Humble cartoonist holds secret to happiness

Life in brief: Each day Matt draws six different cartoon ideas, but just one gets published.

Do we take life too seriously? For decades Matt Pritchett has turned hard-hitting news into funny cartoons. He says humour can be found (almost) anywhere because “nothing matters very much.”

It all started by mistake. Thirty years ago The Daily Telegraph released an edition with the wrong date on the front page (it said it was Thursday 25th February a day early). Readers were furious at the confusion it caused, and the paper’s editor was forced to issue a front page apology the next day. But they needed something else — something to take the sting out of a mounting PR disaster.

A young cartoonist known as Matt came to the rescue. Beneath the apology he drew a cartoon of two people with the caption: “I hope I have a better Thursday than I did yesterday.” It went down a storm, becoming the first of over 8,000 cartoons he has created for the paper.

And after three decades of poking fun at politicians and crafting comedy from current affairs, those he lampooned are lining up to praise him. The prime minister, Theresa May, extolled his ability to “see the humour” in serious events, while Prince Philip applauded his “genius” for satirising “the idiocies of contemporary life”.

When asked about the key to his success, Matt himself offered this thought: “Nothing matters very much and hardly anything matters at all.” Therefore, humour can be found in almost any situation.

Indeed, journalist Andrew Marr claims the cartoons help “domesticate the horror” of grave issues, whether it is the perils of mad cow disease or the promised annihilation of nuclear war.

Yet outside the comfortable world inhabited by British politicians and journalists, some cartoonists must think twice before adopting such a light-hearted approach.

This was brutally demonstrated in the 2015 attacks on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Terrorists linked to al-Qaeda stormed its headquarters and killed a dozen staff after the paper printed satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Of course, Matt responded to the horrific news the only way he could. He draw a cartoon, and he made a joke.

But should we all look on the bright side more often?

No Matt-er

These simple cartoons have a deep philosophy, some say. We may think our actions or grand issues of State are important. But eventually time will overtake us all and the uncaring universe will persist, blissfully unaware of our tribulations. Allowing ourselves to find humour in “serious” issues lightens our days, and connects us with the profound insignificance of our lot.

Nonsense, others respond. Claiming that “nothing matters very much” is scant solace for those who, in the 21st century, still live in poverty. And historic advances in civil rights or gender equality would never have happened if everyone subscribed to such complacency. It is by focusing relentlessly on the world’s wrongs that we can make it a better place.

You Decide

  1. Is there anything we should not make jokes about?
  2. Is it true that “nothing matters very much” ?

Activities

  1. It is your turn to draw your very own pocket cartoon! First you will need to think of a news story for inspiration (try browsing The Day for inspiration). Once you have your source, draw a simple cartoon about that story along with a fun caption. Share with your class if you like.
  2. Use the last link under Become An Expert to look at some of Matt’s recent cartoons. Choose your favourite and do some research into the news story behind that drawing. Do you think the joke being made is appropriate? Does the cartoon capture the story well? If you were to draw your own cartoon about that story, what would you do differently?

Some People Say...

“The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”

David Ogilvy

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Every living former prime minster of Great Britain has praised Matt on his 30th birthday at The Telegraph. David Cameron says he keeps one of Matt’s cartoons framed on his wall and Gordon Brown said his work gets “far nearer to the truth” than many other commentators.
What do we not know?
Whether everyone agrees with them. Jeremy Corbyn, for example, was asked to offer some words of congratulation, but his team allegedly refused, claiming that:“None of the Matt cartoons they had seen about Mr Corbyn were funny.”

Word Watch

The Daily Telegraph
The British daily newspaper founded in 1855.
Matt
Matt Prichett has been the pocket cartoonist at The Daily Telegraph since 1988. He was awarded an MBE in 2002, and in 2003 was named as one of the UK’s 50 funniest people by The Observer.
Prince Philip
With the official title of the Duke of Edinburgh, he has been married to Queen Elizabeth II since 1947. Prince Philip is an avid collector of cartoons and is patron of the Cartoon Museum.
At all
This phrase is originally ascribed to Arthur Balfour who was prime minister of Great Britain from 1902 to 1905.
Almost
In an interview with Andrew Marr, Matt said that he tries to avoid drawing cartoons about stories which contain death. He also commented that he says to himself “then you do think, 'let's calm down, there must be a funny side to this'."
Charlie Hebdo
French weekly satirical magazine founded in 1970. Its attacks on religion have caused significant controversy. Four years before the deadly attack on its offices in 2015, its HQ was firebombed in response to satirical cartoons mocking Islam.
Cartoon
See image above.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.