By Theresa M. Haar
Bernard Verlhac was better known as Tignous. His pseudonom is a derivation of “teignoux” which translates roughly to “scabby” or “repugnant” or “nasty.” He was a cartoonist with a reputation for never being excessively polite, proper, or demure. And for that, those who knew him not only loved him, but respected him deeply.
Tignous literally wrote the book on how to shock as many people as possible on all possible subjects. In addition to being a well-regarded political newspaper cartoonist for well over twenty years, Tignous authored nine books. One of his earlier works, published in 1999, was Guide Officiel du Politiquement Incorrect, or the Official Guide to Political Incorrectness, in which he provides a list of talking points on a number of important and popular topics that will help to overcome boring, politically correct conversations including: sexual harassment (or how to annoy your secretary) and the ivory trade (or why elephants are fine without defenses). This book was a witty take on how boring and mundane conversations can be when we refuse to step outside the bounds of political correctness and say what we really believe, or at least challenge the boundaries of what we feel we are allowed to discuss in polite conversation.
He later authored Lettres d’Insulte, which is an anthology of hate mail received by a comedian who is known for his own personal style of irreverence bordering on racism, with Tignous crafting the cartoons to his own biting and witty responses to those letters. This book is just one more example of his belief that the best response to hateful speech is simply more speech.
Tignous was also a prominent member of the international organization Cartooning for Peace, along with some of the other victims of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, including Charb, Cabu, and Wolinski. Cartooning for Peace’s mission statement really says it best: “Cartooning for Peace is an international network of committed press cartoonists, who fight with humour for the respect of cultures and freedoms.” (Source: http://www.cartooningforpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/2015-01-06-CHARLIE-HEBDO-CP-ENG.pdf)
In my imaginary dinner party where I can invite five of the most interesting people, dead or alive, Tignous will have a seat at my table.