Turning Chaos Into Comedy -Viz- The Barney Farmer Interview

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction

  2. The Inspiration Behind 'The Drunken Bakers'

  3. The Birth of 'George Bestial'

  4. 'Male Online': From Comment Boards to Comic Pages

  5. Neoliberalism, Centrism, and Authoritarianism

  6. Conspiracy Theories vs. Conspiracism

  7. Humor Without Prejudice

  8. Challenges in Publishing

  9. The Creative Process Behind Viz

  10. Conclusion


Welcome to another enlightening edition of 'Some Dare Call It Conspiracy,' the podcast where hosts Brent Lee and Neil Sanders, both former conspiracy theorists, explore the depth of conspiratorial thinking alongside intriguing guests. In this episode, they venture into the realm of provocative humor with Barney Farmer, the creative mind behind some of Viz's most iconic characters, including The Drunken Bakers, George Bestial, and Male Online. Known for his unique blend of dark comedy and societal critique, Farmer provides a compelling exploration of the inspirations and challenges that shape his work.

Throughout the interview, listeners are treated to an eclectic mix of insights. From the grim yet humorous world of The Drunken Bakers to the socio-political satire embodied in George Bestial, and Male Online, Farmer unpacks his creative process with candid reflections. The conversation also navigates through the murky waters of conspiracy theories versus conspiracism, and the delicate act of balancing edgy comedy without prejudice. Join us as we delve into the crux of humor, politics, and societal observations with Barney Farmer.

In what follows, each segment of this article mirrors the structured dialogue of the podcast. We start by understanding the inspiration behind The Drunken Bakers, traverse through the creation of George Bestial, and decode how contemporary message boards inspired Male Online. Further, we engage with the podcast's discussion on political ideologies, conspiracy theories, humor ethics, and the hurdles in publishing. Finally, we take a peek into Farmer's creative process with Viz, culminating in a thought-provoking conclusion.

The Inspiration Behind 'The Drunken Bakers'

The Drunken Bakers stand as a testament to Barney Farmer's unparalleled ability to find humor in the bleakest of human conditions. These characters, who operate a failing bakery while constantly inebriated, were born from Farmer's acute observations of life's darker side. He recounts this inspiration with vivid detail, sharing how his visits to a pub and a pie shop painted the perfect backdrop for these pitiable yet endearing figures. These experiences laid the foundation for a strip that would humorously yet sorrowingly mirror the decay and despair present in certain societal pockets.

Farmer's creative process for The Drunken Bakers is a story of blending reality with artistic embellishment. The characters are exaggerated versions of real people he encountered, making them both relatable and absurd. This amalgamation of truth and fiction serves to accentuate the comedic elements while grounding the narratives in real-life scenarios. The strip masterfully navigates the fine line between comedy and tragedy, offering readers a poignant reflection on addiction, failure, and human vulnerability.

Moreover, Farmer's work on The Drunken Bakers highlights his skill in embedding social commentary within humor. The strip doesn't merely seek to elicit laughter; it aims to provoke thought about the socio-economic conditions that drive such despair. By integrating humor with sharp societal critique, Farmer engages his audience in a dialogue about the often-overlooked struggles faced by the marginalized. His ability to address serious issues through the lens of comedy underscores the depth and complexity of his work.

The Birth of 'George Bestial'

George Bestial emerged from Barney Farmer's fascination with the absurdities of human behavior and society. This character, notorious for his exaggerated, grotesque qualities, was crafted to satirize the darker facets of human nature. Through George Bestial, Farmer dives into themes of excess and moral decay, using the character's outlandish actions as a mirror to societal faults. The inspiration for George Bestial can be traced back to Farmer's sharp observations of the world around him, where he saw a rich tapestry of follies ripe for comedic exploration.

The creation of George Bestial involved a meticulous process of character development, where Farmer's keen sense of the absurd played a significant role. George's persona was designed to be a hyperbolic reflection of certain societal types, amplified to a degree that both entertains and provokes. This character is a vessel for Farmer to explore themes that are often left unaddressed in mainstream discourse, such as the intrinsic flaws within human nature and the societal systems that enable them. Through George Bestial, Farmer creates a space where uncomfortable truths can be examined under the guise of humor.

As George Bestial's stories unfolded, they delved into increasingly surreal and dark territories, reflecting Farmer's interest in pushing the boundaries of conventional storytelling. The character's interactions and escapades are crafted to challenge the audience's perceptions and elicit a deeper understanding of the underlying themes. Farmer's use of satire through George Bestial serves as a powerful tool for critiquing societal norms, encouraging readers to question and reflect on the world around them. By combining humor with incisive social commentary, Farmer ensures that George Bestial is not just a source of entertainment, but also a catalyst for thought-provoking dialogue.

