Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Return Of The Fat Bloke

He provided the biggest laughs and the most banter of anything that happened in my fifteen years at Nielsen. And for many years, he's been missing in action. But today, thanks to my good friend and peer, Lord Marston, he has returned. And here he is:

This man is responsible for some of the funniest
moments of my working life.

So who was this cartoon hero and where did he come from? Well we must take a trip back almost two decades to the mid 1990's. Back to a time when the internet was in its infancy, there was no googling, no photoshop, and very little for entertainment on the computers at Nielsen other than Solitaire and Minesweeper. But email had recently been installed, not yet connected to the wider world, but allowing communication around the building.

This made sending things around considerably easier. Prior to that we had printed out memos with distribution lists on them, photocopied them, highlighted the names and put them in the internal mail basket. Then we trusted to luck that whichever spotty work experience kid had got the mail run dumped on them that week might help them find their way to the recipient some time over the next couple of days.

But email certainly speeded things up, though I can remember a number of the more established members of the staff scoffing at it and saying it would never catch on.

We also had the Microsoft suite of applications on our machines which were very primitive compared to today's all singing and dancing versions. On our stone age version of Powerpoint we had a collection of clip art installed which included our famous fat bloke as pictured, one of a number of cartoon characters who if I remember rightly was titled "Announcing to all".

I think he was throwing his arms up in the air to announce good news, however he was soon being used for all sorts of scenarios. I believe it was my good friend, Andy Pill, who first came up with the idea of putting him onto an amusing slide and sending it around our little gang of mates - a drinking gang who spent most Friday nights at the time drinking Oxford dry. I was going over to Sweden to visit my Dad who was living and working there at the time and just before I went, an email popped up in my inbox with a Powerpoint attachment. Andy had created a picture with a map of Europe on it and two of the  fat blokes - one who was meant to be my Dad standing on top of Sweden holding a large hot dog, and me standing in England. The caption was "Over here son, I've got your breakfast!"

Andy had started a new craze and in the months that followed, countless slides were created. As Andy, myself and Jason Byles were all rather overweight at the time we all appeared as the identical fat bloke with names and numbers crudely written on our backs in the style of football shirts to identify us. The fourth member of our gang who was rather more in trim appeared as a hairy caveman holding up a large nut for reasons I can't quite remember, presumably because he worked in the engine room of Nielsen and had a ponytail. We were somewhat limited by the relatively few pieces of clip art available - only a couple of hundred or so, and we couldn't get on to the internet to get more, so we would just scan through the pictures, pick one and make up a slide around it.

For example, I remember creating one for Bylo where I found a picture of a ship, rotated it so it was listing down at an angle of about 20 degrees, stuck him right on the bottom end, and dozens of stick men up at the high end, all shouting out "Bylo - don't stand there - you'll sink the boat". The fat theme was taken to excessive lengths, even to the suggestion of the planet being knocked out of orbit by some antic or other. They were crude and extremely rude, there were no limitations on language and scenarios. Some would have got an 18 certificate for sure. But the one thing they all had was that they were very very funny.

Various other variations on the theme were developed. We found a character with a moustache bashing his hand on the table who looked the spitting image of my boss, the legendary "Watty". Soon a series of "Where's Watty" slides began to appear with him hiding in various very complicated scenes. And so it went on. I am pretty sure that "Watty" who still works for Nielsen is unaware of this to this day, but if by some chance he is reading now, I am sure he would look back and laugh.

It's all about Bitstrips now it seems - where you look for an existing picture and then put yourself into it. What we did was way funnier - completely original and we built our slides from scratch. We were a group of friends who knew each other very well and knew just which buttons to press for maximum effect.

Sadly those pictures are gone forever - we didn't keep them when we left, but I can still picture them in my head. My life has been filled with classic comedy moments - these slides were some of the best.

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