College newspapers are breeding grounds for weird comic strips, and The Daily Texan at my alma mater the University of Texas at Austin is no exception. That's where Berkeley Breathed got his start in the late '70s, and it's also where, in 1997, a strip called Nutty, the Kitten with Testicles for Legs made its debut.
The comic, drawn by Tim Beynart, featured the non-adventures of the title cat and provoked all kinds of letters to the editor. (Imagine that.) Years later, I admit I still think of that darn cat. None of the strips are available online, but Beynart had the balls to draw up a new version for Topless Robot readers and spend a little time answering my questions.
Where'd the idea for a kitten with testicles for legs come from?
Frankly it's surprising that I was the first to draw a cat with balls instead of feet. Such a thing seems obvious to me, like drawing a tree, a sun, a house, and a dog with two heads. Who doesn't think of elephants with cocks for trunks, or snakes with giant butts, or creatures made of nothing but anus? Do these people consider themselves real human beings? I can't relate.
Figuring out that Nutty could propel himself by heating and cooling his testicle legs to generate motion was a stroke of brilliance. How'd you come up with that?
In Austin it gets really hot. Your nuts hang to your knees like a pair of eggs in a sock. Back in college I rode my bike everywhere, so I constantly crushed my nads getting on and off the bike. I fantasized about jumping into ice cold water and having my scrotum shrivel into a solid walnut. Voila!
Everyone I knew on campus was talking about Nutty. I even loved reading the letters to the editor. What did the attention feel like at the time?
The whole Nutty episode was simply a fart joke writ large. And I love a good fart joke, and I love the smell of my own farts, so this was like the best thing that could have possibly happened to me. I had a circle of very smart, very tolerant friends, who are still my best friends to this day, and I was doing my best to crack them up. My parents thought it was hilarious, too, though my mom did express some concern that my name was printed there for the world to see. And she doesn't like smelling my farts.
How'd you get the gig? Did you know someone at The Daily Texan?
A friend of mine was in the production department and knew all the writers (he's now a working journalist), and he mentioned the need for comics. At the time you just walked in and said, "I want to draw a comic" and they expected you to deliver a comic. That was pretty much it. Of course maybe that's how I saw it through the lens of my own arrogance. Honestly I am not exactly sure how Nutty ever saw print.
How did the folks at The Daily Texan respond internally to all the hubbub?
The people at the Texan were super supportive. There was never mention of censorship, or any pressure at all to change the strip. I mean, when I came in off the street and showed them sketchpad filled with drawings of cocks attached to the foreheads of forest animals, they acted like I was some kind of savant. So they probably all thought the kerfluffle was hilarious. Or at least I thought it was hilarious. Maybe it gave some people ulcers. But those people deserved ulcers.
How long did the strip last? About how many were there total?
The strip only lasted for a few weeks. I am not sure how many were done in total, but I can't have been more the 15 or 20. Reliable and steadfast were not words used to describe me at the time. Nutty burned twice as bright, but only half as long.
Why did it end?
The strip ended once I got laid. Game over. Imagine a hand holding a pen, guided by the internal pressure of billions of sperm, moving said pen like a Ouija board. Those sperm ruled every movement, every thought of the young man conjuring up the comic. In a few sweaty, embarrassing moments they were pumped out, probably thinking life was going to get a whole lot better in the outside world. Somewhere out there is a vagina that lured Nutty into the moist darkness and swallowed him.