FUNNY STUFF, GOOD. PUNCHING ME IN THE HEAD, BAD
I wasn’t a funny kid. I was the quiet one in class, reasonably studious without being brilliant, and usually found quietly reading a comic in the corner when all my work was done for the day. There was nothing notable about me whatsoever, other than my height. I was abnormally tall for my age, and by the time I’d hit 8 years old, I towered several inches above the rest of my class.
This didn’t go unnoticed by the kids in the years above, and soon I was the target for bullies three or four years older than I was. One kid in particular – I can’t remember his name, so let’s call him Bashy McBashface – spent weeks tormenting me, before finally catching me alone one day as I walked home from school.
I can remember his sneering spotty face, his bunched fists, his home-cut crop of ginger hair and his very obvious intent to pummel my head and torso into the pavement. He had another kid with him – his cousin, if I remember rightly, who had two silvery snot-trails as a permanent fixture on his top lip – who alternated between egging Bashy on, and keeping an eye out for trouble.
I was terrified. Too terrified to even raise my fists. Bashy McBashface was HUGE, and had a reputation for being the best fighter in school. I, on the other hand, was a tall, skinny kid who had a reputation for reading The Beano, and for once coming first in the school sports skipping race. It was less Rumble in the Jungle and more Certain Death in That Bit Behind the Shops.
Bashy’s fist drew back. My mouth opened. Words tumbled out all on their own.
Bashy stopped. He cocked his head to the side like a dog. He frowned.
Then, to my amazement, he threw back his head and laughed.
My mouth started moving again, and this time I listened to the words. They were jokes. No, not jokes, observational comedy about our school, the teachers, the other pupils. I even started to crack wise about the current situation, telling Bashy to pass on to my parents that I’d gone to a better place, and leaving instructions as to who to will my ZX Spectrum and Star Wars figures to.
I had no idea where it was coming from, but I was glad it was coming from somewhere. I made Bashy laugh so much that he completely forgot about pounding my face into a two-dimensional oval (much to his cousin’s disappointment). It turned out I had a latent superpower: I could make people laugh.
The next few years passed in a blur of jokes, impressions, pratfalls and other routines. I became “the funny guy” because, as it turns out, the funny guy is far less likely to get his head kicked in than all those other, non-funny guys.
It was only right, then, that when I’d embark on a professional writing career two decades later, the obvious choice of genre would be… um… horror. My Invisible Fiends series (which was first reviewed right here on this very blog) was a violent and occasionally downright disturbing scare-fest designed to have kids and adults alike too scared to turn the light off at bedtime.
It wasn’t until I started reading the reviews, though (and we all read the reviews, even if we pretend we don’t) that I discovered it was funny, too. Most of the reviews commented on the humour, even though I hadn’t really been aware I’d put any in there.
From there, it made sense to try writing funny books, and I’ve never looked back. I now get to spend my days making myself laugh (always an attractive quality) as I write everything from books to TV animation – and even The Beano.
I’d love to say the reason I write funny stuff is because I want to keep the national smiling, but if I was forced through a Beaky Malone-style Truth Telling Machine, I’d have to own up to the fact that the real reason I write comedy is because I’m worried that, if I don’t, everyone’s going to catch me on my own behind the shops one day, and give me a long-overdue kicking.
So, er, read Beaky Malone: World’s Greatest Liar! It’s hilarious, has brilliant illustrations by the amazing Katie Abey and might – just might – stop you punching me in the head.
Huge thanks to Barry for writing that for us. Beaky Malone, World's Greatest Liar was released in the UK on 2nd June.