'Male Online': From Comment Boards to Comic Pages

Male Online is perhaps one of Barney Farmer's most culturally significant creations, drawing directly from the vitriol and fervor found in online message boards. Farmer recounts how he stumbled upon the inspiration for Male Online while navigating the comment sections of the Daily Mail. These sections, teeming with right-wing social media activists and their often inflammatory remarks, provided a fertile ground for satire. By carefully curating and sometimes embellishing actual comments, Farmer was able to craft a character that encapsulates the digital-era's paradoxes and excesses.

The character of Male Online serves as a satirical lens on contemporary online discourse, highlighting the often ludicrous nature of internet culture. Farmer's approach to creating Male Online was methodical; he collected genuine comments and wove them into the character's dialogue, making sure to maintain a balance between believability and absurdity. This process underscores Farmer's keen observational skills and his ability to transform mundane online interactions into compelling, humor-laden narratives. Male Online stands as a critique of not only the individuals who propagate such ideologies but also the platforms that enable them.

Moreover, Male Online has grown to become a representation of the wider societal issues related to online behavior. The character's rants and diatribes echo the themes of misinformation, echo chambers, and the polarization that dominates today's internet culture. Through Male Online, Farmer explores the consequences of these digital phenomena, prompting readers to reflect on their own online interactions and the broader implications of internet discourse. This character not only entertains but also serves as a stark reminder of the complexities and often hidden dangers of the digital age.

Neoliberalism, Centrism, and Authoritarianism

The dialogue between Barney Farmer and the hosts of 'Some Dare Call It Conspiracy' delves into the intricate world of political ideologies, particularly focusing on neoliberalism, centrism, and authoritarianism. These discussions provide a backdrop for understanding many of Farmer's characters, who often embody or react to these ideological currents. Farmer articulates the subtle yet pervasive influence these ideologies have on public life, which often seep into his work, offering a nuanced critique of contemporary politics.

Neoliberalism, with its emphasis on market-driven approaches and deregulation, finds a place in Farmer's narratives, where characters often navigate the harsh realities of a market-centric world. The stark satire in The Drunken Bakers, for example, can be seen as a commentary on the neoliberal neglect of societal welfare. Similarly, centrism and its often superficial attempt to balance opposing views are critiqued through the moral ambiguity present in characters like George Bestial. By embedding these ideologies in his characters, Farmer encourages his audience to question the efficacy and morality of these political currents.

Authoritarianism, with its focus on obedience and order, is another theme that Farmer explores with a critical eye. His characters frequently rebel against or succumb to the pressures of authoritarian structures, providing a platform to examine the human cost of such governance. The conversation in the podcast highlights how Farmer uses his work to expose the undercurrents of power and control that shape societal dynamics. This examination of political ideologies through the lens of satire allows for a deeper understanding of the socio-political environment that influences and is depicted in Farmer's work.

Conspiracy Theories vs. Conspiracism

In a fascinating segment of the interview, the conversation shifts to the topic of conspiracy theories versus conspiracism, a distinction that holds significant relevance in today's socio-political landscape. Barney Farmer and the hosts of 'Some Dare Call It Conspiracy' discuss how these concepts are intricately woven into the societal fabric, influencing public perception and behavior. The distinction between conspiracy theories, which are specific, often unproven claims about events or situations, and conspiracism, a broader worldview that sees hidden, malevolent forces at work, is a crucial one. Farmer's work frequently touches upon these themes, reflecting the growing prevalence and impact of such beliefs.

Conspiracy theories often serve as a way for individuals to make sense of complex and confusing events. Farmer points out how characters like Male Online embody this tendency to seek simple explanations for intricate phenomena. These characters become conduits for exploring how conspiracy theories can offer a sense of order in a seemingly chaotic world. However, as discussed in the podcast, this quest for order can lead to the propagation of harmful and misleading narratives, exacerbating societal divisions and mistrust.

Conspiracism, on the other hand, represents a more deep-seated and pervasive mindset. Farmer and the hosts delve into how conspiracism shapes an individual's entire worldview, often leading to an entrenched suspicion of authorities and institutions. This mindset is vividly portrayed in Farmer's satirical work, where characters exhibit a paranoid outlook that mirrors real-world conspiracist attitudes. By addressing both specific conspiracy theories and the broader conspiracism, Farmer's work prompts readers to critically evaluate the sources and motivations behind the information they consume. This discussion underscores the importance of media literacy and the need to foster a more discerning and informed public.

Humor Without Prejudice

One of the most enlightening parts of Barney Farmer's interview is his take on creating humor that remains edgy yet avoids being prejudiced or harmful. Farmer emphasizes that while comedy can and should push boundaries, it must do so responsibly. This approach is evident in his work, where he skillfully navigates sensitive topics without 'punching down.' His characters, though often exaggerated and flawed, are portrayed in a way that elicits empathy rather than scorn, highlighting the fine balance between humorous critique and respect for human dignity.

