Art & Design Magazine

It Could've Been Me...

By Karl @cartoonistdiary

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Matt's look at Brexit

I already had a blog post for today, but when I saw the British Daily Telegraph's headline this morning, I had a change of plan.
Today, their daily pocket cartoonist Matt celebrates 30 unbroken years of brilliantly masterful political cartoons.

I like most people who have been a fan of this gentle, humorous and wonderfully witty cartoonist, cannot help but fall in love with his work. And to have kept up the high standards that he has set for himself for so many years is, in itself, an achievement that so few are able to attain. I, like many other cartoonists, read his daily doodlings in awe, and on more than one occasion I have openly wished that I had 'thought of that one'. A feeling I am sure that has been shared by many another professional cartoonist.
I guess the beauty of Matt's work, for me, is in the fact that unlike so many of his contemporaries he doesn't set out to offend, but chooses instead to gently mock. I have never known him to be outwardly acerbic but instead chooses to make his point with taste, tact and wonderful, wonderful wittiness. To my mind the only other cartoonists to achieve this have been Giles of the Daily Express and Mac of the Daily Mail.
But did you know, it could very well have been me?
Let me explain.
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30 years ago I was living in a shared house outside London and trying to break into the UK mainstream national press. I had been pounding those streets, once a week, for what seemed like an epoch when one day I made contact with a delightfully helpful lady called Chanel Macamara. Chanel was the cartoon editor of the Daily Telegraph Syndicate. She had reviewed the small package of comic strips I had left with her office and liked them enough to put them into a development programme.
Part of the deal was I had to produce 100 comic strips, which was their way of proving I wasn't just an eighteen strip wonder. It was a lot of cartoons, but this was a big chance. A seriously big chance, and I was going to grab at it with both hands.
Anyway, to cut a very long story short, the phone, that everyone in the shared house used, was cut off due to the landlord not paying the bill, and at some point between my last trip up to London, and the phone being cut off, the editors of the Daily Telegraph contacted Chanel at the syndicate and said they desperately needed a pocket cartoonist for their front page and could she recommend someone. Chanel said we have just the guy for you and immediately set about contacting me, sadly she called me on the day that the phone was cut off.
When she couldn't get hold of me via phone she began ringing around the pubs, shops, restaurants and any kind of business they could think of that may know me, leaving messages to contact them urgently: they could not stress the importance of the word 'urgent' more if they tried.
Sadly for me I had no idea about these storms that were crashing around in my name as I had locked myself away in my flat and was ploughing through the 100 comic strips that were required; trying to beat the deadline given me and trying to prove how trustworthy I could be.
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By the time I completed them and went up to the syndicate's offices, the Daily Telegraph had given up waiting and made alternative arrangements in the form of Matt.
It would appear that for the sake of an unpaid phone bill, it may have been me that was being celebrated this week. Me that would've had a cherished career working in the national newspapers and me who would've driven into work every day with a huge stupid grin on my face that never would've faded.
Of course I am aware that if my situation had been a Hollywood movie, the ending would've been a lot more magical with some kind of cautionary note as I arrived at the syndicated offices just as the editor was going to call Matt. The phone would've gone down and I would've been awarded the plumb job; my landlord would've been a Russian agent who would've recalled to Moscow where he would've ended his days filling salt sellers in Siberia; the syndicate editor would've been a love interest whom I would've married and had a plethora of kids with and lived happily ever after in a modest mansion in the Hollywood hills.
Instead I missed out on a dream job that was taken by possibly the greatest editorial cartoonist this country has ever seen and who has spent the last thirty years doing a far better job that I ever could.
So I think with all things considered, the world got the Hollywood ending it deserved, not the one I wanted.
Congratulations Matt, all your accolades are well earned and your work is not only inspiring but exemplary and I bow to you.

All cartoons © 1988-2018 Matt of the Daily Telegraph

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