Who in Australia has not seen the insightful, funny and often melancholy cartoons of Michael Luenig? I have always loved his quiet yet powerful observations on life, so I was extremely excited to see Leunig at Byron Community Theatre.
My clothes were spotted with rain as I’d entered the foyer. A takeaway hot chocolate warmed my hands as I joined the crowd, waiting to be let into the theatre.
The room was a lovely small amphitheatre, where I felt very close to the stage. There before me, reclined in a vintage chair next to the interviewer, was Michael Leunig.
He began by telling a tale of how he recently had a near-death experience.
Leunig said he was climbing a fire trail when a metal hatch fell and hit him on the wrist. He said it was very painful.
So painful in fact, that he didn’t realise he had also been hit on the head at the same time.
It wasn’t until three weeks later that he found out he had bleeding on the brain. He had been in the middle of a conversation, frozen, then passed out. He woke up in the back on an ambulance with the kind and concerned face of a paramedic looking over him.
He said this near-death experience made him re-evaluate his life, as it does with most people.
Leunig, in his contemplative and quiet voice, said it made him less willing to take rubbish from people.
Leunig also spoke of his experiences drawing cartoons for newspapers for so many years. He said sometimes in the rush to meet deadlines he had created cartoons that had hurt people, which he regretted. Leunig said he doesn’t like to hurt people. He doesn’t mind about politicians or businesses though.
The interviewer pointed out that he doesn’t often make many cartoons about specific politicians. Leunig replied that there really isn’t much left to say about them, they are already ‘self-satirical’.
Leunig also said that the media is too focused on current events, without creating space for larger issues or philosophy.
‘There really should be more philosophy…’ Leunig said thoughtfully, ‘… philosophy and ducks.’
The evening finished with Leunig drawing some of his well-loved characters on stage, which was projected onto a screen. I could hear the people around me sighing, laughing and gasping. With just a few lines, Leunig was able to convey such emotion.
Leunig’s cartoons reveal the sadness, happiness, ridiculousness and beauty that is Life. It makes us contemplate and question things, which in this fast-paced life, I believe can only be a very good thing indeed.