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  • Writer's pictureRob Murray

'Tisn't The Season

Christmas comes early for cartoonists.

During the summer months, when most people are sunbathing in the back garden, eating ice cream on the beach or cooling down with a cold pint in the sunshine, cartoonists are often thinking of winter and getting into the festive spirit.

Print schedules and corporate deadlines mean that Christmas material - from greetings cards and ad campaigns to magazine gag cartoons - is generally produced months in advance.

This means the cartoonist will often have a head full of mince pies and snowmen, while others are thinking about ice lollies and suncream.

When it comes to getting into the (unseasonal) Christmas spirit, we all have our own techniques. For some of us, it's as simple as browsing a list of perennial festive themes - from Santa to the Nativity, stockings to Brussels sprouts - and seeing which subjects spark an idea or two.

Some cartoonists take things a step further, filling their studios with the sounds of 'Merry Christmas Everyone' and 'Fairytale of New York' in mid-July (perhaps 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day' best fits the bill).

The next Christmas cycle generally begins soon after the decorations have been taken down - as greetings card companies tend to work about a year in advance.

Here's one I completed in March 2019, for a company that produces corporate Christmas cards (in this case, specifically targeting the motor trade - the clients' company name gets added to the signboard above the garage).

Private Eye contacts its cartoonists in August with its annual request for festive cartoons. These might be selected for its popular set of Christmas cards - or lined up for December's festive editions of the magazine.

It's always a fun process, but also a challenge - you know the magazine will be looking for topical material, but any joke you write and draw in late summer needs to still be relevant (and funny) by Christmas!

The cartoon at the top of this post was a Private Eye card in 2017 - at the height of the fidget-spinner craze. The cartoon below, from a 2013 Eye card, references the increasing trouble with Twitter trolls:

I've just drawn up two new Christmas cartoons for Private Eye, both of which allude to huge news stories from 2020. Neither story looks likely to go away anytime soon (which is good news for 'Rob the cartoonist'; less so for 'Rob the member of society')...

The new cartoons are scheduled to appear in the festive editions of the Eye, so you'll be able to see them in December.

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