• Karl

Girl Chat---Part II the trouble with being funny.

Like I said in the first Girl Chat post, cartooning had always been my dream and being asked to script a strip for a national newspaper was but half of that dream, but hey, half is better than none and there was always the future, right?

Because of the strips I'd already sent in the cartoon editor said they had enough gags for John Burns to be getting on with; but I should be ready to start writing fresh material when they called. They needn’t have bothered saying that as I’d been writing every day so far for the past six weeks, just to build up a back catalogue.

It was a good job I did. They called me about two weeks later and requested six gags. I dutifully did so and faxed them off. One hour later I got the phone call.

"Hi Karl, how are you?"

"I'm great, John, how are you? Did you get the scripts?

"Yes, they're great. Particularly loved the one about the double Gin's, oh and we all fell about over the silk nightie gag and Jane, our secretary, nearly chocked on her humas and Rivita when she read the bra size joke. Really great stuff Karl?"

I was beaming, "Thank you I'm..." then he broke in

"Of course, we're going to have to change them all."

"But to have them love what I’d written and then change it all into literary porridge, just made no sense."

I paused. Was I hearing correctly?

"I beg your pardon?" I ventured

"Yes. They're great, but we can't use them"

"I thought you said you liked them. There was no sex or bad language. No sensitive subjects. What did I do wrong?"

"You did nothing wrong." came the cheery answer "But we at the Mirror feel the gags needed a bit extra, you know, the Mirror way."

So not only had I not been allowed to draw my own cartoons, it would appear I wasn't going to be allowed to write them either.

Now I'm not a prima donna or precious about my art and writing. I know that what I do is seen as low art. I’m also aware that gags I think are hilarious may often receive a luke-warm response, while a last minute space filler that I am frankly embarrassed to put my name to, turns out to be a huge hit. But to have them love what I’d written and then change it all into literary porridge, just made no sense.

And it wasn't until a few weeks later, when I found my self recounting the tale to a professional writer, that he filled me in on a little industry fact:

‘You may write the idea,’ he said, ‘and you may create something totally original, but by the time the corporate bods have finished with it, sanitised it, washed it in a luke-warm bath, covered it in candyfloss and regurgitated it back out, you'll find the idea you have lovingly crafted over the years no longer resembles anything you'd ever written. In fact the moment these corporate neanderthals get their hands on your work, there's nothing you can do except watch it being torn apart by philistines on a payroll.’

He then went on to tell me a true story that illustrated his point perfectly.

Douglas Adams, the late, great creator of the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, had been approached by Hollywood to turn his little radio show into a big budget movie. Now although Douglas thought the humour of his show a little too far out there for an American audience, who were still, at that time, regularly sitting down to reruns of ‘I love Lucy’, he wasn’t going to turn down a Hollywood paycheck.

So his manager struck the deal, contracts were signed and a date was set for Mr. Adams to go state side and start working on the screen play.

When he got to LA international he was picked up by Limo and driven to the studio; pumped a thousand hands---all gushing over how excited they were to meet him and what an honour it was to have him in their little studio. He was then taken from the brightly lit, air conditioned offices, which gave onto views of gently waving Wisteria and taken down a windowless hallway with flickering overhead strobe lights. At the end was a door with a seat outside and on that seat sat a rather dejected looking man in a suite and leather satchel on his lap.

The door was opened and an office barely large enough to fit a desk and chair was offered to him. He was to sit there and produce 100 pages a day. When he finished each scene he would knock on the door, the man outside would open it, take the script, close the door and Douglas would carry on.

This went on for a few days until eventually Douglas's curiosity got the better of him and he asked where his scripts were going. The little man looked blankly at Douglas and said ‘To the writers’ room of course’.

It turned out that Douglas Adams had been hired to write the screen play which was then going to be sanitised and regurgitated into something not far from I love Lucy, in space. Needless to say, he stood up, dumped the typewriter in the bin and said I quit.

So I guess after hearing that if the great Douglas Adams wasn’t going to get his own way, then I, a mere nobody, stood not a hoot in hell's chance of getting a fair hearing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I did get a lot of my own material past them, but an awful lot more was sanitised into what can only be called I love Lucy in lingerie.

On the next Girl Chat post I will talk of the strips very sad demise and my forced three months in the wilderness after a very nasty little troll took it into his or her hands to upset the apple cart of my life.

Oh and my thoughts on Piers Morgan. See you then.

Finally, here's a selection of strips that they largely left as I had written them.

If you like what I produce here on Cartoonist Diary, why not subscribe and have all my nonsense send directly into your email box. And while you’re thinking of that irresistible offer, here’s a few more Girl Chat strips


All artwork and the written word are copyright Karl Dixon