Dis-entombed from the archives comes this, the very first issue of The Jasper!
“Ah, now, c’mon, Rusty!” I imagine that I hear you say. “What in the heckest of all blinkin’ flips are you tryna pull here? Shirley this isn’t a real comic?”
Correct, it isn’t! The cover is designed to resemble a comic — most likely The Beezer which was still going strong back then — but this twenty-four-page A4-sized publication is actually a souvenir programme book for British comedian Jasper Carrott’s early-80s tour, which I saw in the National Stadium in Dublin — the first comedy gig I ever attended!
Carrott’s weekly TV show, Carrott’s Lib, was essential viewing at the time, so this was a packed show. And it was a darned good one, too, genuinely funny stuff, albeit with the drawback that many of the routines had been taken from the TV show so we knew what was coming.
Here’s the entire programme book in smallified mode:
Yes, that’s an actual Jasper Carrott autograph on the centre-page spread! (Full disclosure in the “at-last-it-must-be-told” department: I bought the programme on the way in, and during the show managed to spill orange juice all over the cover. It had mostly dried by the time the show ended and a whole bunch of us crowded around Mr Carrott to get his autograph. It was all done very haphazardly, with fans passing programme books to his manager or assistant or whoever, Jasper signing them, and then the assistant/manager just passing them back at random. I don’t know whose book I got back, but here and now I would like to, at last, formally apologise to the person who received my orange-flavoured one. Please forgive me!)
Apart from the pseudo-comic cover, what does this have to do with comics? Well, it doesn’t happen so much these days, but when I was growing up it wasn’t uncommon for comedians to be referred to as “comics,” plus in 1987 Jasper Carrott starred in the movie Jane and the Lost City which was based on the British newspaper strip Jane that ran from 1932 to 1959 in The Daily Mirror. And one of Carrott’s offspring is actor Lucy Davis who appeared in the 2017 Wonder Woman movie and currently stars in the TV show Chilling Adventures of Sabrina which is also based on a comic-book.
If all that isn’t strong enough for this programme book to deserve a mention on Rusty Staples, then look closely at the pages above and you’ll see that The Jasper features a comic strip running across the bottom of most pages. It’s “The Rock Concert” and it’s been adapted from one of Carrott’s stand-up routines, credited to “Harvey & Paul Taylor.” To be frank, just like Carrott’s prose books which were mostly similarly adapted from his comedy (and advertised on the inside front cover), it loses a lot in the translation process: Carrott’s an absolute master of comic timing and that’s a little tricky to convey when the audience can read the story at their own pace. And the art is… interesting, with the same drawing of Jasper’s face that’s on the programme’s cover appearing six more times (albeit with tiny tweaks to the eyes and mouth).
I’ve helpfully cropped out all the non-comic parts for you: read it with a broad Birmingham accent for best effect…
I’m sure that quite a few comedians have tried their hand at creating comic-books — the late, great Bob Monkhouse was a comic-book creator as well as a collector — but offhand, I can only think of one other example of a comedian’s stand-up material being adapted as a comic, and that’s Storm by Tim Minchin.
Bonus: I’ve recently discovered that this wasn’t the only issue of The Jasper! At least one further issue appeared, in 1990: