One Christmas tradition I've always liked are the crackers that come with Christmas lunch. They especially bring out the kid in me.
I always loved pulling the end of a cracker with a family member, hearing the satisfying little bang, followed by the faint, acrid smell of gunpowder. Then there was the flimsy paper crown, the tacky nick-nacks and, of course, the little sheet of jokes. There were always lots of lame puns, which neverhteless delighted my boyish brain.
I think that yearly tradition led to my enduring fondness for puns, of which the above cartoon is a direct descendant. I hope it finds you having a very happy Christmas, filled with laughter and whatever traditions - religious or otherwise - give it meaning for you.
For me, it will be popping Christmas crackers with my family over Christmas lunch. Let's hope there are some especially good puns this year!
Have a killer Christmas everyone!
This cartoon - or 'startoon' as I like to call it – has been good to me. The original cartoon is not the one drawn above. It was first done in black and white, and has an interesting story.
I remember exactly where I was when I thought of it. I was stepping onto a train in Adelaide, going to work one morning in November 1997 and it popped fully formed into my head. When people ask me the question that most cartoonists get asked – ie. Where do you get your ideas from? - I mention this moment because it was one of those rare moments when the idea just arrives. Mostly it takes much longer than that, but I got lucky with this one.
It was first published in The Lutheran magazine that same year, and I also used it for personal Christmas cards. The response was great. Lots of laughs. Result!
This was also around the time I first got an email address. It was the days before Facebook and Twitter so funny stuff was sent via emails. It was cool one day to get a viral email from someone a saying 'Hey, thought you would like this cartoon!' Not often you can reply and say, 'Yeah. I drew that.'
A few years later, I submitted it to US magazine The Wittenburg Door (now-defunct, but at the time was popular as the "pretty much only" religious satire magazine around) which published it, making it my first internationally published cartoon. They also put it on their web site, which also made it my first cartoon published online.
A few years later again, I used it for my first solo published book, Gone Astray. I still get comments from people who read that saying it's one of their favourites in there.
Just last month I received a request from an church that wanted to use it for their weekly bulletin, so since it is the season, I thought it was high time for a re-draw. Hopefully it will bring a laugh or two again this year.
With one week to go till 'Christmehs', redrawing it has helped me start to get into the spirit of the season. In the spirit of that, you can – for a limited time – purchase a copy of my book 'Gone Astray: A Collection of (Sac)religious Cartoons by Jim' and get a second copy absolutely free! Click here to order. Eighty 'vintage' Jim cartoons (including the original of the Startoon) in one book, which has been nicely reviewed in a few places. Makes a great gift. :-)
I must admit, I feel a little ‘meh’ about Christmas.
It started when I was in my early twenties and worked in a Christian bookshop for five years. Every year we endured a month of non-stop Christmas carols that played throughout the working day, while we flogged off Christian Christmas crap to the masses.
On top of that were all the carols and official religious Christmas festivities at the church where I worked on weekends. My teeth still are set on edge when I hear some carols. There’s only so many times you can hear ‘Gloria in excelsis deo’ without starting to think up cartoons like the above to mock it.
I guess you could say I have love-hate feelings about Christmas, because while it does still drive me up the wall sometimes, I do still love it. I have great memories of celebrating Christmas as a kid, and the exciting time it was with presents and trees and honey biscuits and Christmas lunch with family as Handel’s ‘Messiah’ played in the background. We’ve got our own version of that in our house now, with the added joy of the temperate Kiwi summer and pohutukawa trees in full red bloom in view from our backyard.
So over the next few weeks, I’ll be getting into the spirit in the best way I can think of and posting some Christmas (or ‘Christ-mehs’) cartoons. Hope you like ‘em. And if you hear my teeth grinding in the background, don’t worry about it. I’m smiling through those gritted teeth.
Wow, it's been a busy week and weekend. Posting this cartoon a little later than usual as a result. It's actually one that I drew well over a decade ago and have spruced up a little here.
It's interesting to look at it again now after all this time. At the time I drew it, I think I was feeling a little like nervous Mr Jones here, hoping for some big break. I've definitely felt like the square peg more than once in my life.
But that's the thing ... I like square pegs. Tell me about a musician whose songs are not quite palatable for mainstream radio, and I'll want to have a listen. Show me a movie which doesn't adhere to standard Hollywood formulae, and I'll probably want to watch it right to the end of the credits. Introduce me to someone new, and I'll secretly be hoping there'll be something quirky about them that they'll be willing to share.
So, be edgy. Be niche. Be off the radar. Be a square peg. It's bound to be more exciting than just following the round-holey club.
Here's to not fitting in!
Hmm. What does it mean? Here's a hint, if you need it.
