Author Topic: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....  (Read 9532 times)

Offline Rob Baker

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''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« on: January 07, 2014, 10:52:40 PM »
.....is a quote taken from this very interesting article from 'The Herald', a Scottish newspaper, from 31st March 1990.

Characters behind the cartoons
by Tom Shields

OVER the pool table at the Station Bar, Kingskettle, Fife, two men are hard at work. No, it is not a high-stakes game between two of the kingdom's hustlers.

The chaps are Roger Kettle and Andrew Christine and, in between potting spots, stripes and the black, they are concocting some of Britain's consistently funniest cartoon strips.

Kettle and Christine produce Beau Peep for the Daily Star, Mildew for the News of the World, and A Man Called Horace for the Daily Mirror and Daily Record.

They have also produced a large number of one-off cartoons.

Their work features in an exhibition, See Glasgow, See Culture, which opens at Glasgow's Kelvingrove art galleries tomorrow. The show is sub-titled The Scottish Cartoonist Show 1990, which is just as well since Kettle and Christine live respectively in Newport-on-Tay and in Cupar and their spiritual home is Dundee. But any show of Scottish cartoonists, even to celebrate Glasgow's culturebash, would not be complete without Kettle and Christine.

Let us go back 20 years to D. C. Thomson's bustling comic empire in Dundee. Andrew Christine has been turned down for art school because he does not have a Higher English to match his Higher art. He is working on the Topper producing illustrations and cartoons for the letters page.

Roger Kettle, a Glasgow Highlander (he left the big city to live in Dalwhinnie when he was five), has applied for a job as a journalist with D. C. Thomson. He enjoys writing, particularly jokes, and can think of nothing apart from journalism for which he might be qualified. Sorry, said Thomson's, we have no jobs for journalists, but would you like to write for our comics? ''It was like a shaft of light,'' says Kettle. ''I could get paid for making up jokes.''

Thus Kettle became the boy in the bubble, the alter ego of such star names as Beryl the Peril, and a colleague of Christine on the Topper.

Those were the days when the Topper was tops, selling 300,000 copies a week. Kettle and Christine found themselves encouraged to work together on some of the comic's whackier excursions by Ron Frame, editor of the Topper and a man to whose memory they feel obliged to hoist the occasional pint.

They went freelance in 1975 and concluded that the best way to generate some regular income was to get into the comic strip market. There then followed almost two years of rejection, hard times, hard work, perseverance, and much discussion, over games of pool, as to whether they would ever make the breakthrough.

When Kettle came up with the idea for Beau Peep, even Christine, his own partner, said: ''No. Let's think again.'' But Kettle persevered, persuaded Christine, and they set to work creating the world of the Foreign Legion anti-hero, based ever so loosely on Beau Geste.

The strip was then rejected by almost every newspaper and magazine in Britain. It was a time of some despair for Roger Kettle: ''I knew it was the best I could do.'' The self-truth was matched by self-confidence. Kettle and Christine plugged away with Beau Peep, all the while scraping a living by writing football stories for comics and any other work that was going.

Eventually, the Daily Star conscripted Beau Peep and, within a matter of weeks, it began to develop an appreciative public.

The Kettle line in jokes and themes is simple and unpretentious; it does not rely on topical news but remains fresh. Beau Peep is an anti-hero. A coward in the face of adversity, an intellectual giant in a land of intellectual pigmies.

Suffice to say that Kettle and Christine, supreme journeymen of the cartoon strip trade, now find themselves in great demand. Their current handsome contract for Beau Peep was signed over champagne at Stringfellows club in London.

Their latest oeuvre, a Man Called Horace, is also beginning to gain notice among aficionados of cartoon strips. It is a wild Wild West saga filled with irony and anarchy. It is derived from a whole series of individual western cartoons which Kettle and Christine produced in their early days for men's magazines. Many of them are unmentionable in this family newspaper; others barely so.

A friend, fan, and former colleague of Roger Kettle in the Dundee fun factory had this to say about his sense of humour: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool.'' Having seen him in action, his friend must mean he is precise, skilful, elegant, and confident while at the same time giving the impression that he is random, ordinary, casual and unassuming.

