I’ve never been able to draw, although I have written a few cartoon gags. Mostly I just see them and enjoy them. Here, in no particular order, are some of my favourites.
When I saw the Will McPhail cartoon below in the New Yorker, our daughter Alice was halfway through her art degree. The career prospects for art graduates being what they are, I could envisage a similar conversation with her a few years ahead. Note the furious father and the gently concerned mother. Perhaps it was inspired by the reaction the cartoonist received when he announced his intended career to his parents.
Tony Husband is a superb cartoonist, and his The Yobs strip has appeared in Private Eye for over thirty years. His cartoons often feature amiable, ordinary chinless characters crashing through social norms:
He has also written Take Care, Son, an educational and heartbreaking cartoon book telling the story of his father’s dementia. My favourite of his gag cartoons is this gem: I like to speculate on the nature of the customer’s dispute.
Richard Jolley signs his cartoons RGJ. This classic from 2014 is beautifully simple:
My Forgotten Moments in Music History partner Will Dawbarn, professionally known as Wilbur, has been drawing outstanding gag cartoons for years. This is one of his best:
Wilbur can pack a political punch, as with his environmentally themed Eco Chamber series in Private Eye, or this recent cartoon:
Here is a link to a brilliant Ray Lowry cartoon from Punch in 1987 which will strike a chord with anyone who has paid a heavy price for corporate incompetence and seen more senior and blameworthy employees escape unscathed.
Another powerful comment on the realities of corporate life – this time from a feminist angle – comes in this 1988 Punch cartoon by Riana Duncan, which unfortunately hasn’t dated at all:
Jeremy Banks has been gracing the pages of the Financial Times with his pocket cartoons since 1989, using the name Banx. His jokes come from the political left, and it reflects well on the FT that it has presented his sometimes uncomfortable wit to its well-heeled readers for over three decades. Banx has a gift for nailing stupidity and hypocrisy with the simplest of jokes.
Many of his drawings have featured the same middle aged couple in a period living room – they didn’t get a flat-screen telly until about 2014. Another common framing for his jokes is the wife explaining her husband’s topical but eccentric behaviour to a friend. A cynical reader might think that Banx could get away with recycling some of his artwork. But his genius is the perfection of the caption, like this one published in June 2016 after the Brexit vote:
Perhaps the most successful British cartoonist is Matt, the pen name of Matt Pritchett. He has been the resident cartoonist at the Daily Telegraph since the late 1980s, and his jokes are always good-humoured and funny. His first cartoon for the Telegraph was the day after the newspaper was printed with the wrong date, and the editor requested a cartoon to accompany the front page apology.
He can find a cracking joke every working day of his life.
Here’s another brilliant New Yorker cartoon, this one by Charles Barsotti – in case you ever wondered how Fusilli is regarded by his pasta buddies:
Let’s finish on an absolute classic: this one by Paul Crum, which appeared in Punch in 1937. Not everyone gets it.