Inside the mind, life, and Bible of Philippe Geluck [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Interview by Angie Kallianou
The much-loved Belgian cartoonist, Philippe Geluck, will soon be releasing his first publication in English.
Le Chat is as deeply embedded in Belgian culture as Jacques Brel, and Geluck has sold an incredible eight million books.
An actor, cartoonist, comedian, and columnist, Geluck is most well known as the creator of Le Chat. This cartoon focuses on an adult cat as he engages in daily adventures with a sense of humor.
Le Chat and the chat
The new English addition to the cartoon series will take the form of a 192-page comic book titled “The Bible According to the Cat.”
In an in-depth interview, Philippe Geluck spoke to Angie Kallianou about his life and work. We began with an obvious question:
Are you a dog person or a cat person?
Geluck replies, “I think I’m a cat person but I think precisely that I’m not a person, I’m a cat.”
What is an average day like for you?
“Oh, I wake up early, have breakfast with my dear wife. We met 37 years ago and immediately lived together. Then I come into the office - I live above it - and I start to work. From 9am to 7pm. My first thing I do is to say “Let there be light” when I am at my table and I turn on the light and start to draw, to invent some comics.”
Drawing cats all day, do you ever dream about cats?
“No. That’s easy for me. When I work, I work, when I live, I live.” He expands, “There’s no clash between work and life. During the night and holidays, I am a normal person. Just a bit funny, but not trying to make everybody laugh all the time.
“That’s my day job. It’s a very serious work and it’s very hard work,” he says, then adds a plea, “Please, don’t laugh about my work.”
Le Chat comes to life
Geluck explains how he first realized he had an artistic gift, “Yes, my first cartoon of my life I drew it around eight or nine years old and that was the first time I felt that I was able to make my family and the people laugh. It’s a power, very incredible.”
“The first time Le Chat appeared was at my wedding in 1980 and we sent a ‘thank you’ card to people who came or gave presents. Inside the envelope you had a card with a young lady cat on it, inside was a drawing of her husband, myself.”
It wasn’t any usual wedding, “We gave our wedding list to the plumber because we had just bought a house with no plumbing, so one friend gave us a radiator, one a thermostat and so on.”
Turning the subject away from Geluck’s past, we ask “Le Chat is thirty years old, cats don’t usually live that long. What keeps it so young at heart?”
Geluck replies, “Cats don’t live usually so long but they have nine lives.” He continues, “I don’t know if it’s his first, or second, or third one. I think he’s eternal. A character – a
cartoon character is eternal.
And why is he so brilliant after thirty years In existence? It’s because I am passionate. It’s because my artistic libido is very, very strong.”
But his creation is more than lines on paper, “Sometimes I come in to my office and I expect Le Chat to appear, like a kid asking if he can have a coke from the fridge or something. For me, he is a real person, not a cat.”
Teaching an old cat new tricks
When asked about the cat’s recent introduction to English, Geluck expresses some disbelief. He marvels that “they (English-speaking populations) lived through three decades without knowing the cat! How could they do this? It’s incredible.
We turn to his latest and controversial book.
“Let’s talk about the Bible then. Not your version, but the Bible people rely on for spiritual guidance. You’ve read it. What did you think?”
Geluck responds by saying he thinks the Bible is “boring, long, too many characters, and not very humoristic.” He concludes by stating “I prefer my version. And I think the Christian community will adopt my version like the definitive version because humor is a part of life, it’s the first sign of happiness.”
For Geluck, it is important to be able to laugh, even if that laughter is directed at Holy Scripture. He says it’s “not necessary to laugh every time about everything but it’s important to have this liberty of thinking.”
When asked whether or not he would be able to address Islam through humor the way he has addressed the Bible, the answer was no. “That’s not my culture… Catholicism is my culture” (even though Geluck defines himself as an atheist, he considers Catholocism part of his culture) he says, “if I make jokes about another religion it is intrusive.”
Political correctness must be laughed at
Speaking on political correctness Geluck explains “I don’t like political correctness very much but I’m a man very involved in his time and society. I think I’m an honest man and my life is like that. I’m not a racist, I’m a humanist, a democrat, feminist.”
In regard to people who are uncomfortable with this belief, Geluck insists that “people who don’t like that we laugh about everything are people who have not completely resolved one problem or another.”
Is political correctness good for society? “I think humourists are good people in general. Their role is to offer happiness to people. Problems come from the world of finance, terrorism, armies and so on. That’s not the work of humourists. The problems come from bad guys. We fight those negative people.”
European politics hasn’t been too much fun in the last few years, so “can we laugh about Europe?”
Geluck states, “yes, because it’s necessary.” When asked about laughing at the financial crisis he shrugs and claims there is “nothing else to do.”
Can we even laugh at the Belgians?
Geluck replies with “oh yes, please. And the Belgians are the first to laugh about themselves.” Explaining“We have two cultures and I speak both languages. One side of my family comes from Flanders, the other from Wallonia. It would be perfect if every Belgian speaks both languages and English as a third, but this was not the choice of our politicians and this is where we are today.”
“I love Belgium, I like this mess. When you think of all the artists in Belgium making their living it’s incredible. So many of them, in such a small country.”
But, can we laugh about Marc Dutroux ( a notorious child serial killer and molester in Belgium)?
Geluck pauses. “Maybe, that’s my limit. I said once in France that this country is known for three things, beer, waffles and pedophilia. That is the truth. It’s like a kind of humour, but humour isn’t just about making people laugh, but also to make them think.”
“Perhaps we can laugh about Marc Dutroux, but certainly not about his victims.”