We're coming to the end of a couple of 'psycho' years at my house; or more correctly, a couple of psychotherapy years.
This week my wife officially finishes the full-time clinical training component of her Masters in Psychotherapy.
While she's actually been the one doing the course, we who were not – our son and me – have still been imbibed in the theory, the practice and the acronyms (so … many … acronyms!) so we feel like we've have become psychotherapy Jedi-novices along the way.
We are incredibly proud of her. Talk about a grueling course. The scrutiny that they (rightly) put psychotherapist trainees under seems the equivalent of being stripped naked and made to run through a gauntlet of angry clowns while being beaten with copies of the DSM-IV (a big, mother-gorilla sized book, for those not in the know.)
Now that the course is finally finished for this year, we've finally had time to watch together those TV shows that were studiously avoided in deference to her study.
So what show are we choosing to watch? The sharply brilliant HBO drama 'In Treatment' starring Gabriel Byrne. Series One is 43 half-hour episodes of dramatized psychotherapy. After four years immersed in it, I guess you could call us gluttons for punishment.
It's brilliant though. Seeing people getting to the heart of their issues on screen – essentially digging for the truth about themselves – makes for gripping viewing.
Those who know my philosophy of cartooning will know that I put a lot of stock in the ability of cartoons to reveal truth. In that spirit, I've dug back into my cartooning memory and brought the old 'toon above to the surface and given it a dust off and some colour.
I liked it when I first drew it, but think I understand the truth in it better now. However, the whole masculine/feminine side concept is explained and re-thought out a lot better than I could in this article from Psychology Today.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. That's damn right. I wouldn't want to be a psychotherapist, but my admiration for those who do – especially the one closest to me – is immeasurable and eternal.
This is why dogs shouldn’t listen to Coldplay …
The conservative US media, which seems to make the loudest noise - loud enough anyway to echo all the way to little old New Zealand - portrays the Occupy Wall Street protestors as having no clear message. Nothing could be further from the truth in my opinion.
I think their message is as simple as can be, and I've seen it encapsulated best in a cartoon. Not my silly take on the movement, as depicted above, but this one.
At last count, I think I've drawn at least three cartoons over the past three years mocking the bailouts, and the longer the OWS protestors aren't heeded, I'm sure it won't be the last.
So occupy away, occupiers. And make sure you occupy those Wall Street bathrooms too. If that happens, those who caused this whole thing might start to realize just how full of sh*t their greedy practices are.
Peace at last
The road was long, the journey was hard and the final victory painful, but sweet. It came down to just one point, but it was enough to secure the peaceful rest that so many Kiwis seemed to need. Now history will tell for all eternity, the All Blacks were Rugby World Cup Champions in 2011.
That is all.
Son of Jim
Cartoons by Jim features a special guest cartoonist this week. Please make way for a cartoon by Ari!
Those who know my son Ari will know he loves reading books and comics and often draws his own by himself and in collaboration with school friends. He writes great short stories and has even attempted to write a novel or two in his 11 years of age so far. He has also been assisting his dad lately with colouring the cartoons that appear on this web site. A couple recent examples of his work were this one and this one.
We gave him a drawing kit for his last birthday, and he's since been having a go at doing some gag cartoons.
It's been interesting to see him struggle with the creative process of communicating humor through drawing, and the frustration of when ideas don't seem to gel, or when a drawing doesn't go quite right. (That's something every cartoonist is well familiar with, and is something he'll continue to face.)
However, after some halting starts, and with a little help from me in drawing the panel frame, he came up with the above 'toon, which as his first published work, I think is a cracker. It does everything a cartoon needs to, and looks great. I'm very proud of him.
Well done Ari! You've got a great sense of humour and I love how you exercise it daily. Keep it up!
When it comes to the Rugby World Cup 2011, I've made it quite clear where my allegiances lie, so I won't reiterate that here.Needless to say though, New Zealand is gripped with a religious fervor (fever?) about the upcoming semi-final this weekend against the Wallabies.
I'll make no predictions on the result here, except to say that I'll probably resemble the poor guy in panel three on Sunday evening.
Until then, enjoy this cartoon. And enjoy the game!
I drew this cartoon in 2007. It was published in a local tech magazine, just as the iPhone was set to arrive in New Zealand. Consider it a small tribute to the legendary Steve Jobs, whose passing was mourned the world over yesterday.
The biographers have already noted his flaws as a human being, but his inspirational vision will remain an inspiration, especially for anyone involved in creative pursuits.
My favourite quote of his was, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” As a cartoonist, I try to take that advice every day.
R.I.P. Steve Jobs: 1955 - 2011.
I like to have my favourite old movies on as I draw. It helps me focus and makes the lines run straighter for some reason. Most often I put on Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong, but for the above cartoon it was Aliens, appropriately. Now there’s a movie that will never need a remake.
