Wednesday, 15 February 2017

BOB BILLENS - CARD-CARRYING COMEDY CREATOR (IN HIS DREAMS)...



Here's another tale about 'Bob Billens', which
ably illustrates how some people who think they know
what they want don't actually have a Scooby about how
things work.  The sheer level of stupidity involved is
difficult to believe.  Here's what happened.

'Bob' had recently taken a comedy writing course
and was convinced he'd the talent to earn extra dosh
by supplying humour sketches to radio and TV shows.
Amazingly, he did actually provide some material to a few
shows, but never really managed to make much of a mark.
However, he decided to get a business card printed for
this new enterprise and asked me if I'd provide an
illustration for it.  (As a favour, obviously.)

Demonstrating an amazingly 'original' touch of
'creativity' (that's sarcasm by the way), he asked me
to draw a 'cartoon' of a kilt-wearing Scotsman carrying
a giant pen.  (I can't recall whether I originally drew him
with a 'tam o' shanter' or added it later at Bob's request.)
I duly produced the cliched caricature and sent it off to
him, only to receive a list of 'improvements' by return
post.  (This was in the mid-1980s - the internet
hadn't yet conquered the world.)

Make him taller and thinner with a longer face,
make his legs hairy, give him a bottle of whisky with
a triple 'x' on the label;  add garters to his socks, change
his boots to brogues, and give him a tattoo - all of which I
did in double-quick time.  Reinforcing the stereotype of
the drunken Scottish bampot may have seemed like a
stroke of comedy genius to Bob, but I didn't think
it was particulary inventive - or funny.

Anyway, I eventually received one of his cards
and I couldn't  believe it.  (Call me Victor.)  In order
to reduce the figure I'd drawn to a size the card would
accommodate, he'd photocopied it many times over,
making it smaller with each copy 'til it fitted.

Not only had most of the linework been wiped
out with each successive copy, the figure on the fin-
ished card was only a few millimeters high, rendering
the detail he'd requested redundant from the very start.
What a tube!  Talk about wanting the Book of Genesis
on a postage stamp?  This was seriously rippin' the p*ss.
What's worse was, he'd clumsily and ineptly tried to
retouch the missing linework, making a total pig's
ear of the whole thing in the process. 

But guess what?  He was actually quite pleased
with the card, believing it was his 'input' which had
resulted in something bound to impress everyone who
saw it.  To me, the only impression it would've made was
that the card-holder was deluded.  I subsequently used
the figure on a leaflet for a restaurant, but not before I
made a mental note to be 'busy' should Bob ever
ask for my help on any future 'projects'.

I still shake my head in disbelief at the memory.
I'll add scans of the card and his 'instructions' when
I remember where I put them, but in the meantime, the
figure at the top of the post was copied from the origi-
nal drawing some years ago.  (I omitted the whisky
 and pen as they were surplus to requirements.) 

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