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.
You’re now a grown man…who created a comic strip about a kitten with testicles for legs. What’s that like?
Whoah there, who’s calling me a grown man?? Seriously, I do have a real job with other adults and a mortgage and all that. I didn’t give my boss copies of Nutty when I interviewed for my job, no, but I am certainly not ashamed of it. There are things to regret in life, but drawing balls is not one of them. I have young kids, and we draw all the time, and the drawings get pretty goofy but I am keeping genitals on the back burner for now. We want our kids to be engaged with the world, and try stuff, and fail, and succeed. Nutty was something I tried, and in some ways it failed and in some ways it succeeded. If my work colleagues asked me about it I would show them the strip and laugh. I would never say, “oh I was crazy then, but now…” That is chickenshit. Balls are still funny, unless you are some kind of dullard. As you get old you realize all the cheesy stuff old people say about living life is pretty much true. Fucking wisdom, fuck you.
Now that the internet has made us all a lot easier to find, has anyone else tracked you down?
My name is out there on Twitter and my blog, neither of which ever gets updated. But you are the first person to actually pursue Nutty. Do you have a fetish? You like balls?
What are you doing now?
I am one of the legion of technology professionals who will be the first to die in the coming Energy Wars. It’s a fate I brought upon myself, following the path of least resistance. I often spend evenings reminiscing about past glories and wondering why I didn’t join the United States Marine Corps when I had the chance.
Any parting words?
OK, I am about to really show my age here. There was a controversy in 1997 because people of all stripes shared The Daily Texan, it was a common thread in a community of 50,000 people. In 2014 Nutty would only be seen by an audience who wants to see it on their fucking phone. I just read that The Daily Texan is going out of print now, and I believe it is because people can flee into their own echo chambers so easily.
I drew the strips with a pencil and a sharpie on a sketch pad, and the Texan photographed them and did manual paste-up for printing. If you google for the comic, you won’t find any images of the actual strip. Just conversations about the strip. I like it that way. People experienced Nutty in 1997 in Austin, Texas. Either you were there or you weren’t. If I ever get around to posting the old strips on the internet, it will be to serve those memories.
And quite frankly, if you weren’t there and you never witnessed my genius, you are a fucking loser and you should kill yourself.