Friday, October 19, 2007

Old Coren is dead.

I wonder sometimes if manufacturers of foolproof items keep a fool or two on their payroll to test things.

The thing about working for Punch during 'Old Coren's' reign, from around 1978 - 1987, was that as a cartoonist one had achieved two things; you had made it as a cartoonist because it was the satirical magazine that gave birth to the cartoon, the pinnacle of cartooning; Punch was, after all, the magazine on which The New Yorker was based, but it also meant something else, something equally important, that one had met with Alan Coren's approval. Perhaps, even, that one had made Alan Coren laugh, and that was really, really some achievement.

I don't know how you might compare this to another profession, perhaps if you were a painter and you visited Picasso and found he had a painting of yours on the wall, or you were a singer and maybe heard Sinatra say in an interview that he listened to your songs. I think that's the sort of yardstick it was, to many of us cartoonists. It really meant more than any payment or associated fame or contracts that might result from appearing in the famous tome. Now, how often can you say that, nowadays?

I have to say I always enjoyed reading Punch. Of course, nowadays, give me an issue from that period and I'll read it from cover to cover, but even back then I enjoyed Coren's piece, it was effortlessly clever, and always fiercely funny, and I loved the fact that this clever, funny, man enjoyed cartoons so much, and enjoyed some of my cartoons. I suppose, like many of my peers, sending cartoons to Punch was as much about seeking approval from Alan Coren as if was about getting into that magazine.

In more than one interview his love of the cartoons came over and that is unusual even in a humour magazine where the editors like you to think they are doing you an enormous favour by publishing your work - Coren was the exact opposite. He said, '...the writers like me, knew it was the cartoons that sold the magazines'.

Alan Coren (1938 - 2007) will be missed. I wish I could think of something funny to say, I can't.


Royston said...

Nice tribute, Rod.

I had some gags in the relaunched Punch in the late 1990s and even that felt like a great achievement to me because of the kudos of the Punch name, even though clearly the mag was a shadow of its former self.

How great it would be if Punch could be relaunched in the manner of the Coren days, as opposed to that failed 1990s version. It is, after all still such a recognisable brand.

Rod McKie said...

But you're a youngster Royston, I'm pretty sure you'd have broken into the old Punch had it been around. Heck, you've gotten into just about everything else.

I like the drawings I did for the new Punch and you're right, there was still some cache attached to the thing. Look at it this way, there were even less markets around when the new Punch was on the go, so the competition was at least as fierce.