My friend Author of Jesus and Mo did an interview with the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Forum a couple of days ago.
CEMB started with a summary of the recent nonsense over Jesus and Mo at LSE, then linked arms.
In a spirit of solidarity, the ex-Muslim forum would like to praise Jesus and Mo and state our admiration for his empowering, important and deeply progressive, not to mention hilarious cartoon.
And then the interview.
Could you tell us a little about your influences as a cartoonist and stylist, and in a wider sense, who influenced you in terms of your sense of playfulness towards the conceits of religion, and your satirical sensibility?
I’m still a bit reluctant to call myself a ‘cartoonist’ even after 8 years of making Jesus & Mo. I think cartoonists need to be able to draw, and that is not a skill I would claim for myself.
That said, as a child I read a lot of Peanuts – had a load of Charlie Brown paperbacks which I’d read and reread. I still do. I love the gentle tone of Peanuts, the mixture of innocence and worldliness, the lightly worn wisdom. Schulz was a great artist – much too good for me to declare him an “influence” in any way other than the fact that he instilled in me a love of the 4-panel form.
Ah, so did I. I had a boy cousin best friend, a year younger, and we were both Peanuts fiends, as well as Mad magazine fiends and Jules Feiffer fiends. They did a lot to shape both of us, I think.
Your cartoons often are very topical. Do your ideas mostly come to you spontaneously? Are you always switched on and looking for an angle on these issues in the news and elsewhere?
I carry a notebook around, and keep online notes, too. When something happens in the news, often the irony jumps out at you. I get a lot of mileage out of religious people saying funny things – sometimes all I need to do is transcribe them (credit is always given to these unknowing guest scriptwriters). Other times I just sit down and tap away until something funny-ish comes out. Or not, as the case may be.
No, that doesn’t happen – the not.
We think that broadcasters like Channel 4 who consider themselves cutting edge should produce more religious satire and should give you a series. Do you think Jesus and Mo would lend itself to animation?
They’d have to be very short animations, but yes – I do think it would work. If not for Channel 4, then certainly for YouTube. If any animators out there would like to collaborate, get in touch!
Any animators out there? Do it!!
In your cartoons the barmaid is the sceptic who teases Jesus and Mo, answers back, exposes them and presses them on their beliefs. She is the audience for their comical folly, pomposity and hypocrisy. She is always unseen. She seems like great fun. Can you talk a little about her, her role, and the importance of their questioner being a woman?
I feel oddly uncomfortable talking about the barmaid. Not sure why.
She’s the voice of reason, obviously. It seems appropriate that the figureheads of patriarchal religion should be schooled by a woman. Her relationship with J&M is an affectionate one, though, if not exactly respectful.
I think that even when faced with the folly, pomposity and hypocrisy of the boys, the barmaid still recognises them as human beings, and so treats them humanely.
Religion is a human invention, after all.
And the barmaid is a humanist as well as a skeptic. Ba dum.