested in the tech sector. Or maybe it’s because the readers aren’t interested.
Or maybe it’s a combination of all of these factors. Can anyone shed some light?