20 Years Of Biff At The Guardian Newsroom London

By Richard Moss | 13 February 2006
shows a cartoon of two pipe smoking men. One says 'Would you say you were a half full or a half empty man Ken.' The other replies 'Neither Don, I live at the interface of hope and gloom, one minute I'm buzzing with Joie de Vivre the next I'm slumped on the couch hitting the remote and the fatty snacks.'

Courtesy www.biffonline.co.uk

Jean-Paul Sartre riffs on deeply philosophical matters with Simone de Beauvoir. A man loses his wallet and is subjected to a tirade about the tropes of uncertainty from his elegant wife – before finding it under the sofa.

These are just some of the scenarios you can enjoy in BIFF 1985 – 2005, an exhibition of the Guardian’s cult comic strip on show at the Newsroom in Farringdon, until March 3 2006.

shows two frames from a cartoon called the John Paul Sartre Story the second shows sartre looking at a list of his daily tasks

Courtesy www.biffonline.co.uk

Arguably the Guardian’s funniest comic strip, BIFF has managed to poke fun at academics, novelists, philosophers and just about anybody - from politicians to beardy vegetarians for nigh on 25 years. This exhibition celebrates this tenure with original artwork from some of the best-loved strips.

The creation of Chris Garratt and Mick Kidd, BIFF's distinctive artwork is created by Chris using a mixture of collage, tracings and original drawings from his home in the Scilly Isles, whilst Mick produces the words from his base in London.

The result is a weirdly anarchic mix of literary and philosophical babble - punctuated with pithy one liners - set within what look to be plundered and adapted comics from another era.

shows a comic strip featuring two couples in a formal drawing room. An elegant women is saying, 'Mervelliuex, a breath-taking performance, combining imagination, sublime skill, searching intuition and deep empathy, nest-ce pas?' A man replies 'I agree - intelligent musicality, technical assurance and a directness that almost belies the accomplishment of the playing. Quo have never sounded better.'

Courtesy www.biffonline.co.uk

The successful relationship between the two is carried on through email, fax, phone and only the occasional meeting. Perhaps it's this that gives the cartoons their peculiar shiver of surrealism?

Chris and Mick, who met at Grammar School in the 1950s and have worked on BIFF since the 1970s, describe Biff as “raising trivia to exciting new heights”. Accordingly the BIFF world is a place you might encounter Einstein working in a patents office: “Sorry I’m late boss, a storm broke loose in my mind.”

Or the aforementioned J.P. Sartre planning out his day during the dark days of Nazi occupation: “Today’s tasks: 1. Finish Being And Nothingness; 2. Lunch with Camus; 3. Blow up Gestapo HQ.”

shows a comic strip featuring a Albert Einstein working in a patents office he is saying 'sorry I'm late boss, a storm broke loose in my mind and I realise the most beautiful thing is to experience the mysterious to stand rapt in awe.' A man with glasses replies 'Now you listen to me Mr Mystical clever dick, this is a patents office, not a dosshouse for poetic layabouts

Courtesy www.biffonline.co.uk

The strip seems to be currently on a sabbatical from the Guardian, which means the mystifyingly popular Doonsebury is enjoying undeserved dominion over the newspaper's back pages. BIFF addicts can however catch the Newsroom exhibition, which features over 70 original artworks from the comic strip, each of them having appeared in the Guardian between 1985 and 2005.

In addition to their Guardian strips, BIFF has also appeared in Viz, City Limits, National Student, New Society, BBC History, Froots, Fortean Times and Building and People Management Magazine.

If you can’t make it to London and want to lose an hour two to the world of BIFF, check out the website at www.biffonline.co.uk, as the men behind BIFF say: “Just click on the links, relax and float away downstream…”

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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