Cartoonist Michael Heath: 'Funny is now dangerous'


Cartoonist Michael Heath has said it is now dangerous to be funny, because people are quick to take offence. 

Heath, 80, has spent six decades as a cartoonist for publications including Punch, the Evening Standard, the Guardian, the Independent and Private Eye. He is now cartoon editor at the Spectator.

Appearing on Desert Island Discs, he told Kirsty Young: "The whole thing about, say, political cartoonists is that they should be so outrageous that everyone asks questions in the house about the drawing yesterday in the Guardian, or whatever.

"That was not my thing. I copped out, I wanted to be what I am, which is funny.

"Funny is now dangerous and you've got to be careful what you do and there are whole groups of people who take offence and look to take offence and wish to take offence, and then take offence at whatever you do."

Asked about cartooning in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack, Heath said: "There's a limit to what you can do."

He added: "I mean, now, if you can't draw certain things, and you can be killed by it, it adds a certain frisson to your drawings.

"However, I am not that sort of cartoonist. I try to keep you amused, like laughing or telling jokes in an air raid shelter."

But while Young suggested there might be "rich pickings" for a cartoonist in the current "tumultuous" times, Heath disagreed.

He complained: "They're going through all this nonsense of changing government and all the rest of it, then it goes on and on and on and on, and they take over everything, and the air goes out of everything, and there's nothing else.

"There's no action, no other show in town other than politicians."

Heath chose songs including Thelonious Monk's Criss-Cross, children's song Teddy Bears' Picnic and Max Miller's I Never Slept A Wink Last Night.

As his luxury item, he selected a painting kit so he could learn to paint "properly" and become a "real artist".