Skip to main content

The Unretiring Type: The Far Side is back

Be Creative
August 10, 2020

A stalwart journalist for News Ltd for 20 years and a former TV Week Features Editor, Geoff Shearer is one the country’s most admired arts and entertainment writers. He’s taken a step into semi-retirement to concentrate on his fiction writing, while relishing the chance to share his unique take on life with My Halcyon Days’ readers.

Words: Geoff Shearer

Remember that cartoon panel showing a woman in curlers fast asleep with a cat on the end of her bed and a dog outside the slightly open window whispering: “puuuuut the caaaaaat ouuuuuuuuut. … puuuuut the caaaaat ouuuuuuut. …”

Or the cat looking into the laundry dryer which has “CAT FUD” crudely written on the open door and the dog hiding against the wall with the thought bubble: “oh please, oh please...” You would have seen them in newspapers, in anthologies, on greeting cards, desk calendars and coffee mugs.

It was The Far Side – that crazy world created by US cartoonist Gary Larson. A world where cows walked upright; babies could fly; and where obesity was the norm for everyone, from little boys in striped T-shirts and women in floral house dresses to tinyheaded men in lab coats with pen pockets.

It was huge through the 1980s and ’90s, continuing for years after Larson officially retired the strip in January 1995.

And then, only a few months ago, Larson, now in his 70th year on this weird planet, surprised fans with some “new stuff” on what he called a “corner” of his website.

There are only a few new panels (for now) but what is interesting is what got Larson drawing again. It was that new-fangled, dangif-it-don’t-work-on-electrissy thing called a digital tablet.

As Larson explains on his blog: “I got one, fired it up, and lo and behold, something totally unexpected happened: within moments, I was having fun drawing again ... I simply had no idea how far these things had evolved.”

Fittingly, as he says, the first thing he drew was a caveman. “I hail from a world of pen and ink, and suddenly I was feeling like I was sitting at the controls of a 747.”

It is a great lesson that creativity is not only adaptable with technology, but also that it doesn’t lose its strength no matter how long it has been dormant in you.

In Larson’s case that was 25 years. So if you had a creative pursuit in your past, now’s the time to stoke the embers and see where it will take you. But don’t forget to puuuuuut the cat out first…