Yesterday evening I was at the Cartoon Museum in London (just round the corner from the British Museum, but quite a lot smaller) to open an exhibition of the work of Martin Honeysett, one of the main illustrators for Dr. Fegg’s Encylopeadia of All World Knowledge. I wanted to find out why Terry and I had chosen Martin all those years ago, and turned to my diary for help (keep writing those diaries guys!) Well, it paid off! Reading my entry for February 15th 1974, I got a real shock.
“We have had meetings with cartoonist called Martin Honeysett, who has in the last year drawn some very funny, Python-like cartoons for Punch and Private eye. Terry was especially keen for Honeysett to be involved, as he had met him at a Punch party and taken a great liking to him. However, it turned out that Martin Honeysett had never met Terry in his life and was pleased, but a little bewildered, to get such an enthusiastic phone call from him. Terry, had in fact, met quite a different cartoonist.”
Terry’s mistake must have been divinely inspired as we got on really well with Martin Honeysett. He had a wonderfully weird imagination, enabling him to depict The Argentinian Leaping Cow and Badger, The Turkish Wall Goat and The Patagonian Shoe-Cleaning Rat in a way that Rembrandt or Botticelli would never have been able to get their heads around. And what great artist would even have attempted to tackle one of Dr. Fegg’s great recipes – Suet And Suet – whose ingredients were as follows : 6lbs of Suet, 24lbs of Suet, more Suet and finally, 31lbs of Suet.
Martin’s quiet, polite exterior hid a rewardingly tortured imagination. Most of his characters look pretty ghastly – ravaged, dark-eyed and sleepless. Even his rats have boils. Cosy living rooms and neighbourhood shops were transformed into dysfunctional hell-holes. With a flick of his pen housewives became screeching rat-bags and husbands became gawping morons. He was like an alchemist in reverse – turning gold into base metal.
Martin died, far too young, almost exactly a year ago, and it was fitting that the opening of his exhibition drew so many of his friends, admirers and fellow cartoonists. Seeing them all together was a reminder of what a proud tradition we have in this country of scurrilous, stroppy, subversive free-thinking humorists. Long may it continue.
You can catch the Martin Honeysett exhibition at the Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street WC1A 2HH until April 16th. And there’s lots of other wonderful work there too. It’s one if the few museums from which you’re guaranteed to come out laughing.
As for me, well the last two years have largely been spent looking back – and having a very good time in the process, with stage tours in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, and a Python Reunion – but now I’m really keen to do something new, to try something I’ve never tried before, to start pushing the boundaries again. Lots of exciting prospects, but nothing decided yet. Watch this space!
A very Happy New Year to all my readers! May 2016 bring something new and fresh for you too. Remember the Meaning Of Life – “Be nice to people, avoid eating fat, get some walking in and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations” As true today as when Python first came up with it in 1982!