Andy from A to Y
A is for ALICE IN WONDERLAND, my favorite children’s book — no my favorite BOOK — of all time. How many surprising characters, surreal situations and outright silliness can you pack into one book? Go read it and find out. Don’t forget to check out Through the Looking Glass as well.
C is for COMICS. When I was growing up in the early 70’s you used to be able to get these really brilliant horror/sci-fi comics. Great writing, drawing and extremely imaginative and terrifying stories. One of my favourites was ‘Monsters of the Mind’, which I wrote about in the story ‘Chocopops’ in Just Shocking!
D is for DANNY PICKETT, my best friend from primary school. A character bearing his name appears in the JUST! series, but I must point out that the real life Danny is not quite as stupid as the character Danny. Which is lucky. I must also point out that the character of Andy, who bears my name, is not quite as clever and smart as he likes to think he is.
E is for EXERCISE BOOKS. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved filling exercise books with drawings, poems, newspaper clippings, photographs, song lyrics, advertisements, jokes, riddles, observations, dreams and memories. I suppose this is what you’d call a writer’s journal, but I don’t think of it like that — I just think of it as fun.
F is for FREAKING OUT, the name of my first self-published book in 1990. It was a collection of observations, dreams and memories culled from the pages of my exercise books. The name was inspired (okay, copied!) from Frank Zappa’s first album of the same name. Zappa defined FREAKING OUT as: ‘A process whereby an individual casts off outmoded and restrictive standards of thinking, dress and social etiquette in order to express themselves creatively.’ This is what I tried to do in Freaking Out and pretty much all of my books ever since.
G is for GRIFF, which is what my friends used to call me at school. Some still do.
H is for HUMOUR — the sillier it is, the more I like it: The Three Stooges, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Young Ones, Bottom, Steve Martin, Pee Wee Herman and Peter Cook are just a few of my all time favorites.
I is for IMAGINATION. I’m not sure what it is or how it works exactly, but I know that you have to feed it if you want to keep it strong and healthy. I follow the advice of Ray Bradbury who wrote: ‘If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like old faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed to trap them before they escape.’
J is for the JUST! series. The first book, Just Tricking! (1997), grew out of one of my small self-published 12-page pocket books that gave simple instructions on how to play a variety of practical — and not so practical — jokes. I used to sell this and other ‘pocket books’ at markets around Melbourne. Just Tricking! was my best-selling title, so I decided to expand it into a manuscript describing how to play two hundred practical jokes. This evolved into the idea of inventing a narrator who thinks he is the world’s greatest practical joker, but who in reality is a complete idiot who almost always ends up with the joke backfiring on him. I tried many different ways of writing this character, but it wasn’t until I pretended that the narrator was actually a younger and much sillier version of myself that I found the right voice for the stories. Andy the character does all the things that I’ve always wanted to do but was never brave enough to try.
K is for KITTENS, PUPPIES AND PONIES. I made a rule for myself that no animals were to be harmed in any of my stories. I did, however, have to make an exception for the kittens, puppies and ponies in the story of the same name from Just Crazy! because they were just too cute — they DESERVED to be thrown in the automatic pulverising and mashing machine. And it wasn’t cruel to put Sooty in that swing, either, in ‘The Dog Ate it’ (Just Crazy); he was yelping, sure, but it wasn’t because he was upset — he was yelping for joy. (I know this for a fact, because I asked him.)
L is for LOST IN TIME: the name of the first story I ever had published. I was 13 years old and it was published in Pursuit magazine. The story was about a boy who is transported many thousands of years into the future while buying two packets of chips and a can of coke at the footy.
M is for MUSIC: I’ve always loved music and draw a lot of inspiration from it. I love music with lots of energy — music that’s not afraid to be different and/or annoying and/or loud.
N is for NOO-NOO: what I used to call myself when I was really little and wasn’t able to say ’Andrew’.
