Ken Pyne: You can pay £300 to find out how long you’re going to live, which is ridiculous. How can you meet your death that’s funny? Well, what is there? Somebody being murdered perhaps? Well, a man murdering his wife isn’t funny, but a woman murdering her boring husband is.
I would have started in the mid 70s when Richard Ingrams was editor. I didn’t get that many in until Ian took over. Then when Ian took over I had a regular thing about the BBC which ran from about ’85 until a year ago. So I was in it virtually every issue.
So I send it through to Tony Rushton and wait to see if they like it.
I used to draw cartoons all through school. I managed to sell to magazines and then to get the odd joke in the newspapers which enabled me to go freelance when I was about 19. As I say, it’s an extension of childhood. It’s like being a footballer, but with lots less money. That’s it, I’ve faxed it through and I wait to hear. Isn’t this interesting?
We get an awful lot of editors now who don’t have a sense of humour – they’ve had it surgically removed. That’s one of the things that’s great about working for Private Eye – they are genuinely funny and it is unusual. Editors are frightened of humour, they’re just frightened of upsetting anybody, which fortunately, Private Eye has never suffered from.
Tony Rushton: This is Mrs Thatcher’s toilet roll – there she is.
Ian Hislop: The topical stuff for this is that it’s a bad taste Glastonbury - death with her boots on, wandering about. I quite like that – someone had to bring their son to the protest because the school’s closed … it’s quite funny.
Nick Newman: One of the problems is that a lot of cartoonists are all thinking about the same issues and the same areas, so inevitably you come up with the same sort of jokes.
Ian Hislop: Not many people are going to come up with that one – the Pope sitting in gaol saying everyone’s innocent in here, pal. That made me laugh. Do you think that’s funny?
Nick Newman: Yes, that’s very good. This is a famous early Eye cartoon – that’s Macmillan in the Christine Keeler pose.
Ken Pyne: A published cartoon is a good cartoon because that’s what you’re aiming for. It’s very difficult when you think up jokes because you have to take into consideration the magazine, the editor’s sense of humour and the editor is the magazine. Most of the time your favourite joke is never taken. The one you think ‘that’s a great joke’, they never take.
Tony Rushton: (On phone) Good morning …
Ken Pyne: (On phone) Yes, oh fine, good. What size? OK.
Tony Rushon: Thank you very much, talk to you soon. Bye.
Ken Pyne: Just a simple pencil outline and now we fill it in. So very low tech and I’ve never found a better way because you can use some pens like these Rotring pens, which are very good, but it makes you actually draw too quickly and it doesn’t look so good. It’s nice to use these nice old mapping pens.
Nick Newman: The process is exactly the same as it has been since 1961, isn’t it? It’s just strips of copy which you cut out and stick down in some sort of shape for the magazine. I think somewhere here we’ve got … you can see here … here’s a page from, I would guess, the early 60s and it’s pretty much the same except in those days – these are Rushton cartoons, it’s all falling to pieces – but it was then just typed out and stuck on the page. Now it’s printed out and stuck on the page, so we’ve come a long, long way in 50 years.
Ian Hislop: Cuttings are fantastically popular – people love them. And I think most publications miss a trick. There are two sorts of jokes really – there’s non-topical jokes which are just about anything – dinosaurs, desert islands, lemmings, all that sort of … that timeless cartoonists’ world. And then just strictly topical jokes that come off the week.
Nick Newman: … In a shameless effort to put on readers, put Kate Middleton on the cover.
Ian Hislop: Let’s put Pippa on – but they’re on the back cover …
Nick Newman: That’s a good one.
Ian Hislop: That’s nice – that’s him literally turning into his dad there. Dad says stop hogging the limelight - Pater says stop hogging the limelight and she says stop meddling. OK, I shall put that in.
Ken Pyne: Now I just take the pencil marks off because when you scan it in every pencil mark comes out. That’s that and what I’ll do next is I scan it in – there it is – and now send it to Bridget at Private Eye.
On a press day you send it in the morning and you could wait around until probably about half past four and you’ll have til 5 o’clock to do it. You’ve got to draw them very, very quickly. If you’re doing topical jokes, the more pressure you’re under I find the more fun it is. You might get angry if anybody rings you up, but it’s stimulating to get something done when the odds are against you. It’s a bit like a drug.
Ian Hislop: So that’s a classic Ken Pyne unhappy domestic scene – sour and bitter … It’s a timeless joke of unhappiness. It’s what we’re about. Bringing a little bit of shade into people’s lives.
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