Farmer's discussion on stereotypes in comedy aligns closely with his creative philosophy. He acknowledges the use of stereotypes as a comedic tool but stresses the importance of context and intent. Citing examples from shows like 'Little Britain' and 'The League of Gentlemen,' Farmer points out that the trust between the performer and the audience is paramount. This trust allows for the exploration of contentious themes without crossing into offensive territory. In his own work, characters like George Bestial and The Drunken Bakers reflect societal stereotypes, but their portrayal is nuanced, ensuring that the comedy critiques the stereotype rather than reinforcing it.

The ethical considerations in comedy are further explored through the concept of not 'punching down.' Farmer and the hosts discuss how true comedic excellence lies in the ability to be funny without marginalizing or belittling vulnerable groups. This principle is woven into Farmer's satire, where the humor often targets societal structures and behaviors rather than individual traits. By maintaining this ethical stance, Farmer's work not only entertains but also fosters a more inclusive and thoughtful discourse on the subjects it tackles. His approach serves as a reminder that comedy, when crafted with care and consciousness, can be both impactful and humane.

Challenges in Publishing

Barney Farmer's journey through the publishing world is a testament to his perseverance and dedication to his craft. During the podcast, Farmer offers a candid look into the obstacles he faced while trying to get his work published, particularly his experiences with corporate publishers. The challenges ranged from obtaining permissions to dealing with bureaucratic hurdles, all of which tested his resolve. Despite these setbacks, Farmer's determination allowed him to navigate these complexities and achieve his vision, a journey that many aspiring writers can find both relatable and inspiring.

Farmer's strategy of initially blogging his book to generate interest serves as a clever workaround to traditional publishing roadblocks. By directly engaging with readers and building a following online, he was able to create a demand for his work, which eventually facilitated the publishing process. This innovative approach highlights the importance of adaptability and resourcefulness in the face of industry challenges. Farmer's success story is a powerful illustration of how unconventional methods can often lead to breakthroughs in a highly competitive field.

Moreover, Farmer's experience underscores the broader issues within the publishing industry, particularly the difficulties faced by creators who produce niche or non-mainstream content. His struggle to get a book compilation approved reflects a larger systemic rigidity that often hampers creativity. However, Farmer's eventual triumph also points to the potential of alternative platforms and self-publishing as viable paths for creative expression. His story not only sheds light on the hurdles in publishing but also offers hope and practical advice for those navigating a similar journey.

The Creative Process Behind Viz

The collaboration and creativity that fuel Barney Farmer's work with Viz are central themes in the discussion. Farmer shares that his entry into the world of comics was serendipitous, starting as a side project while he was engaged in what he describes as a dead-end job in the 1980s. The fortuitous beginning laid the groundwork for a prolific career, marked by a unique blend of humor and critical insight. Farmer recounts how his partnership with artists like Lee, who brought his written ideas to life through compelling visuals, was instrumental in the success of his characters.

Farmer's creative process is a meticulous blend of observation, imagination, and collaboration. He emphasizes the importance of capturing the essence of characters and situations from real life, then exaggerating them to highlight their inherent absurdities. This process is evident in characters like Duncan Bakers, whose bleak and existential adventures in the Viz comics reflect Farmer's keen eye for the tragicomic aspects of everyday life. By working closely with artists who share his vision, Farmer ensures that the visual representation complements the narrative, creating a cohesive and impactful piece of satire.

The evolution of characters like George Bestial and The Drunken Bakers showcases Farmer's commitment to pushing the boundaries of his craft. He reveals that the feedback from his audience and the dynamic nature of societal trends often influence the direction of his stories. This adaptive approach allows Farmer to keep his work relevant and resonant, continuously engaging his readers. The creative synergy between Farmer and his collaborators at Viz is a testament to the power of teamwork in producing enduring and thought-provoking comedy.


In concluding this deep dive into the world of Barney Farmer, it's clear that his contributions to the realm of satirical comedy and social critique are both significant and multifaceted. His characters, from The Drunken Bakers to George Bestial and Male Online, offer more than mere entertainment; they provide a lens through which societal issues and human behaviors can be examined and understood. Through the rich dialogue with Brent Lee and Neil Sanders on 'Some Dare Call It Conspiracy,' we gain a deeper appreciation for the intricate balance Farmer maintains between humor and commentary.

Farmer's work serves not only as a reflection of his keen observations and creative prowess but also as a commentary on the socio-political landscape. His ability to infuse humor with critical insights makes his creations stand out in the crowded field of satirical art. Furthermore, his resilience in overcoming publishing hurdles and his innovative approach to connecting with audiences underscore the passion and dedication that drive his artistry. His stories remind us of the power of satire to challenge, provoke, and ultimately inspire change.

As we reflect on the themes explored in this interview, from the impact of political ideologies and conspiracy theories to the ethical considerations in comedy and the realities of the publishing world, it becomes evident that Farmer's influence extends beyond the pages of Viz. His work continues to resonate with audiences, encouraging a more thoughtful and critical engagement with the world around us. Through his satirical lens, Barney Farmer invites us to laugh, reflect, and perhaps see our society in a new, more illuminated light.

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