1883 Magazine
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If you haven’t already heard of the somewhat indecent but ingenious cult comic Modern Toss, now is the time to familiarise yourself. With a new book cleverly capitalising on the recession by hilariously and aptly capturing every possible hint of comedy in the current climate of doom, a potential TV show and a prominent part in Somerset House’s forthcoming Pick Me Up Festival, their popularity is on the rise. Though on the other hand, it really rose some time ago. Initially, creators Mick Bunnage and Jon Link each dabbled with a career in music – Mick playing bass with the Deep Freeze Mice, a band who “managed to make ten albums without anyone noticing”. But the musical world’s loss was our gain and once they’d turned their hand to comic art, people immediately started to pay attention. Their first self-titled TV series, broadcast on Channel 4 in 2005, was a ground breaking mix of blunt-talking, foul-mouthed misanthropic characters set in surreal situations and basically, very, very funny. The series won unanimous praise and ample awards and animation opportunities followed.

Having covered almost every medium of animation so far, it’ll be interesting to see where this marvellous collaboration will lead. The pair are apparently tempted by film, “Though they’re always changing the formats, stone is the only option that will hold a message over thousands of years and that is probably the next step for us”. 1883 caught up with them to discuss what has been described as their ‘tidal wave of filth’…

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Do you remember the exact moment Modern Toss was born?
It sort of evolved out of us working together at the start of Loaded magazine when it was a brilliant creative dustbin crossed with a pissed up rock ‘n’ roll band. Our job was to think up ground-breaking funny shit so readers could have a break from thinking about tits all the time. Modern Toss was probably born when we did our first comic with the character Mr Tourette calling some bloke a cunt on the cover and took a hundred copies into the ICA in a shopping trolley. They bought the lot and we were off. 

What inspired you to be cartoonists?
I think we’ve both been drawing cartoons since we were kids. My dad used to be an artist on Whizzer and Chips and I used to watch him painting words to go in comics so I thought it was the most natural thing. But ultimately it’s just something you do because that’s the way you think and that’s how it comes out. You need a short but intense attention span. It’s like a very old craft that only uses a small bit of your brain but very intensely. We’re like dry-stone wallers or roof-thatchers. 

Which is your favourite Modern Toss character?
We like the man who appears in our Work cartoons. He hasn’t got a name but he’s got a lot of blunt idiot wisdom. He’s like a paired down version of our other creation The Drive-By Abuser who fancies himself as more of a random general commentator who’s prepared to take on any subject, Paxman style. Drive-By is very modern in his outlook in that he tends to go for impact over insight. The key advantage he has over Paxman is that he’s got a scooter. But all of our characters are based on real people one way or another. Except Business Mouse who’s based on a real mouse.

Are you planning on debuting any new characters at Somerset House’s Pick Me Up Graphic Arts Festival? What have you got in store for the festival?
We’ll be presenting the Modern Toss Portrait Booth again. You sit in one end on a stool and we’ll draw your face through a hole in the wall to passport standard in 30 seconds or less. Everyone’s got a beard and glasses these days so it’s a lot easier for us! We’re also hoping to get everyone involved in contributing to the longest cartoon drawing in history with the word ’fuck’ in it. We haven’t sorted the logistics yet but just turn up and we’ll give you a pen. It’s your opportunity to be a part of graphic history. We’re calling it The Fuckyeux Tapestry. We’re going for a kilometre so we need anyone who can hold a fucking pen down there.

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Who would be your ultimate celebrity fan?
Jonathon Meades, Dave Bowie. Maybe best would be one of those self-obsessed ones who tweet a lot about stuff they like. 

Tell us about your new TV project?
Currently it’s called Modern Toss Cartoon Time, we’re having a look at some of the classic subjects - Robin Hood, werewolves, cowboys. It’s hosted by Business Mouse and at the moment it looks like it’ll be the greatest TV programme ever made.

Who are your biggest comedic influences?
Gilbert and George, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, people you meet in pubs.

Would you have any good advice for aspiring young cartoon comic artists? 
Don’t know but if you’ve already got half a brain, you only need a pen and paper and you’re away. Be prepared for the first 30 years to be quite hard going.

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Modern Toss will be producing the record breaking Fuckyeux Tapestry at Pick Me Up Graphic Arts Festival, Somerset House on Sunday 28 April. Their book Desperate Business is out now.

Words by Flora Hughes-Onslow

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