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David King "The Duke of Uke" |
David King hangs out at the Espresso Royale in Urbana, Illinois. If the universe is still all right, he never pays for his double mint mochas. After all, it's usually three in the morning when he shows up, and the guy working the graveyard shift enjoys the company. Anyway, that's how I rememeber it.
For a large part of two decades, David King's comic strip, "Bob and Dave" appeared in the Daily Illini newspaper, and compilations of his work were available from time to time. Sometimes in the spring, David would go out to the crowded campus quadrangle dressed as a large slice of bread to play his guitar and outdraw the crazy evangelist at the other end. But so much has changed. Some time ago, David King traded in his Gameboy for a ukulele at a local pawn shop. And now... there is no stopping him.
He is The Duke of Uke.
GD: Thanks for doing this! Mostly, I'm glad I found you, and that I can now bother you from a thousand miles away. I was in Urbana for 3 hours this summer, stopped in on Dave Kopacz, a friend of Doug McCarver. We went to Espresso Royale, and the placed reeked of Dave King, but you were nowhere to be found. The place is the size of a Chuckie Cheese now!
DK: It reeked of David King because I have actually marked the place with my scent - I have now finally achieved alpha-male status there and am able to drive other males away with my chest-pounding and dung-flinging!
GD: No wonder I felt so uncomfortable - this weird combination of shame mixed with the excitement of danger. Like the way I feel when I pull into the drive-thru at McDonald's.
Describe a typical meal that you like to eat.
DK: Primordial soup on a tectonic plate.
GD: I haven't seen you since that wedding in Chicago - the one that looked like it cost a million dollars. Speaking for myself only, I'm amazed that I got past security. Do you ever find yourself in a place where you don't feel like you belong? How do you handle such a situation?
DK: There are actually very few places where I feel I DO belong - so I usually just pretend I'm some obtuse German composer in a Herzog film.
GD: I saw Herzog's Grizzly Man documentary. The film I'm really waiting for is the one about the old lady who lives with 68 cats.
DK: That's one cat shy of a rather naughty number.
GD: See - that would be the one that turns all the other cats against her. She's one cat shy of becoming Meow Mix.
I'm concerned about my children's welfare and safety in this country, ever since the vice president was allowed to shoot a man in the face and get away with it. Is there anywhere on this Earth where we can feel safe anymore?
DK: Actually most of us are relatively safe from getting shot in the face by Cheney - he's a very busy man, being the anti-christ and all - and I believe your children's welfare will remain intact as long as you don't go hunting with Plutocrats.
GD: What cartoon or comics character would you most like to be? How would you do things differently, in that character's shoes?
DK: I would like to be the father in 'Family Circus', and I would have those melon-headed mutant kids of his go hunting with Plutocrats every weekend.
GD: I like to see comic strip characters evolve and progress. In your Family Circus, I could see Billy as a Nugent-esque bow-hunter. Dolly as a sort of a street-fighting Tonya Harding. Jeffy would spend most of his time huffing glue, and PJ would still be wearing footy pajamas, and he'd be really "close" to his mom. How would you describe your relationship with the wife in this strip? What's her name, Thelma? The helmet-headed one.
DK: She's very hot. So is the woman in Blondie. And they're both married to nerds. Same goes for Betty Rubble. I've always been enraged by those situations - why are they married to those DORKS?
GD: I think I'm qualified to answer that - some combination of brazen luck and a couple of very well-timed drinks. The next thing you know, you have a family.
Fatherhood is a slippery slope. I just rented The Disorderly Orderly, starring Jerry Lewis, and watched it with my kids. I am ruining their lives.
DK: Jerry ruined my life as well. He taught me that acting like a lobotomized monkey qualified as high-brow humor. It has taken me years of primal scream therapy to overcome this.
GD: At least he does that telethon thing. And the French are okay with him. Do you have any kind of a following in Europe or Japan?
DK: One of my favorite Myspace friends is a Japanese woman who goes by the name 'Strawberry Fields' - she writes me to tell me about bringing chocolates to her boss and boiling chicken for her cat - she's very sweet!
Ukulele music is actually quite popular in Japan and the UK - so I've slowly been building connections there - I'd love to play abroad someday....
GD: Japan loves comix too. Have you ever considered turning Bob and Dave into a full-blown anime feature-length movie? What would happen to them?
DK: Tricky, tricky... A friend and I are actually doing some short B n D animations - but I don't know how well they'd translate into a longer format.
I'm not actually cartooning much anymore, honestly. After 12 years the Daily Illini, who published my strip, abruptly pulled it. This happened in January. Some new kid editor decided to downsize the cartoons page to make room for lame articles written by Greek sophomores - so I'm more focused on music now. Ukulele music.
GD: Can you describe how life in a college town has evolved and changed since you have been around one? With regards to anything - hippies, coffee, joys, music, annoyances, sandwiches?
DK: We seem to have taken a giant leap backwards into the 1950's - Lots of straights, lots of jocks and cheerleaders and an occasional Fonz - very few radicals or weirdo artists - not as many as it seems there were before, at least - I suppose because of economic conditions, the university environment no longer allows for the luxury of simple mind-expansion - it's become a vocational school - but there are always the wonderful oddballs out there - so I still enjoy living in a college town and getting charged up by the creative energies that perpetually linger here...
GD: Have you outgrown anything lately? Like... emotionally...
DK: No. I'm in a state of arrested development, frozen at about 12-years-old. This is good and bad. I still think that beer tastes like yak pee. I am often hypnotized by the color purple. Cigars still make me sick. Wonder Woman still makes me wiggle on the floor for some unknown reason. I still bounce around to ragtime music. I still don't know how to clean my room, and I still stomp and whine at laundry time. I still doodle cartoons and hum melodies down the street. I still don't know algebra.
GD: Ah, so you're one of the comic strip characters that never gets any older. But this is funny, because when I was 12 years old, that's when I actually began smoking cigars and drinking beer - I really enjoyed them. How can human beings be so different? I share your struggles when it comes to Wonder Woman and cleaning my room... How much is genetics, how much is biological, and how much is learned?
DK: We're living in a good time to be emotionally stunted - in any other era, I would have probably been sent to boot camp or burnt as a witch...
Like most people I believe it comes from a combination of nature and nurture - I'm extremely ADD, so for me the biological aspect is very intense.
GD: I just remembered - I still have your Book of the Subgenius. Just a few pages missing.... It's around here somewhere, in the pile of comic books that Cooper is not allowed to look at yet. I feel kind of funny about it - yes, I did borrow this book from you, and no, I did not return it. It was as if the Reverend J.R. Bob Dobbs was telling me to keep it. Like I could honestly claim it wasn't my fault. Are you mad at me?
DK: I can't be - it's well known that everyone loans out their Book of Bob, and very few have them returned. Heck - I probably borrowed that book from somebody! However, my birthday is on May 31st and my address is 605 S. Race street in Urbana Illinois, 61801. So if anyone reading this wants to send me a birthday present feel free. And I'll be expecting that book back or something unfortunate may happen to your knee caps. I've been watching the Soprano's - I'm capable of anything now...
GD: What is next for David King? In ten minutes, in ten days, and in ten years?
DK: I'm releasing a new album in May - 'Follies' - it'll be available at parasol.com - and it's not joke uke music or old timey uke music - it's psychedelic boot-stomping rock uke with an art edge - with tubas and choirs and violins and hip-hop beats - and it'll be the best ukulele album ever mentioned in this one particular interview.
Check out the music at http://www.myspace.com/dukeofuke.
©2006 Mental Contagion • Making Space for Visual Artists & Writers