''He is half a yard ahead of the rest of us when it comes to jokes,'' adds his pal. Andrew Christine says: ''He is quite simply the funniest writer I know.''

Christine, the artist, comes in for equal praise from Kettle. ''Andrew's drawings are works of art ruined by my feeble jokes, especially the large-scale cartoons we used to do for the men's magazines. Andrew does a wonderful biblical sky.''

It should be said that when they are not praising each other on the record, they specialise in giving out plenty of stick over the lager and lime and 80 shilling ale.

They may never approach the vast wealth of, for instance, the cartoonist Schulz, who makes $65m a year out of merchandising Peanuts. Or maybe they will. As Andrew Christine says: ''We're very big in Sarawak and up-and-coming in Hong Kong.''

Offline Sandy Buttcheeks

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2014, 12:04:04 AM »
Interesting article, Rob. Wonder if he'll enlighten us on the Stringfellows section of the story?   ;)

Offline Tarquin Thunderthighs lll

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2014, 01:52:13 PM »
He probably won't.. or can't. I was there, and I don't recall very much, other than Roger handing out cash he'd been given by the Star... for drinks...

Great article, Rob, and ever so accurate, especially the description of the way Roger plays pool.
I apologise, in advance.

Offline Roger Kettle

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2014, 05:41:02 PM »
This happened back in '87. For some strange reason, The Star had arranged a series of Beau Peep events at Pontins camps around the country. These involved Andrew and I judging Beau Peep-themed fancy dress competitions, signing books and being photographed alongside page 3 girls who were all wearing Beau Peep t-shirts (a dreadful hardship).This is where we first met Rob Baker---he turned up at Weston-super-Mare, dressed as a camel! I also believe he nicked a life-size Beau Peep cut-out that had been tied to the front gate for publicity. The rascal.
Anyway, the final leg of this...ahem..."tour" was a party in Stringfellows, which was surreal, to say the least. All the bar staff were wearing the aforementioned t-shirts and the decor of the whole place related to the strip. We were given loads of free tickets so we invited lots of friends like Tarks to join in the fun. It was, I believe, a fine night.
The bit about signing a new contract over champagne is a tad exaggerated. The Star had a new editor and, because he was aware that the strip was almost out of contract, talked to Andrew and I about getting it renewed before we fled back to Scotland. We signed it the following day in his Fleet Street office. In those days, The Star actively promoted Beau Peep and we were made to feel an important part of the paper but times have changed. It's probably been 15 years since an editor spoke to me. The cost-cutting climate in newspapers today is such that everyone keeps their head down and simply gets on with their own job.
It was bloody good fun while it lasted, though!

Offline Tarquin Thunderthighs lll

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2014, 06:09:41 PM »
I remember Pepsi & Shirlie being there... and Lloyd Honeyghan, I think... and some woman called Maria Whittaker who was very big back then... and some strange bloke dressed as a camel, lurking in the shadows...

It was indeed an epic party, especially for those of us who'd rarely strayed beyond the bricht lichts o' Broughty Ferry before then.
I apologise, in advance.

Offline Sandy Buttcheeks

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2014, 09:31:54 PM »
I remember Pepsi & Shirlie being there... and Lloyd Honeyghan, I think... and some woman called Maria Whittaker who was very big back then... and some strange bloke dressed as a camel, lurking in the shadows...

It was indeed an epic party, especially for those of us who'd rarely strayed beyond the bricht lichts o' Broughty Ferry before then.

Oh you swine, Tarks. Well, that's my '80s dreams stolen. You breathed the same air as Maria Whitaker? She was huge back then...well, she certainly was in the life size poster of her (and Suzanne Mizzi) that I had.   :-[

And Lloyd Honeygan? Loved watching him box.

