|Monday, March 2nd, 2009|
|Aesop Revisited by Willie Rushton and Christopher Booker
Mass-market satire magazines in America have tended to follow in the format established by “Mad Magazine”. Either because other attempts have been edited by the man Kurtzman himself, or because magazines like "The Realist" and "Monocle" were so below the radar that they didn't have much of an influence against the success of "Mad". "National Lampoon" was often a sort of half-way house, with lots of comics-oriented material.
“Mad” was the creation of comic strip artists, therefore its satire was either of other comic strips or relied heavily on the comic strip mode. The dense cartoon panoramas ("chicken fat") of Harvey Kurtzman in collaboration with Will Elder are probably the high water mark of this style.
English satirical magazines have always been more of a writer’s medium. Cartoons have either been big one panel editorial-style cartoons (Tenniel, Illingworth, etc), or else pocket and gag cartoons tucked away in the corner of the page for comedic relief.
Possibly the only English body of work to compare with Kurtzman and Elder for gag-crammed satire in a comic strip format are the “Aesop Revisited”s that appeared in “Private Eye”’s first couple of years. They were the collaboration of Christopher Booker with Willie Rushton. The drawings are obviously by Rushton, but he also contributed many of the detailed puns and jokes. The series stopped when Richard Ingrams ousted Booker from the magazine. They may also have been partly inspired by Ronald Searle's fantastic "Rakes Progress" series in "Punch in the mid 1950s.
En masse these "Aesop Revisted"s comprise a portrait of Britain where the leading cultural figures come from the traditional Establishment: politicians and writers, with a few actors and sportsman, and the newly emergent class of TV presenters, but no rock stars, or even youth/cult personalities. An other age, other mores.
#1 - Peter Cook - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/9026.html
#2 - Huw Weldon - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/8801.html
#5 - Arnold Wesker - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/8580.html
#6 - Arthur Christiansen - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/8291.html
#7 - Tony Hancock - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/8117.html
#12 - John Osborne - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/7759.html
#13 - Richard Dimbleby - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/7434.html
#14 - Sterling Moss - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/7237.html
#17 - Ian Fleming - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/6998.html
#19 - Peter Ustinov - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/6830.html
#21 - The Civil Servant - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/6460.html
#22 - Harold Wilson - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/6269.html
#23 - Winston Churchill - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/6070.html
#24 - Roy Thomson - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/5780.html
#25 - John Freeman - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/5413.html
#26 - Anthony Chevenix-Trench - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/5297.html
#27 - Olivier and Peter Hall - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/5030.html
#28 - Canon John Collins - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/4754.html
#29 - Cyril Wolf Mankowitz - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/4378.html
#30 - Oliver Poole - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/4218.html
#31 - Edward Heath - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/3920.html
The Authors - http://ukjarry.livejournal.com/9310.html
If you like these, why not track down Edward Sorel's "Literary Lives", in which an adept selection of fact adorned by high-spirited caricature results in some of the meanest and most elegant roughings-up of the likes of Tolstoy, Ayn Rand, Norman Mailer, Brecht and Lillian Hellman you could ever wish for. Ivan Brunetti did some potted biographies of Kierkegaard, Satie, Thurber, and Louise Brooks, although most of them read more like spiritual autobiographies of the Schopenhauerianally-morose Brunetti himself. Oh and Peter Bagge's recensions of the Founding Fathers are gloriously venal and petty. The "Popjustice Idols" books weren't bad either.
|Aesop Revisted - The Authors
from "Private Eye On London", 1962
Panel 3: Most of the journalists in the Aesops look rather Christopher Booker
Panel 4: "Beyond the Frayn" conflates the satirical revue "Beyond the Fringe" with the then popular satirist/journalist Michael Frayn
Panel 5: Weidenfeld was the publisher of "Private Eye On London"
|Aesop Revisted #1 - Peter Cook
"Private Eye" #1 - 9 March 1962
“Jonathan Crake” is Peter Cook. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Cook
Panel 3: “Will Ye no’ come Mac again”, inserts Macmillan into the traditional refrain ““Will Ye no’ come back again” -.i.e. not very satirical
Panel 5: Peter Cook opened a satirical nightclub, “The Establishment”. Sean Kenny was a fashionable designer, who had also done the sets for “Beyond the Fringe”. After his performance at “Beyond the Fringe”, Cook would do routines at “The Establishment”, hence Crake’s variation on “A funny thing happened to me on the way to the theatre”.
|Aesop Revisted #5 - Arnold Wesker
"Private Eye" 4 May 1962
“Ambrose Weskit” is Arnold Wesker
Panel 1: Cyril Connolly was the Grand Old Man of the “Sunday Times”. “O.E. Tie” – Connolly was an Old Etonian. He wasn’t a dramatic critic but his embarrassing support of Colin Wilson’s “The Outsider” gave him an association with The Angry Young Men which “Private Eye” picks up on here. The new “Kitchen Sink Dramas”. were supposed to replace old "Drawing Room Comedies".