O is for ONE HUNDRED PERCENT TRUE, which is what all of my stories are, except for the made-up bits. The made-up bits, however, are absolutely one hundred percent completely made-up, except, of course, for the true bits, which, as I have mentioned, are absolutely one hundred per cent completely true (except for the made-up bits).
P is for POPCORN, the name of the magazine I wrote, typed and printed when I was in Year 7. It featured jokes, riddles, puzzles, comic strips and fake news articles (eg. Q: What did the maths book say to the other maths book? A: You’ve got problems!) I sold copies to the other Year 7 students for three cents a copy (what a bargain!). It lasted for five issues.
Q is for QUESTIONS — especially stupid ones that put the person you’re questioning into an impossible dilemma, like ’If you had to be squashed, would you rather be squashed by: bricks or feathers?’ or ‘If you had to be eaten, would you rather be eaten by: ants or lions?’
R is for RUBBER VOMIT, the first practical joke I ever tried. I bought a slab of rubber vomit from the milk bar on the way home from school one day and laid it on the front door mat. But Mum wasn’t fooled for a second (the mat was made of wire!). She made me put the vomit in the incinerator and burn it. Many years later, when I was much older, I used to buy jars of corn relish from the supermarket and re-label them as ‘GRIFF’S OWN VOMIT’ and secretly put them into people’s refrigerators. Which I suppose just goes to show that even though you might grow older, you don’t necessarily grow up.
S is for SOOTY — a small dog with a mighty spirit. He spent his entire life chasing cars up and down the hill we lived on. He never caught one, but he never gave up trying. He was the inspiration for the crazy dog in the JUST! series.
T is for TERRY DENTON. He is a complete idiot. Avoid him. And especially avoid his website (see the links page) because it contains a really nasty typing game that’s not in the least bit funny. I think that’s all you need — or would want — to know about Terry Denton. Oh, I almost forgot: he also did all the pictures for the JUST! series, The Bad Book, The Cat on the Mat is Flat and The Big Fat Cow that Goes Kapow!. And they’re pretty good, too. But I still think he’s an idiot.
U is for UNDERWOOD which was the brand of typewriter I bought for forty cents at a white elephant stall at our primary school. It was all rusted up but my dad fixed it and I got a typing book and taught myself to touch-type. I used the Underwood for many years — right up until my second year at university when it was replaced with a small portable. The portable lasted for about ten years until I reluctantly abandoned typewriters for word processors. You can’t beat word processors for editing, but they don’t have the romance of my Underwood, which is still on my desk — as big and clunky and beautiful as ever.
V is for VERY BIG SLUGS which are very bad things. If you don’t know why, then just read ‘The story of the very stupid boy and the very big slug’ in Just Disgusting! and you’ll soon find out.
W is WHOOPEE CUSHIONS: something that no self-respecting practical joker — or home — should be without. Endless, mindless fun for children of all ages.
X is for X-RAY VISION, which is something that I’ve always wished I had. As long as I had a way of turning it off, of course, because I wouldn’t want to have to see through people’s clothes. Well, not all the time, anyway. I mean imagine if you were meeting the Queen and she said, ‘how do you do?’ and you were just standing there completely shocked and unable to speak because your un-turnoffable x-ray vision allowed you to see right through her robes and she just thought you were some kind of stupid moron or something. I’m not saying that I’m NOT a stupid moron, but I’d probably wish that I didn’t have x-ray vision at that point — not the sort that you can’t turn off, anyway.
Y is for YOU DIE! The thing I love most about writing stories is that you are free to do and create absolutely anything that you can possibly imagine. In real life it would be dangerous to do many of the things that my characters do, but in a story there’s no problems: you can literally do ANYTHING you want! Just to prove it I killed one character 18 times in the one story (‘Cake of Doom’ in Just Disgusting!) Unfortunately the character was YOU (it was a choose-your-own-adventure). Fortunately you’re still alive — which just goes to prove my point.
Z is for ZERO because this list is called ‘Andy from A-Y’, you idiot!