I was 19 back then, and old enough to drink. You could have called.   :(

Offline Roger Kettle

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2014, 10:38:50 PM »
Sandy, there is (for us) a famous story about Maria Whittaker concerning that night. A pal of Andrew's from Fife turned up at the do, wearing the full Highland get-up---kilt, sporran, the works. His name, honestly, was Sandy and at 6ft 4" was an impressive figure. Anyway, Maria spotted a photo opportunity and snuggled up to Sandy and asked if he wouldn't mind having his picture taken with her. (The event was obviously being covered by Daily Star photographers). Now, at that time, Maria Whittaker was one of the most famous models in Britain. Sandy, however, had just arrived and, at that stage, hadn't managed to take advantage of the free bar.
"Come back when I'm fired up, lass" was his now-legendary response.

Offline Sandy Buttcheeks

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2014, 11:14:16 PM »
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I am typing this with tears running down my face. Only a Scot could knock back a top model for a beer. I would love to know what she thought about getting sidelined for a free bevvy.

 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

Superb.

Offline Mince

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2014, 07:36:30 AM »
talked to Andrew and I about getting it renewed

Andrew and me  ..0

Offline Tarquin Thunderthighs lll

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2014, 09:18:50 AM »
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I am typing this with tears running down my face. Only a Scot could knock back a top model for a beer. I would love to know what she thought about getting sidelined for a free bevvy.

 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

Superb.

She wasn't happy. Cost me two cider-and-Babychams from Roger's free money before I could get a smile from her, and by that time Andrew's pal was all fired up. Curses!
I apologise, in advance.

Offline Sandy Buttcheeks

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2014, 09:42:14 AM »
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I am typing this with tears running down my face. Only a Scot could knock back a top model for a beer. I would love to know what she thought about getting sidelined for a free bevvy.

 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

Superb.

She wasn't happy. Cost me two cider-and-Babychams from Roger's free money before I could get a smile from her, and by that time Andrew's pal was all fired up. Curses!

Two cider-and-Babychams? I could have afforded her. Why does life mock me so much.   :'(

Offline Rob Baker

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2014, 06:19:13 PM »

This happened back in '87. For some strange reason, The Star had arranged a series of Beau Peep events at Pontins camps around the country. These involved Andrew and I judging Beau Peep-themed fancy dress competitions, signing books and being photographed alongside page 3 girls who were all wearing Beau Peep t-shirts (a dreadful hardship).This is where we first met Rob Baker---he turned up at Weston-super-Mare, dressed as a camel!
All that effort dressing up and I never won a prize. Gave me the right hump that did.

I also believe he nicked a life-size Beau Peep cut-out that had been tied to the front gate for publicity. The rascal.
I prefer the word 'liberated'.  They were good though  --  wonder what happened to all the others? There's only 2 left in this shot:


Offline Rob Baker

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2014, 06:45:18 PM »
I remember Pepsi & Shirlie being there... and Lloyd Honeyghan, I think... and some woman called Maria Whittaker who was very big back then... and some strange bloke dressed as a camel, lurking in the shadows...

It was indeed an epic party, especially for those of us who'd rarely strayed beyond the bricht lichts o' Broughty Ferry before then.
Oh you swine, Tarks. Well, that's my '80s dreams stolen. You breathed the same air as Maria Whitaker? She was huge back then...well, she certainly was in the life size poster of her (and Suzanne Mizzi) that I had.   :-[

And Lloyd Honeygan? Loved watching him box.

I was 19 back then, and old enough to drink. You could have called.   :(

You should have entered the competition Sandy   ..0




Offline Rob Baker

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2014, 06:48:49 PM »
I remember Pepsi & Shirlie being there... and Lloyd Honeyghan, I think... and some woman called Maria Whittaker who was very big back then... and some strange bloke dressed as a camel, lurking in the shadows...
It was indeed an epic party, especially for those of us who'd rarely strayed beyond the bricht lichts o' Broughty Ferry before then.
I think I posted this before Tarks, but here's the camel.

Offline Sandy Buttcheeks

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Re: ''Roger writes jokes the way he plays pool'' ....
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2014, 09:08:28 PM »
I just read the small print. Maria Whittaker AND Suzanne Mizzi were there. It would have been like my bedroom wall coming alive.

My poor broken heart.

 :'( :'( :'( :'( :'( :'( :'(

I may not be able to post for some time...I'm just stepping out.