Review: Private Eye: A Cartoon History with Ian Hislop, Cheltenham Literature Festival
AS a satirical magazine there have been times when Private Eye has bordered on the ridiculous. But all the while, it’s been utterly sublime.
At Cheltenham Town Hall yesterday we were treated to images of giant hedgehogs, risque royal gags and celebrity caricatures as some of the finest cartoons the magazine has published took, quite literally, centre stage.
Editor Ian Hislop and cartoonist and writer Nick Newman were in fine form as we were occasionally shocked but always entertained.
After all, what’s not to laugh about the Grand Old bi-polar Duke of York who when he was up he was up and when he was down he was down.
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Perhaps inevitably a reader with the condition submitted a letter of complaint.
But Ian joked that whilst initially they thought it was ‘disgusting’, they found it hilarious in the next breath.
It was taste-dividing comedy teetering on the edge.
A cartoon of a Catholic priest appeared next to a group of choir boys with the caption ‘God! It’s like everyone I’ve ever slept with is here.”
Then there’s the Taliban joke set in a school when the head turns to a pupil and says ‘what would you like to be when you blow up?’.
Ian believes that if it’s funny then it merits a place, although admitted that subscriptions in the Middle East had dropped after that particular joke.
There are simply too many cartoon creations to mention, but let’s try a couple more.
One bemoans the state of modern society with a child asking his mother ‘what is a monologue?’ – as he views a theatre billing for the Vagina Monologues and then we get to the infamous case of Princess Diana.
A day after she died the magazine ran a cartoon of a photographer peering over cemetery gates – hounding her in life and death.
Misjudging the national mood, the complaints came like a Tsunami and Ian admitted that perhaps that one should not have seen the light of day.
He has very little regrets it seems, joking about his poor record when it comes to legal cases with only one victory in 41 outings.
Ironic really as this event showed that satire that pushes the boundaries, often gets the most laughs.