Last year was a sad one for people who follow politics and enjoy quality satire, with the passing of the great John Clarke. Now the new year has hardly begun and already we’re mourning the passing of another truly great humorist and satirist.
The name Ron Tandberg won’t mean a lot to people outside Australia, and possibly even to people outside Melbourne who aren’t regular readers of The Age newspaper. But many of us here in Melbourne are saddened to hear of his passing.
I couldn’t tell you the first time I saw a Tandberg cartoon in The Age. Certainly, since I started looking at newspapers back in the ’70s, they’ve been a regular part of my life – something that always seemed to be there – although definitely not something you’d take for granted. The drawing style was simple. The cartoons seldom went beyond a single panel. And yet, they always made you laugh, and they always captured the essence of an issue in the cleanest and clearest possible way. Often, you didn’t even need to read the article. The Tandberg summed it up perfectly.
Nobody was immune from Tandberg’s barbs. Politicans, celebrities, business people – anyone could be on the end of a richly deserved skewering. And yet, as with the comedy of John Clarke, there was nothing mean about it. The satire could be sharp and biting, but there was always an underlying humanity behind it. You could tell this was someone who cared about people, even as he could see all there weaknesses and foibles.
It’s hard to imagine opening up the paper and not seeing a Tandberg. Often it was the first thing you looked for on the first page. Life just won’t be the same.
As someone who fancies themselves as something of a satirist, Tandberg was definitely one of my earliest and strongest influences – probably the very first person who showed me how you could extract humour from the daily news and from something as apparently dry as politics. He’s always been a favourite. Truly the finest political cartoonist I’ve ever seen, and one of the greatest all-round humorists as well.
He will be sadly missed. Best wishes to his family and friends.
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