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Monday, 7 March 2011

A little laugh or two - and advice on how to be creative

My friend Daniel Roberts sends me a regular flow of cartoons, sample above, many of which give me a quiet smile. He has a style all his own as you can see - essential in a cartoonist - or in life, I believe.

Being funny to order is not easy, which may explain why so many comedians are miserable.

The late Frankie Howerd was such a moaner that his driver once told me he dumped him off at a motorway service station between London and Weston-super Mare, which is where he lived. Tony Hancock and Kenneth Williams both killed themselves. Spike Milligan alternated between being funny and downright abusive.

However, I recall many years ago having dinner at a table with his colleague Harry Secombe who seemed cheerful - he was laughing all the time. Bruce Forsyth sitting
opposite me said little but had appalling table manners. I watched in horrified fascination as he chewed away with his great gaping jaws wide open.

Sid Caesar's Show of Shows in the '50's was hard to beat. Comedy often seems unfunny in retrospect - but even over half century later I find his stuff with Imogen Coca hilarious. A friend of mine told me Caesar was utterly paranoid. He had a cupboard full of weapons in his house in case "they" came to get him. I should be so crazy: his writers included Woody Allen, Neil Simon and Mel Brooks.

The funniest man I ever saw in person was Ken Dodd, still going strong in his eighties, who sent me some links a while ago to sketches he admired featuring Jack Benny, whom I thought hard to beat. I had almost concluded that American comedians are funnier than British ones; then I recalled that Bob Hope, W. C. Fields and Stan Laurel - not to mention Charlie Chaplin, whom I also met - were born here.

I once saw Lenny Bruce who was so good I left his show with an ambition to be a stand up comedian. Another lost dream - though I feel I have the requisite amount of misery. Right now my friend Ales Lisac is having a go as I said recently. He always seems pretty chirpy, so maybe he should try more Slavic gloom.

Being funny takes a lot of talent, not always in great supply in advertising. Often it takes little more than one part ability to five parts bullshit. You can probably go easier on the talent if necessary: when I was a creative director I don't think I really worked more than a couple of hours a day.

This rather unkind thought crossed my mind as I read Australian Adnews, which pretty much convinced me that I am missing a few tricks when it comes to being creative.

One of my old proteges, Dave Nobay, is now creative chairman of a highly creative agency called Droga 5. As far as I can see he spends much of his time judging awards. To help him he has Sydney creative director, Steve Jackson and executive creative director, Duncan Marshall. They are clearly very creative as there is a photo of them in a bar.

Meanwhile Gavin McLeod, newly hired as creative director at THBW is "fiercely creative" maybe because he hasn't shaved for three days.

Must drink more (how is that possible?) and throw away razor.

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