The above cartoon is a remake. I first drew it 20 years ago. (Click here for the original.) For years I considered it my best ever idea. You really can’t go wrong mixing sci-fi and toilet humour. As far as remakes go, it’s definitely topped the original. I have my son to thank for the superb colouring job.
Meanwhile, I turned 37 this week. As a birthday present to myself, I purchased the 20th Anniversary edition of Nirvana’s 1991 album ‘Nevermind’. I hadn’t listened to in full since 1993. Spinning it again after so long, I felt old and young again simultaneously. It still sounds as great as it did back then.
It’s good to know that some 20 year old ideas still work after 20 years. I’m happy about this cartoon. Sad about Mr Cobain though. He probably had lots more good ideas in him.
It's been a week of firsts. I saw 'Top Gun' for the first time. I gave blood for the first time. And I drew my first ever cartoon featuring a zombie.
All three activities were well overdue and - in their own unique ways - a little horrifying.
Still, I'm going to make sure I repeat at least two of these experiences as regularly as I can from here on. After all, the world needs blood. And cartoons about zombies.
As for watching that movie again, all I can say is, "Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full."
It’s official. Jim is now an award-winning cartoonist.
I found out today through the illustrious editor of Touchstone magazine, Paul Titus, that the above cartoon won the Bronze Award in the Humour category at the Australasian Religious Press Association’s 2011 awards that were held in Australia over the weekend.
Judges comments were as follows: “Topical, dry and very realistic. This ‘toon shows that working with youth will always take a bit of extra effort, and that being relevant doesn’t just come with keeping up with technology.”
Aw. Aint that special. Jim’s first ever award. Made me feel a bit fuzzy inside today, I must admit.
Thanks Paul! You’re an awesome editor. (Congrats too for your a Silver ARPA Award for the excellent feature article on Prostitution Law Reform.) It’s great to be able to cartoon for a church magazine that isn’t afraid to tackle the big issues so fearlessly, and still retain the ability to not take itself too seriously.
Ah, I love a good pun. Or a bad one. In fact, any joke, headline or turn of phrase that plays with words in a humorous way is almost always guaranteed to bring a smile to my face.
The above cartoon was one I originally did for a Halloween greeting card a few years back. It was commissioned on short notice, and all that I could come up with at the time.
I do like it, but I discovered not long after that the joke had been done before and, not surprisingly, in a variety of ways. (Google ‘spooksperson’ and see for yourself) While this was my “original” version of the idea, it’s hardly an original idea.
Still, that’s the case for a lot of jokes. I’ve just finished reading a fantastic book called 'The Naked Jape: Uncovering the Hidden World of Jokes', which was co-written by one of the most successful modern British comedians, and one of my favourites, Jimmy Carr, who is a frequent punster.
It’s mostly about the art of the spoken joke (and stand-up comedy in particular) but I'm reading plenty that's applicable to cartooning as well.
There's discussion of the science of laughter – physiology, psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary theory plus an intriguing political history of the clown – which is all fascinating, and made less drab than it sounds by including plenty truly hilarious jokes amidst the academia.
The authors explore the extremes of humour, from gender-based jokes, to ethnic and religious jokes, the latter of which had particular resonance for me as Jimmy describes himself as a self-confessed recovering fundamentalist. (Read this in case you need some background on my own story on that.)
There’s so much great reflection and discussion on humour in this, I felt a bit drunk with all the great stuff I read, so it’s hard to pick a favourite quote, but here’s just one that grabbed me:
Laughter is indeed a serious business. It’s a practice which finds the measure of our humanity. Laughter sets us going, marks the real beginning of our journey. If we’re lucky, we count on it as a constant companion – for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. If we’re very, very lucky, laughter book ends our lives.
That gives me great inspiration as a cartoonist. It makes me feel less annoyed about discovering a joke I thought up had already been done in another way by another humorist, and accept that I am – like you are – part of the global collective consciousness that finds life inherently funny. But damn it, I’m still going to keep questing for that truly original joke till the day I die.
Until then, I’ll keeping reveling in the serious joy generated by master punsters like this one, a Mr Tim Vine, who recently won the second best joke prize at the 2011 Edinburgh Comedy Fringe with this gem:
“Crime in multi-storey car parks. That’s wrong on so many different levels.”
Cartooning has been described as a lonely art form – one person sitting hunched over a blank piece of paper silently scribbling in the search for a joke.
This is definitely true at times for me. But more often than not I find ideas emerging far away from the blank page, springing out of discussions and interactions with the people I see every day – family, friends and co-workers.
The above is one such cartoon that arrived this week. My thanks to the co-worker friend who inspired it. You know who you are!
