A chat with cartoonist Tony Husband

As our popular Tony Husband exhibition enters its final days we caught up with Tony to chat to him about the show, and about his long career as a cartoonist.

Tell us about your history with Private Eye magazine

I began working for the Eye in 1985, coinciding with when Ian Hislop joined the magazine, and I contributed a range of gag cartoons. l remember going to Ian’s crowning as editor, l think on the 25th anniversary of the Eye, at the Grand Hotel in Brighton. Some of the old guard weren’t happy with this young upstart taking over they forecast doom and gloom.. How utterly wrong they were . The Eye goes from strength to strength and surely the most important magazine in the UK

You are probably best known for the Yobs cartoon that appears in every issue.

That all started after I was beaten up by some skinheads outside a chip shop. I channelled my anger into making fun of these people in cartoons. Ian Hislop noticed that I was producing a regular series of these and he wrote to me proposing that I turn these into a regular strip. He originally christened it ‘The Yobs’ but over the years this has evolved to be either Yobs or Yobettes. I give everyone in my cartoons equal rights to behave badly!

Cartoon of two Yobs

This strip has now been in every issue of Private Eye for over 37 years. I’m really proud of that. I was worried at one time when the strip was moved to the back of the magazine. But Ian Hislop reassured me that he had made this decision to encourage readers to keep turning the pages…

Tell us about your work routine. How do you get your ideas onto paper?

I have a thinking couch. I start every day with a blank sheet of paper and set myself the task of producing cartoons. Whatever else is going on in my life I have to make time to be funny. I don’t know where the ideas come from and I don’t want to know. I just have to recognise when the really strong cartoons emerge.

You have used your cartoons to promote causes that are important to you. What do you hope your dementia cartoons will achieve for people touched by these experiences?

My dementia cartoons grew out of a conversation I had with my dad a few months after he had died. I was talking out loud to him to try to understand how it must have been to live with dementia. I drew this conversation into a cartoon and sent it to several friends for their feedback. One of those was Stephen Fry who was kind enough to share the cartoons further and this led to the publication of my first book about dementia.

Since then I have published more about the subject and I know that many people have found these cartoons helpful and given them the sense that they are not alone. My work with dementia groups across the country has become really important to me.

What are some of your favourite gag cartoons in the show?

One of the best sellers is the gag “Your dog is worrying my sheep”. I first drew a version of that for the Funday Times back in 1990. It has been a long time favourite and I’m sure that several people now have it hanging on their wall. For some reason many people seem to put my cartoons in their downstairs loo!

Cartoon of The Beatles as young boys

In my office I have a poster of the Beatles Abbey Road album. I was looking at it one day and imagined them as schoolchildren on that same zebra crossing. And this vision of “The Beatles: The Early Years” was born. It is another one that seems to have amused a lot of people who see it.

The exhibition is open until Saturday 13 May. Make sure you take the chance to see this selection of Tony’s cartoons, and even to purchase one for yourself.

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