Panel 2: “Colin Wilson swept here”. Heritage plaques used to state if famous person had slept there. Colin Wilson was famous for writing “The Outsider” while working assorted menial jobs and sleeping rough
Panel 3: speech bubbles allude to “Roots”, “Chicken Soup with Barley”, and “Jerusalem” - all titles of Wesker plays
Panels 5 + 6: "Centre For-Ward" is Centre 42, founded by Wesker with support of Trades Union Congress to bring art and theatre to the working-class
|Aesop Revisted #6 - Arthur Christiansen
"Private Eye" 18 May 1962
“Arthur Phillistine” is Arthur Christiansen
Panel 2: Lord Beaverbrook dressed as the masthead figure of the “Daily Express”
Panel 3: Each of the telephones is a direct line to one of Beaverbrook’s international residences. An adaptation of “Big Brother is Watching You”
Panel 4: The “Express” had indeed said there was no possibility of war only days before WWII.
Panel 5: Christiansen was cast as the editor of the Daily Express in the "The Day the Earth Caught Fire"
Panel 8: The questioning journalist looks like Christopher Booker
|Aesop Revisted #7 - Tony Hancock
"Private Eye" 1 June 1962
“Tony Halfcock” is Tony Hancockhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Hancock
Panel 1: “Never Closed” is the sign that used to appear over Soho strip clubs – between a pair of legs it means something rather different.
Panel 3: “Stop Messing About” was Kenneth Williams’s catchphrase on Hancock's programmes
Panel 5: Hancock’s film, “The Rebel”.
Panel 6: Hancock did indeed change his coats
|Aesop Revisted #12 - John Osborne
"Private Eye" #12 - 10 August 1962
“Osbore” is John Osbornehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Osborne
Panel 1: “There are no good brave causes left” is the cri de coeur of “Look Back in Anger”.
Panel 3: All the "success for Tynan" stuff is becuse the theatre critic Kenneth Tynan was a ferocious advocate of the new "Kitchen Sink Drama" of which Osborne was the leading figure
Panel 4: “The Entertainer” by Osborne. Olivier had been appointed the director of the National Theatre, which then existed only as a foundation stone on the Southbank.
Panel 5: “The World of Paul Slickey”
Panel 6: “Luther” – recycles an old joke about Luther’s constipation from a revue the writers of “Private Eye” took to the Edinburgh Fringe just prior to founding the magazine. One night Richard Burton made a cameo appearance in this sketch.
Panel 7: Pun on John Wain, another Angry Young Man of the 1950s.
Panel 8: “Plays for England” by Osborne.
|Aesop Revisted #13 - Richard Dimbleby
"Private Eye" 24 August 1962
Panel 4: Heritage plaques used to state if a royal had slept on the premises
Panel 5: Allusion to “The Flight of the Bumblebee”
Panel 6: Allusion to “Luncheon vouchers”
Panel 9: Refers to his sons David and Jonathan Dimbleby, who have followed their father into the more prestigious areas of TV news presentation
|Aesop Revisted #17 - Ian Fleming
"Private Eye" 19 October 1962
“Ian Phlegm” is Ian Fleminghttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Fleming
Panel 2: Fleming had been a reporter for the “Sunday Times”
Panel 3: Basildon Bond is a famous brand of writing paper. Russ Abbott played a recurrent incompetent spy character called Basildon bond in the 1980s
Panel 5: JFK was a famous fan of the Bond novels. The two books conflates Bond villains “Dr No” and “Goldfinger “ with JFK’s political enemies Castro and Goldwater
Panel 7: a “45” is a reference to a P45, an unemployment form. Fleming was accused of stealing the plots for one his later novels from a possible screenplay for one of the Bond films.
