In last Saturday’s edition of Air Mail – the online newsweekly co-edited by Graydon Carter – a writer and illustrator named Godfrey Daniel praises a TV show called The Trip to Canada. The format echoes the celebrated journeys of comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, but this is far more niche: Two road-faring hosers go around impersonating Gordon Pinsent, Punch Imlach and Al Waxman. Last December, Air Mail published another Daniel work called Canadian Kama Sutra. The satirical guide features portraits of local eroticists Fergus Ferguson – inventor of “Canadian Love Oil” – and Tavish McTavish, who came up with an intimate act called “the Mountie.”
In a phone conversation Tuesday, Canada-raised Carter volunteered that he is Godfrey Daniel. The former Vanity Fair editor characterized his own work as “a poor man’s Barry Blitt and a poor man’s Bruce McCall, all in one.”
The nom de plume is borrowed from a W.C. Fields gag in which the comedian invoked the name Godfrey Daniel, who shares the initials with an oath that censors would have banned back then. “Only two people got the reference,” Carter said. “My own children and Bette Midler.”
Carter, who is currently living at his Provence home with his family, said his first magazine drawings appeared in the Canadian Review, the political and literary monthly he edited in the 1970s in Ottawa. In the late 80s, his caricatures appeared monthly in Tatler, and more recently, his illustrations showed up in Esquire. He used pseudonyms at Spy, the groundbreaking satirical magazine that he co-founded.
In 2017, Carter left Vanity Fair after a storied 25-year run. (Disclosure: I worked there as an assistant editor in the mid-nineties). Last year, he and Alessandra Stanley, a former New York Times critic and foreign correspondent, launched Air Mail, which he has described as “the weekend edition of a nonexistent international daily.”
Even though he has outed himself, Carter will continue to feature Daniel’s pen name. “But, depending on this article," Carter said, "less Canadian content.”
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