'Viz' fizz wanes as readers bottom out

THE GUEST list for the Viz party on Thursday says it all. They've got Ray Davies of the Kinks, a couple of blokes from Aerosmith, Lionel Blair, and one of the Bay City Rollers; and Suzanne Dando is a possible. Usefully, the back of the invitation gives ordinary guests etiquette tips: 'DO NOT stare at the celebrities. DO pretend not to recognise them.' But there are no young celebs at all. Viz, the 'comic for older boys and girls', has become the comic for thirtysomething boys and girls.

'We don't want to write about Michael Jackson and monkeys,' says Chris Donald, its editor. 'Our references are to things that were on the telly in the Seventies - Mud, Sweet and John Noakes. The 14-year-olds with baseball caps turned round who listen to raves haven't heard of John Noakes. So they don't want to read Viz.'

That means Viz's circulation is falling. At the end of the Eighties Viz, founded in 1979, was selling 1.2 million copies. Its last audited circulation was 713,000. The two issues since then - the paper comes out every two months - have sold 750,000 each, Mr Donald says. Circulation is merely 'settling to a more realistic level'.

'The fact that we got to over a million was always a bit ludicrous. When we sold 240,000 in 1989 and overtook Private Eye I thought that was as far as it goes.'

Since the magazine needs to sell only 60,000 copies to break even, Mr Donald seems not unreasonably relaxed. He is, in any case, bored with people writing Viz off. The first recorded announcement that Viz 'isn't as funny as it used to be' came in 1986: 'Mark E Smith of the Fall said it in some fanzine.' For a time the magazine used the line on its cover.

The forthcoming Viz annual contains an introduction by 'Professor Humphrey Arseholes, Reader in Adult Comics, Keeble (sic) College, Oxford'. 'For today's car-thieving, flammable-tracksuit wearing, computer-illiterate younger generation of ignoramuses, it is hard to believe that Viz used to be funny . . .' it goes, harking back to days when 'the expletive-hungry magazine-buying public were snapping up rude words like 'beef curtains', faster than Viz magazine could think them up . . .'

Competition has arrived, in a form. Viz's great success inspired many copycats, of which only Zit has made any impression on the market. Zit borrows the same Dandy and Beano format, marrying it with jokes that are unprintable more for being unfunny than obscene. (The best Zit joke is the inclusion of a free sample of it in the November Face). But it does have pieces on Lemonhead and Teenage Fan Club.

It is not a road down which Viz will go. Middle-class dinner parties may no longer ring to the sounds of people trying out their Geordie accents ('Divvent taalk ya shite, Amanda]'), but the magazine remains obstinately unchanged. The current issue has Roger Mellie, the Fat Slags, Johnny Fartpants, Spoilt Bastard, Tommy and His Magic Arse - if anything the bottom jokes are increasing.

Top Tips, the favourite column of Viz's most surprising fan, the former Tory minister Alan Clark, still thrives. 'Why pay for expensive jigsaws?' asks B. Reastford of Ironville, Nottinghamshire. 'Just take a bag of frozen chips from the freezer and try piecing together potatoes.'

Chris Donald has made several millions from Viz: he is a former train-spotter who has bought two redundant stations. He admits that on his 'bad days' he gets 'fairly bored'. He and his team toy with ideas for new projects: more television, more books, and a stage show. 'I read Ben Elton's novels, and thought, 'I could do better than this'. But when I sat down the other day I found it was going to take longer than I thought.'

Issue 62 has one innovation, a full-colour cover. 'It's partly to look different from our imitators, partly because we've had a price rise and we want it to look as though we're giving people added value for their money. Which we're not.' Never lacking in honesty, Viz. The very small print at the back of the current issue goes like this: 'Readers respond to mail- order advertisements in this magazine at their own risk. The Publisher accepts no responsibility. He just pockets the advertisers' money and pisses off abroad on holiday. Mind, can you blame him? With the weather we've had this year. It's the ozones, you know.'

(Photograph omitted)

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence