Tag Archives: satire

RIP Clive James (1939 – 2019)

Clive James was an Australian-born author, satirist and critic working in the United Kingdom.

Clive James’s Postcard from… Los Angeles


I was introduced to his work in the 1990s when he presented tv series such as …on Television (1982-88) and Clive James’s Postcard from… (1989-95).

One of James’s ‘…On Televsion’ shows

His self-deprecating tone was priceless.

Querying my database, I found out James also expressed his political views. As early as 1969 he contributed “Wind Up Black Dwarfs” – a plea for realpolitik – to London OZ.

RIP Gahan Wilson (1930 – 2019)

In the United States, Gahan Wilson died. I saw his death announced on the Facebook page of Tim Lucas.

Gahan Wilson was an American author, cartoonist and illustrator.

The Sea was Wet as Wet Could Be” (1967).

I was unacquainted with the work of Wilson. Dave Letterman introduced him in the 1980s as the “guru of gruesome, wizard of the weird and the Michelangelo of the macabre.”

Me being European, Wilson reminds me of Tomi Ungerer (1931- 2019) or Roland Topor (1938-1997) and perhaps more of Topor, since like Topor, Wilson was not political.

Wilson’s appearance at David Letterman’s (March 30, 1982) when he published Is Nothing Sacred?.

Wilson is regarded as the only heir of Charles Addams (1912-1988) and often mentioned in one breath with Edward Gorey (1925-2000) .

The epithet ‘sick humor‘ sometimes pops up, although I have to disagree on this one, as, as a European, I am used to Hara Kiri, most likely the epitome of 20th century sick humor.

Since I found out about his death, I watched the “The Waitress” episode of The Kid (2001) and Wilson’s appearance at David Letterman’s (March 30, 1982) when he published Is Nothing Sacred?. I also listened to a reading of the wonderful story “The Sea was Wet as Wet Could Be” (1967).

“The Waitress” episode of The Kid (2001)

His cartoon “I am an insane eye doctor and I am going to kill you now…” is frequently cited as of his best work. In it, a non-suspecting man reading an optometrist’s ‘eye examination’ with the text cited is approached from behind by a knife wielding optometrist.

There are body horror elements in his work and the cartoon “Harry, I really think you ought to go to the doctor.”, in which Harry is a regular man with the head of a prawn, is positively Lovecraftian.

RIP Paul “The Realist” Krassner (1932 – 2019)

Paul Krassner February 1967 interview by Joe Pyne

Paul Krassner was an American author, satirist and political activist, founder of the freethought magazine The Realist (1958-2001) and a key figure in the counterculture of the 1960s.

He is famous for writing “The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book” (1967), “My Acid Trip with Groucho” (1981) and for designing/and/or/distributing the FUCK COMMUNISM! (1963) and Disneyland Memorial Orgy (1967) poster.

He was severely criticized by Robin Morgan in 1970 in “Goodbye to All That“:

“Goodbye to lovely “pro-Women’s Liberationist” Paul Krassner, with all his astonished anger that women have lost their sense of humor”on this issue” and don’t laugh any more at little funnies that degrade and hurt them: farewell to the memory of his “Instant Pussy” aerosol-can poster[1], to his column for the woman-hating men’s magazine Cavalier, to his dream of a Rape-In against legislators’ wives, to his Scapegoats and Realist Nuns and cute anecdotes about the little daughter he sees as often as any properly divorced Scarsdale middle-aged father; goodbye forever to the notion that a man is my brother who, like Paul, buys a prostitute for the night as a birthday gift for a male friend, or who, like Paul, reels off the names in alphabetical order of people in the women’s movement he has fucked, reels off names in the best locker-room tradition—as proof that he’s no sexist oppressor.”– “Goodbye to All That” (1970) by Robin Morgan

The entire issue where he is depicted with a spray can of “instant pussy” referred to, can be read here[2].

RIP Tomi Ungerer (1931 – 2019)

Fornicon (1969)

Tomi Ungerer was a French illustrator known for his children’s books, as well as his satirical and erotic work for adults.

I attended an interview with Ungerer in 2014 and wrote this small piece in Dutch after the occasion and also did a post on Tumblr[1].

I’ll never forget the moment at he end of the interview when he started singing “Die Gedanken sind frei” and many of the German-language invites joining in.

Fornicon (1969) [above] is a collection of 60 prints of scenes of funny machine-aided sadomasochistic male domination. When I say machine-aided, think Rube Goldberg machine. Box sets of these prints are being sold for as high as 3,000$. Books can be had for as little as ten dollars.

Ungerer’s humor is quite like that of Roland Topor.

Giordano Bruno and the one hundred twelfth thrust

It’s been a while since a piece of writing has given me so much pleasure.

The text that caused this merriment is Giordano Bruno‘s satire on divine providence in The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast(1584).

It had me sniggering all the way through.

Especially this excerpt:

“Ambrogio on the one hundred twelfth thrust shall finally have driven home his business with his wife, but shall not impregnate her this time, but rather another, using the sperm into which the cooked leek that he has just eaten with millet and wine sauce shall have been converted.”

But really, the whole passage is excellent in its power of imagination, in its ability to trivialize providence and omnipotence, in making it ridiculous by giving inane details, which seem like endless digressions à la Tristram Shandy. If you’re curious, you can read the rest of that passage here.

I wondered what the exact nature of the ‘triumphant beast’ of the title of the text was, and why, if so triumphant, it needed to be expelled. Some googling learnt that the beast is the the Pope or the Catholic Church.

Sadly, the wit in this text was fatal for Giordano. After a trial that lasted eight years, Bruno was burnt at the stake in 1600 for his derision. He was barely 52.

PS. I came upon Giordano Bruno by studying De rerum natura, that breviary of atheism, which can be briefly summarized by reading the following three passages: 1)on the helplessness of the human infant, 2) on the inability to reach bodily satisfaction and 3) on the pleasure of standing on shore watching a shipwreck.

Image: Woodcut from ‘Articuli centum et sexaginta adversus huius tempestatis mathematicos atque philosophos’ by Giordano Bruno.