The Nibble satiates St Andrews’ desire for satire

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Image: Pat Francois
Image: Pat Francois
Image: Pat Francois

“Go bid the mistress, when thy messy bomb is ready, She strike upon the (ma)bell. Get thee to bed.”

Behold the unorthodox marriage of a Scottish play and our Scottish town. Twisting like vines through the Bard’s lyrics, a collection of inside jokes places a St Andrean spin on the historical text. Social climbers intermingle with kings and queens, and the Ma Bells dance floor becomes as hallowed a ground as Cawdor. This surreal scene culminates in a reference to Justin Bieber’s Sorry, the final straw in the hay bale of eccentricities that is The Nibble’s most recent blog post.

“The Tragedy of Macbells” exemplifies the curious, intelligent humour of The Nibble. Penned for an astute audience, these peculiar pieces of prose do not cater to the lowest common denominator. Classic literature and scathing satire unite to create a heightened portrayal of St Andrews, one that simultaneously mocks and reinforces our local stereotypes.

The Nibble’s inaugural issue sang odes to Canada Goose jackets, reviewed a murderous edition of Clan Warfare, and revealed that a popular Scandinavian student was no more than a cardboard cutout of Leonardo DiCaprio (a story uncovered by Hilda Wilton, a half Norwegian, quarter Lebanese, eighth Dutch, eighth Venezuelan student from Connecticut).

The attraction of The Nibble lies in its accessibility. While everyone may not recognise the club ties of the KK or the music of Asquire, we can all laugh at the idea of excessively enthusiastic Americans and overpriced table ballots. St Andrews’ small size lends itself to these shared experiences. In the pursuit of their degrees, students will attend balls, tolerate the Lizard and struggle to purchase tickets. At some point, they will acknowledge the humour in these situations. As summarised by The Nibble: “I paid £75 in order to be in an artificial situation whereby it wouldn’t be awkward to ask a girl home for sex.”

We spoke to the creators of The Nibble, Gustav L’øché and Patricio Françiøs, to determine the origins of their fledgling publication. Begins Mr L’øché: “St Andrews is a culturally vibrant town; it breeds creativity. Not just balls or fashion shows, but also musical movements like Asquire.”

He and Mr Françiøs express their admiration for the innovative members of the St Andrews community, all of whom formed the basis for The Nibble’s creation. These individuals’ well-publicised pursuits (charitable and otherwise) are the building blocks of our local culture, blocks that establish a common thread between every matriculated student.

The pair found their true inspiration, however, in India. “We did a two week stint in a Buddhist monastery,” says Mr L’øché. “One of their mental disciplines is to satirise and subvert the normal, and that got our brains thinking.”

Mr Françiøs adds, “They talked about western society and looked at it from an independent perspective. When we got back to St Andrews, we wanted to set up something that came from a similar standpoint. There’s lots going on here, all the time, and we wanted to write about that.”

St Andrews certainly does not lack material. Our many fashion shows, array of exclusive events and number of high profile individuals kindled the satirical fire that The Nibble’s creators sought to establish. Ambitious from the publication’s genesis, they approached local businesses to secure funding for their first print issue.

The task was not simple: The Nibble was no more than a concept, an abstraction without any tangible form. Furthermore, the pair did not intend to publish any generic advertisements. As seen in the published edition, every ad, from Cromars to the Criterion, is bespoke, drawn by Mr Françiøs in the signature style of The Nibble. “We want the finished project to be an artwork,” he says. The decision to hand draw the ads ensured a cohesive aesthetic throughout the magazine, neatly incorporating the sponsors’ names in between pages of content.

Image: Pat Francois
Image: Pat Francois

As they prepare for their second issue, the boys express their gratitude to these sponsors for placing that initial faith in their venture. They continue to seek funding as they apply to creative funds that endeavour to support satire across the United Kingdom. Readership, ultimately, is prioritised over profit, and the pair hope only to cover their costs.

Unlike many student publications, The Nibble first appeared in print, with a website to follow later. Billed as “St Andrews’ new satirical publication,” the small booklet launched at Aikmans Cellar Bar, where audiences embraced tales of banter and BNOCs, of Ma Bells and model auditions.

