'Overheard', an interview with Oslo Davis
Tuesday July 6, 2010·
Apart from his lucrative career writing for ThreeThousand, Melbourne cartoonist Oslo Davis has been whoring his drawings out to newspapers and newsletters for years. This week he's launching his first book - a collection of his 'Overheard' drawings, as seen in the Sunday Age. If you've had him on your black list ever since he drew a picture of you on the train asking, “In that song, they never found out who let the dogs out, did they?” we have unearthed some background for you in this exclusive interview.
You have a book. Did you ever think it would come to this? Can you be a full time cartoonist now?
Never. Never in my wildest dreams Penny. As a child I would repeatedly ask my mum if I would ever score a book deal with a major independent publisher. Julie, once she'd recovered from practically choking to death from wrongly inhaling her cigarette, would guffaw out a big 'YOU? AS IF!', after which I would crawl back to the shed to work on my chip board robot.
The things you think are funny are pretty weird: Discuss. (That's not to say they're not funny, but most of the time it would never occur to me they were funny until I saw them in one of your cartoons.) Example: [Lady in a 15-minute teeth-whitening clinic] “My teeth won't get too white will they?”
Let's get this straight: with Overheard I am merely a medium, a la Patricia Arquette. People in the world come up with all that stuff, not me. I just bring the ears and do a drawing. Everyone in Australia will receive an equal amount of 0.000007 cents each in royalties from this book.
Do people ever recognise you from your sketched self-portrait headshot? Are you shy?
In this Age of Terror, the last thing I want is for people to come up in the street and give me a dead-leg because of some hilarious racial slur I may have made. Sure, Asians chicks are cute, but would you really want one as a wife? (Full disclosure: my wife is an Asian.) What was the question again?
A certain newspaper editor of ours is speaking at your book launch on Friday. Maybe this is the time to re-pitch your cartoon series idea: 'Why Is That Dog Barking?'
The Holy Grail for newspaper cartoonists is to draw a cartoon titled 'What Is That Dog Barking At?'. Basically, the cartoon will involve a drawing of someone lying in bed thinking up all the reasons why his or her neighbour's dog is yapping away through the night. If you can get that one past your editor, you've made it.
But srsly, was Michelle Griffin the person behind your big debut onto our newspaper pages?
Michelle has her ear to the ground, especially when it comes to listening for underground ant colonies (which would explain why her ears are so red and puffy from years of bull ant bites!). A couple of years ago she contacted me about doing a cartoon in M, in the Sunday Age. I met her and, in between me breaking out in fits of uncontrollable laughter at her ridiculous ears, we worked out Overheard.
Do you like people? I mean, sometimes I get the impression that you think the people in your cartoons are stooges, and sometimes I think you admire them.
As I've always said, I could quite easily hang out in a nudist colony if it weren't for having to see other people naked. I'll like people, if it means I can invoice someone for it.
Could you please rank the following Overheards from most-liked to least-liked person/cartoon subject:
[Two men at a parking ticket machine] “What's that button do? Defrost mince?” - #1
[Lady sitting in a car talks to man looking in the engine] “I'd get out but I've just spilt a whole thing of Mongolian beef on my jeans.” - #3
[Girl on mobile phone on train platform] “I don't know if you'd call it irony, but Gaye is actually gay.” - #2
Did the guys at Arcade Publications headhunt you? Did they say, “Oslo, we want to publish your book!” Or did you stalk them?
I stalked them. They said no. Then they stalked me and I said yes. A bit like when you are a kid and you steal some chipboard from Bunnings and get arrested, then later in life you are on TV as a celebrity tradesman and you get a free chipboard as part of a awesome sponsorship deal.
What's next? A calendar? Oslo merch?
I'm in discussions with some Chinese about an Oslo doll. It has me lurching about with my hand up to my ear 'overhearing.' You'll be able to pull a string and I'll say stuff like 'Can't you say that again?' and 'Don't mind me!' and 'Say something interesting goddamn it!'
Where can people buy your book?
I believe you can buy it here as a real book that'll be posted to you, and as a PDF you can read on your iPhone!