Published on April 2, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
The creative corner
There are four sheds in Graham Dury’s garden in Whitley Bay. Four sheds, one greenhouse and a brick garage
“I’m a man who likes sheds,” says the Viz writer and cartoonist.
Graham and fellow Viz-er Simon Thorp work together in one of them, throwing ideas at each other, writing scripts – often for other comics – and being rather sensible about the whole process. In fact, for a team that’s on a deadline, they appear remarkably relaxed.
The shed is heavily insulated and is for all the world like a domestic sitting room rather than a workplace for men who like sheds. A wood-burning stove warms the place from one corner, a low-level table in the centre separates a luxurious armchair and matching settee where the pair face each other and decide what the nation is going to laugh or groan at in the upcoming publication or the compilation annual they’re putting together.
Graham says: “Thorpy tips up about 10.30 and we talk bollocks and what’s going on in the world before we have our lunch at 12.30.”
“We come in every day and say ‘What’s going to happen?’”, says Simon, who says he always had the yen to work in a shed. Graham originally bought the shed to use in his passion for woodworking and reckons when he retires he’ll fill it up again with tools.
He says: “It’s not one of those things that you go into the shed to get away from the wife. I love her company, it’s not that. It’s just I don’t like Thorpy coming into my house – he steals things. And I don’t like him using my toilet.
“It’s leaving the house to go to work, a psychological thing, even though it’s just ten yards down the path, you’re in your office. We only write in the shed then draw in the house. Both of us do – in fact I write here and draw in his house and he writes here and draws in mine…
“It’s a hotbed of comedy in here, your sides will split.”
A pinboard on one wall is covered in coloured sheets of paper of all sizes with scribbles, ideas, names and doodles all over them – things to do, and subjects to explore or return to, and stuff that’s amused them at some time which they often can’t remember why.
Although he wouldn’t admit it, Simon has an encyclopedic knowledge of comedians and regularly unearths obscure digital channel programmes with the likes of Arthur Askey (“a very funny man”), Jimmy Jewell (“a very funny man”), Acker Bilk (“a very funny man”) and Dick Hills, who with partner Sid Green wrote scripts for Morecambe & Wise. It’s the sort of thing that has informed cartoon strips such as the Fat Slags, Gilbert Ratchet and Black Bag: The Faithful Border Binliner,
Despite their constant ribaldry, it’s obvious Simon and Graham have a great working relationship; in all their time working closely together, they have never had a proper argument, more like mild disagreements.
“Mind, I wouldn’t lend you any of my garden tools – that’s when I’d get really upset,” says Graham. “Remember the flame-thrower for getting rid of weeds?”
(Simon was apparently too scared of the scorching blast to use it, before handing it back.)
“If one of us doesn’t like an idea we’ll just go ‘hmmmm’ then move on. Around one in five makes it into the comic. Simon once suggested an idea about a gigolo…”
“He wasn’t a gigolo,” says Simon. “It was a story I saw in the paper about a professional escort who wanted to retire but couldn’t because his friends would realise he hadn’t got a job.”
What follows is a lengthy riff on the man being found out living above a launderette, working in a fish finger factory, and taking time off work to fly over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter to have fifty shades of sex in a luxury hotel. The response, it transpires, was “hmmmm”.
The ideas flow across the table: Winston Churchill’s cook, real people with odd names (Minty Clinch, anyone?), 1970s Leeds United footballers, and Viz recollections – the disastrous Issue 16 that had a crispy batter cover, and the Wembley ballboy called Perkin Parmit. “He still makes me laugh,” says Graham.
Simon admits he and his wife went to a garden centre near Edinburgh at the weekend to buy a shed.
“It was more of a workshop. She does silversmithing and makes jewellery out of ashes enclosed in glass. They’re actually very nice.”
It would seem the humble shed has a life force of its own.