Panel 8: “Jonathan Rape” is the publisher Jonathan Cape
|Sunday, March 1st, 2009|
|Aesop Revisted #22 - Harold Wilson
"Private Eye" 25 January 1963
“Harold Willsoon” is Harold Wilsonhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Wilson
Panel 1: pipe dreams – ho ho: Wilson’s trademark was his pipe
Panel 3: short chap in front is Clement Attlee, the post-war Labour Prime Minister; large chap on left with side parting is Nye Bevan; chap on right with frizzy hair is Hugh Gaitskill, leader of the Labour Party during the Tory’s period in government during the 50s and early 60s
Panel 10: George Brown
Panel 11: and indeed Wilson, would later go on to lead the Labour Party and become P.M
|Aesop Revisted #23 - Winston Churchill
"Private Eye" 8 February 1963
“G.D.E.” = Greatest Dying Englishman, a variant on the traditional phrase, Greatest Living Englishman, Winston Churchill who would die within the next yearhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Churchill
Panel 1: Randolph Churchill, who was writing the biography of his father Winston Churchill. “Here beginneth the First War”, alludes to a suspected tone of sanctification
Panel 2: Tonypandy was the site of riots by miners in 1911, to which Churchill sent troops. “Tony Pansy” conflates Tony Pandy with the photographer Tony Snowdon not known for his rampant machismo. “Let them eat coke” conflates coke, a derivitave of coal, with Marie Antoinette's famous line
Panel 3: “Motor Cars are bunk” alludes to Henry Ford’s motto “History is bunk”
Panel 7: “Low Clouds Over Europe” refers to the cartoonist David Low whose heavily symbolic cartoons came with tags all over them
|Aesop Revisted #24 - Roy Thomson
"Private Eye" 22 February 1963
Roy Mammon is Roy Thomsonhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Thomson,_1st_Baron_Thomson_of_Fleet
Panel 2: Central shabby figure is Cyril Connolly
Panel 3: The new colour magazines the Sunday broadsheets introduced in the early 60s as circulation competition were known as “Coloured sections” hence this newspaper pun
Panel 5: holds a copy of the “Pilkington Report” on commercial Tv in the UK
Panel 6: Anthony Snowdon, the photographer with royal connections
|Aesop Revisted #25 - John Freeman
"Private Eye" 8 March 1963
“John Statesman” is John Freemanhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Freeman_(politician
Panel 2: “Woodrow Wyfront” is Woodrow Wyatt who would become a Labour MP
Panel 3: figure on left is Clement Attlee
Panel 4: Harold Wilson (left), Nye Bevan (right) and Freeman resigned over National Health Service charges
Panel 5: Freeman became famous as the out-of-sight interrogator on “Face to Face”. Gilbert Harding was a waspish Tv personality who famously broke down on the programme.
|Aesop Revisted #26 - Anthony Chevenix-Trench
"Private Eye" 22 March 1963
“Chauvinist Stench” is Anthony Chevenix-Trench. From a period when the appointment of the Headmaster of Eton was a national matter.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Chenevix-Trench
Panel 2: Pun on “Public school chap”. The Sunday Telegraph had the advertising campaign "The newspaper that fills the gap"
Panel 3: “Pearly Kings” (traditionally costumed cockneys) + Robert Birley, the headmaster of Eton prior to Trench
Panel 4: “High table” was where the senior tutors dined.
Pnael 6: refers to the Tv programme "Jukebox Jury", where panellists would decide if a new record was a "Hit" or a "Miss"
Panel 7: “wielding a cane with aplomb”. Trench had been the “Private Eye” writers’ schoolmaster and they were familiar with his nigh-psychotic beatings
|Aesop Revisted #27 - Laurence Olivier and Peter Hall
"Private Eye" #27 - 5 April 1963
Panel 1: In 1963 Olivier had been appointed as the director of the National Theatre, which then consisted on one foundation stone erected on the South Bank in 1949.
Panel 2: Hall's quote is actaully from Macbeth.
Panel 3: The prone figure with glasses and black hair is the theatre reviewer Bernard levin
Panel 4: refers to olivier's much younger wife Joan Plowright. The Lunts, other than sounding like a very rude word, were husband and wife actors.
Panel 6: Just prior to ascending to the National Theatre, Oliver had directed himself at the Chichester Festival in "The Chances"and "The Broken Heart" in 1962
Panel 8: Figure in distance far right with fringe is the provative theatre critic Kenneth Tynan