Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Funeral Oration

by Mike Taser, embittered journalist

I have been asked to speak today, apparently for no other reason than because I worked with Kevin McFister for some twenty years. I have accepted the invitation not because I wish to reflect on Kevin's good points - I shall leave that to those who can actually discern some - but because I have a number of things to get off my chest. If this seems indulgent, I make no apologies. I like to think Kevin would have appreciated honesty from his eulogists. If not, well, he should have spoken up while he had the chance.

Contra the glowing obituaries that have appeared in the past week, Kevin McFister has long been acknowledged as the most consistently unfunny newspaper cartoonist in the country. There were more jokes about his cartoons than there were in them. Satire, parody, incisive commentary - these, and most other fundamental cartooning concepts, were foreign to this little man who, running his grimy fingers through his equally grimy beard, stalked the paper's offices sketching madly in his notebooks. Granted, his artwork was functional. He was no draughtsman, no Ingres of the felt-tip pen, but neither was he completely lacking in compositional skill. However, his cartoons were so devoid of substance that they were an insult to newspaper cartoonists the world over.

A Kevin said nothing, ladies and gentlemen. Nothing. It just sat there, stuck to the page like a swatted fly. Things happened in a Kevin that were irrelevant to the topic at hand, or nothing happened, or there was no topic, or too much was happening, and there were too many topics. A Kevin never failed to be inappropriate, irrelevant, or downright stupid, unless it was being baffling, obscure, or irritatingly obvious.

The most inane examples came on the frequent occasions when Kevin himself stepped into the frame, portraying himself as a good-humoured dwarf seated on a rock, often holding a bouquet of pansies, with a scrawled monologue filling the empty space around him. I'm sure I'm not the only person present who, at some stage or another, clipped one of these cartoons from the newspaper, stuck it to the fridge door, then set it on fire. These cartoons were Kevin's address to the nation, and usually contained plenty of big words and grand ideas that made little sense to anyone, and proved only that Kevin was as over-educated and under-medicated as most of his colleagues suspected him of being.

Oh yes, Kevin was despised by those of us who had the misfortune to share our working lives with him. Many who have professed admiration for the little bastard since his death were among Kevin's most vociferous critics. Why this talentless blob of spare parts had been employed in the first place, and how he managed to stave off being fired for so long, was the subject of much office innuendo, most of it involving crude allusions to the relative heights of the diminutive cartoonist and the bean-pole deputy editor - Mr Howser, seated today in the front row, comforting the widow McFister with conspicuous enthusiasm - who cleared his work for publication.

Kevin's final cartoon was as individual and asinine as the hundreds preceding it, and is as fitting an end to Kevin's life and career as could be desired. It shows a baby in a pram being pushed down the street by a large gorilla whose tail - yes, a tail on a gorilla; this is the least of the cartoon's problems - is curled tightly around a medieval mace. Underneath this startling vision Kevin has scribbled the words "Happy Anniv. Queen Victoria". What does it mean? Nobody will ever know. Let us take care not to invest it with great significance simply because its creator is dead. A waste of paper is a waste of paper. A Kevin, to me as to many others, is just that, in death as in life.

No doubt he's in heaven right now, annoying the angels with his whimsical take on whatever the hell there is up there to be whimsical about. While my heart goes out to his family, I cannot help rejoicing in Kevin's passing. Rest in peace, Kevin McFister, and fear not - you will barely be missed.


Anonymous said...

Why be so insensitive after whats happened?

Anonymous said...

Insensitive - schmensitive....wake up and smell the print baby! Comments like yours keep this country in the intellectual quagmire it often is....grow up!
I congratulate this blog for writing what could be Mr Lewnig's own eulogy! Bravo!
Take that Mr Whimsy!

Tim said...

Good to see I'm attracting an intellectual readership...

Seriously though, what's this "insensitive" business? I'd really like to know. I promise I won't actually care, but it would be good to know what you're on about.