Thanks a million for comic capers

PUBLISHED: 12:07 12 October 2006 | UPDATED: 11:00 06 May 2010

Mike Barfield with son Jacob, 8, and Steve I Wonder masks

Mike Barfield with son Jacob, 8, and Steve I Wonder masks

A TELEVISION and radio veteran is lending a hand to children in Comet country. Comedy writer, script editor, cartoonist and author Mike Barfield, of Bearton Road, Hitchin, is using his vast and varied skills to entertain children as part of 1Book4Stevenag

A TELEVISION and radio veteran is lending a hand to children in Comet country.

Comedy writer, script editor, cartoonist and author Mike Barfield, of Bearton Road, Hitchin, is using his vast and varied skills to entertain children as part of 1Book4Stevenage and the national Big Draw initiatives.

Mike is the creative brain behind The Di Finchley Code - a murder mystery book which can be used to solve clues hidden around the Tudor display at Stevenage Museum and forms part of the 1Book4Stevenage project - aimed at increasing literacy in children.

Mike said: "One of the museum staff has been murdered and the children have to follow the clues to discover who did it.

"You can find all the clues in the museum and you have to go out into the town to a secret location to claim the prize.

"I just hope it will spark children's imaginations and will take the ordinary Tudor display and make it a little different.

"Working with children is one side of what I do and having two of my own gives me a good insight into what makes them tick."

Mike is also playing a big part in Stevenage's contribution to the Big Draw - a national campaign launched to encourage children of all ages to draw.

He said: "We want to have an attempt at the world's longest cartoon strip record and I'm so excited because we could actually do it.

"I want to get kids involved in drawing because it can be so much fun.

"The character in the cartoon is called Steve I Wonder - the curious kid with the question mark quiff.

"We have also managed to get the Beano's involvement and Dennis the Menace and Gnasher will feature at the beginning of the cartoon, before handing over to Steve I Wonder."

Stevenage Museum is inviting children of all ages to take the character and create their own adventure for Steve, drawing them in a cartoon form complete with speech bubbles.

These projects form just part of a hectic and diverse career choice for Mike.

He said: "I'm a TV and radio veteran and I have had a many and varied career" which includes working on comic Dennis the Menace, BBC's Spitting Image, Channel 4's Location, Location, Location and You are What You Eat, as well as a five-year stint as a script editor on ITV's Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

He said: "I used to write the interviews Chris Tarrant had with the contestants. "My job was largely to just make things funny.

"Who Wants to be a Millionaire was a high point in my career because of the camaraderie.

"They were all really nice people to work with.

"It was fun meeting the contestants and I finally got to work on something my mother actually enjoyed.

"I have done some obscure things but Millionaire is something for everyone."

Mike, 44, has not always been a comic genius.

He said: "I started off interested in biology and studied for a degree in it at Kings College in London.

"But I always liked comedy so I pursued my other interest.

"I was one of millions to start with but I started to contribute to BBC radio in the late 80s.

"It's probably even harder to break into the field now.

"There was open access to writers back then and if you were funny you got paid."

He added: "People often think that comedy is linked to how well you can remember a joke.

"I'm terrible at remembering jokes but I have fun playing with language.

"Something is only funny if you can put it across to other people and sometimes this can be quite difficult.

"You can't take a course to learn comedy, you're either funny or you're not."

Mike is currently working on a number of projects, including writing a book called Swat: A Fly's Guide to Survival, which is due to be published in 2008.

He has also recently worked on Location, Location, Location - The Best and Worst Places to Live, as well as regularly contributing to magazine Private Eye.

Mike said: "I have been doing regular cartoons for Private Eye for 10 years now.

"It's like I'm part of the furniture there.

"I have a page to myself which I'm very proud of."

With regard to future projects, Mike said: "The great thing is I don't know what's next.

"It's quite exciting and also a bit scary but I like a challenge."

* The Big Draw cartoon will be on display at Stevenage Museum on October 21, between noon and 4pm.

The Di Finchley Code competition takes place from October 21 to 29 at Stevenage Museum.


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