All Black Aussie
I’ll come clean. I’m an Australian who barracks for the All Blacks.
When it comes to rugby, I’m a dead-set traitor to my country of origin’s team. A Wallaby infidel, if you will. I couldn’t name you a single player on the Aussie team if you tortured me. It’s not for any ideological reason. I wasn’t into rugby in the slightest when I moved to New Zealand 12 years ago, but I’ve since found I’ve become an All Black fan by way of immersion therapy.
It’s hard to avoid the All Blacks in New Zealand. You can’t eat breakfast, open a newspaper, turn the TV on or walk down the street without seeing an All Black jersey fronting up to sponsor a product on a billboard, screen or print ad. In fact we probably see more of the All Black players’ armpits, thighs and bulging pectoral muscles on a daily basis than we do those of our nearest and dearest.
Aside from their ubiquity in the media, you also can’t swing a dead cat around your head at any major product launch without hitting one of the boys in black in the face. I rarely met any Australian Rules Football player when I lived in Melbourne (apart from one bizarre, random meeting with legendary Geelong player Gary Ablett) but I must have met at least a dozen All Blacks over the years, and been within spitting distance of many others at this or that event.
What’s been more fascinating, however, is to see just how personally this country takes their rugby. If the All Blacks are doing well, New Zealanders seem to feel good about themselves. If they aren’t , Kiwis tend to get a bit grumpy, self-conscious and fidgety about their place in this world.
And then there’s the World Cup. Crikey. I was here in 1999, 2003 and 2007 and witnessed the sackcloth-and-ashes mourning first hand when the All Blacks didn’t win or, let alone, make it to the final. And now we are hosting the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. God help us. Literally.
As a PR consultant, the RWC has been a consideration for almost every piece of activity that I’ve been involved in or planned for this year. Seeing all that up close, I’m certain that amidst the non-stop hoo-haa of planned events, crazy ad-campaigns and PR stunts, Kiwis are turning their eyes to heaven and pleading with whatever almighty deity they can envision that the grand prize will be won by this beloved All Black team this time.
While it’s ultimately a bit silly to make such a fuss over a game of football, I must admit I’ve found that I can’t help but get caught up in the All Black fervor. For me, it starts with the colour. Black. It’s inherently cool. Anything that has its coolness measured is compared to black; ie. It’s the ‘new black’. It’s unrelenting. Definitive. Earthy. Primal. That’s hard not to love.
Then there’s the haka before each game. God, I love the haka. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It’s a primal thing again, and maybe something you can appreciate best if New Zealand has ever been your home for any length of time. It goes beyond words. Just watch this and tell me that isn’t true.
Then there’s the game. While I can pretty much take or leave the sport, because to be honest I don’t really understand the rules, it’s fun to watch the mock brutality of it nevertheless.
What I have come to understand though is the love New Zealand has for the game. And love makes you do silly things. It makes you believe things are going to be great, even when the outcome could be affected by any one of a million things. That love makes us believe we can win each and every time.
Of course, as we’ve seen from the past few RWC’s (cue the ‘choker’ jokes), though the love from New Zealand will still be there if the All Blacks don’t win the Cup this time, they might not be on speaking terms for a long while. They’ll get over it though. We always do.
And there it is. That’s love.
So, all the best guys, and know that there's at least one Aussie out there who is proud to admit, like the rest of New Zealand, that he'll always love the All Blacks.
Remember those late night TV infomercials for Tony Robbins' “Personal Power”? I never bought the tapes, because I got his whole point in about five minutes. I enjoyed the ads though. They were a bit like that book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. Excellent piece of advice! No need to buy the book, it's all summed up in the title. Done. Do it, and move on.
'Realise your potential'. 'Be all you can be'. The phrases that are used so often shot through the pages of self-help books and in the tirades of motivational speakers can seem a bit trite on first glance (and can have a good deal of plain bullshit in them, as the brilliant Penn and Teller might describe it. Still, there's an underlying truth even in the worst pop-psychobabble.
I do firmly believe that it is a truly good thing to believe in yourself. Believing that you can be and do and write and say and draw great things, and then giving it a go, is surely a more enjoyable way to live than never doing anything because it's apparently all bullshit. You might not do it the first or every time, but the constant striving to be better and enjoying the process as you go – even if what you produce sometimes is crap – simply makes life better. (Check out this inspiring reflection on this fact by Ira Glass.)
(Another lesson from a book title applies here: “Fail Forward”, ie. Fail often, fail early, and always fail forward. Brilliant. No need to buy that book either!)
Realising potential is a philosophy that's engrained in the Get A Grip program that I cartooned for recently. (The above 'toon is from that series.) Encouraging young people to realise their potential by thinking about the choices they make and helping them make smart ones is not empty psychobabble. It's a foundation for life.