Distributed free of charge, The Nibble is evidently a passion project rather than a profit-making initiative, and this love for the craft shines through its eloquent articles and hand-drawn illustrations. While it would be cheaper to host content exclusively online, Mr Françiøs muses on the personal satisfaction derived from “being able to hold something that you’ve made.” Mr L’øché agrees: “It’s there in the flesh, not just some abstract figure off the internet.” Printing has the added benefit of lending legitimacy to the publication, just as The Saint’s print edition solidifies its standing as a reputable town paper.

Print copies can be distributed and thrust into someone’s hands, rather than shared as spam on Facebook newsfeeds. Print is tactile and corporeal, a demonstration of commitment and staying power. The Nibble publishes regularly on its website, but the bulk of content is shared in the print issue, the magnum opus of St Andrean satire.

The prose and the poems penned for the print edition all promote a historic brand of literature, providing an epic aura that suits the overly dramatic veneer of St Andrews. Mr L’øché refers to Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales as the underlying inspiration for much of his writing. An ironic depiction of English society, The Canterbury Tales contain 24 tongue-in-cheek accounts of class and high society. These topics are particularly relevant to St Andrews, where the “Oktoberadvent Schtiznelviking don’t-poker breakfast club kommittee” reigns supreme (according to The Nibble). By contrasting this committee culture with epics of centuries past, Mr L’øché and Mr Françiøs call attention to the inherent hilarity of our collective fascination with the “Kate Kensington Club,” the “SchweffEss Committee” and “Cyrus Danesh’s perfect Greek body” (this last comment from an ardent Mr L’øché).

Another notable characteristic of The Nibble is found in the black and red illustrations that define the publication’s visual aesthetic. Drawn by Mr Françiøs, every image is tailored to the words on the page, be it a gown-clad Kanye West or a half-nude model. Mr Françiøs cites the still lifes of Diego Velázquez as his inspiration, along with the ironic works of online personality Jim’ll Paint It. Using Microsoft Paint, Jim creates anything from Sean Connery playing tennis in full Bond regalia to a puppet parody of Alien.

This inclination to the surreal is the modus operandi of Mr Françiøs’s work. On his SketchBook Pro, he reproduces St Andrews in its barest, most maniacal form: a trio of bloody, Canada Goose-clad clubbers strut alongside a cackling DJ, and residents of Sallies let out silent, frenzied screams in support of their hall.

[pullquote]We recognise individuals on the street despite never having spoken to them, and the names of certain societies are revered simply for hosting events. The Nibble calls this obsession out.[/pullquote]

“[Being too niche] is dangerous in St Andrews,” Mr L’øché admits. “Sometimes you are running a risk by mentioning something like the KK because you can’t assume everyone knows who they are.” Mr Françiøs agrees that their satire has limitations, considering the world of inside jokes they are not privy to. He says, “[The Nibble] is very much a result of what we’ve seen over our last years at St Andrews. The next issue will target a different set of experiences, and so on.”

Stripping St Andrews down to its essentials is the ethos of The Nibble. When readers leaf through its pages and let out exclamations of recognition, they confirm everything that the publication implies about our university’s claustrophobic nature. We recognise individuals on the street despite never having spoken to them, and the names of certain societies are revered simply for hosting events. The Nibble calls this obsession out, much to public (and private) acclaim. “Some of the people that we satirised the most received the magazine the best,” says Mr L’øché. “Even when they’re being shredded, they still love it.”

To borrow a phrase from the author of Shiteshead Revisited, “Here, rudeness is probably the highest form of intimacy. So if someone you know is getting parodied on the internet, you send it around.”

Much has now been said about the creation of The Nibble, but we lack the most crucial explanation of them all: where does the name factor into this grandiose work of literature? “The name works when the readers understand it,” says Mr Françiøs evasively. “It means they’ve taken a nibble of our satire.”

“We’re hungry,” states Mr L’øché more succinctly. “We’re hungry for satire.”

As The Nibble prepares for an October launch, we can surely whet our appetites for another serving of succulent satire.

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